Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Who's the new chef at Rock Salt?

High-end oyster bar and restaurant Rock Salt, under construction at Park Road Shopping Center, has been drawing a lot of curiosity. It's a project of Cheasapeake Bay-based Rappahannock Oyster Co., which farms oysters and runs restaurants in Virginia and Washington.

Now the new chef has come forward: Jay Pierce of Lucky 32 in Greensboro is pulling up roots and moving his family to Charlotte, with an opening date of early January.

 "(Charlotte) seems like a bigger canvas to paint on,” Pierce told me Tuesday morning.

Pierce also is an author in the same Savor the South series that includes my two books; his book, "Shrimp," will come out next spring. Pierce is from Louisiana, and worked at two of Emeril Lagasse's restaurants, NOLA in New Orleans and Emeril's Orlando, before coming to Lucky 32, owned by Dennis and Nancy Quaintance of the O. Henry and Proximity hotels.

At Lucky 32, Pierce has gotten known for new interpretations of Southern classics, and for rediscovering old techniques. I ate there a couple of weeks ago and was fascinated by his salt-fermented pickles, a farmhouse method that's being brought back to life. He's also very active with the farmers at Greensboro's Curb Market.

Pierce also is known for his Tuesday night fried-chicken dinners. I've never had the chance to go, but I know some authorities on fried chicken who swear it's worth a 90-minute drive for dinner.

So I was crushed to hear that he's not bringing that with him. OK, OK, he might try to do it occasionally here. But Rock Salt will have a small kitchen, and be very focused on outdoor seating with a view over the creek. It's going into the space at the back of the shopping center that used to be a dry cleaner's.

Pierce says he's focusing on embracing something new, with a focus on seafood. But he's also excited about embracing a new city. For someone from Greensboro, the Charlotte food scene is mystifying, he admitted to me.

"Charlotte is right next door, and it's always intriguing to me. When I go there, I have no idea where I am. It's like Atlanta -- a lot of neighborhoods that have amalgamated. There's pockets of cool things going on and I want to be part of it."

He's also excited about Charlotte's chef community. "I want to participate. I know Marc Jacksina and he's a crazy man."



LGFitz said...

Looking forward to this restaurant and Chef!