Two Mt. Juliet High School graduates are making a splash on the middle Tennessee dining scene.
Garrett Pittler and Russell Ingram, both class of 1998 graduates, are the Executive Chef and Chef de Cuisine at Chelsea Bistro in Whites Creek. The restaurant has made headlines in the Nashville papers recently for its authentic take on French cuisine. The restaurant has perfect ratings on both Urbanspoon and Yelp currently.
“I want to do something that’s going to last,” said Pittler.
Pittler said that he wanted to get out of the Nashville scene and move to a more isolated area. Many people who made the move to East Nashville a couple of years ago, are now looking for more isolation in Whites Creek. Pittler says it is also makes sense because every direction around Nashville has seen growth, except for the north side, which is primed to go.
Pittler wanted to get back to classical roots with Chelsea Bistro. He said that almost every technique used for cooking began with the French.
“Everything goes back to the classics,” said Pittler.
He wanted to do that also by using as much as he can from their garden, or the woods and farm land surrounding the restaurant. Ingram has been using a style of cooking that incorporates foraging for several years. He said he learned how to do that on family farms.
“That’s just what my family did, going through our farm, catching a fish in the pond and coming back to cook it up,” said Ingram.
Both had different routes to get to this point. After graduating from Mt. Juliet High School, Pittler bounced around to a couple of different colleges but never enjoyed it. He got a job at the Hard Rock Café, and developed an interest for baking and cooking. This was before the internet had millions of recipe sites, so he got a book on how to bake cookies. After testing different ways to do it, and perfecting his technique, he would occasionally make stuff for friends. He had one speak up, and tell him he needed to pursue it.
He applied to four different culinary schools, and ended up landing in Baltimore, Md. He continued to work at Hard Rock Café and another restaurant, and eventually advanced to a job that saw him opening up Hard Rock Cafés all over the world.
“I have been on six of the seven continents,” said Pittler.
He then went on to work as a Culinary Support Chef at Macaroni Grill, and an Executive Restaurant Chef at Loews Hotels. While he was there, his daughter, Basil, got very sick and it started to put things in perspective for him. He realized life was too short.
“I realized that things that actually mean something can be taken away from you like that,” said Pittler.
Basil made a recovery, and Pittler set out to do something unique. Pittler knew Chelsea Bistro co-owner Basha Satin, who owns the restaurant with her son Josh Rew, for several years. The two agreed to work together and the Chelsea Bistro took off.
Ingram took an unorthodox route. Knowing that cooking was his passion, he took jobs at Calypso and then Panera as a baker because he loved to bake. He then continued as a baker for Fresh Market and started working for a food truck making German food, one of his favorite types of food.
It wasn’t until he started working at Opryland Hotel that he got his big break. It was his first high volume environment, and he learned a lot from the others there. He said they noticed something in him, his willingness to put together unique dishes, so they started letting him experiment. They would order whatever he wanted, and his specials started cropping up on the menu.
Pittler and Ingram had kept in touch off and on since high school, and he told Ingram to come visit him at Chelsea Bistro. Pittler said he knew that he and Ingram were on the same page, and that made it much easier when they started working together. The teamwork they have together and with the other staff that has been assembled has made it a smooth operation.
Chelsea Bistro is open every day except for Sunday for dinner. If you would like to visit them, they are located at 5432 Clarksville Pike in Whites Creek. You can check them out on the web at www.chelseabistro.com.