When chef Julia Sullivan returned to her hometown, she knew one thing for certain: she was going to open her own restaurant. Now the proud co-owner of Henrietta Red, a semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant at last year’s annual James Beard Foundation Awards, Julia and her team strive to create an unforgettable dining experience by putting an emphasis on straightforward recipes and fresh, locally sourced ingredients. When asked how she continues to shine in the ever-growing Nashville food scene, this is what she had to say.
What do you think about the food boom Nashville has experienced in the last few years?
I think sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t, and that’s part of this city’s magic to me. Our restaurant culture is evolving to cater toward a broader range of palates. That isn’t to say those Southern classics aren’t being preserved. There are still new barbecue joints popping up all the time, and the hot chicken trend is really exploding right now.
How do your Southern roots influence your menu?
You’ll see the South’s influence in our kitchen when it comes to the ingredients. We make an effort to source produce from the greater Nashville area when we can—we even have a farmers’ market three blocks away.
What have you learned about yourself as a chef since opening your own restaurant?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to just trust myself and my team. I have to trust that people like what we are doing and that’s why they keep coming back.
What is your top tip for home cooks?
If you want to get comfortable in your own kitchen, adaptability is key. Things rarely go according to plan, so it’s important to be able to go with the flow and never get bogged down in little details.
What are you cooking to celebrate this warmer weather?
Fresh fruits are at the top of my shopping list in the late spring, so there will definitely be a few cobblers and jams coming out of my kitchen, especially if I get my hands on a batch of perfectly ripe strawberries.