It was a fairy tale-like pairing 18 or so months ago when the announcement came that Chef Lauren Teague was going to leave her spot at the Andaz Hotel on Savannah’s Ellis Square to take over the yet-to-be-built kitchen and restaurant at the corner of Drayton Street and Victory Drive in Savannah. It later became Atlantic.
Those of us who follow these chef/staff movements a little more closely than most thought it to be something of a coup, if you will. Chef Lauren had developed quite a following at 22 Square Restaurant and Bar inside of the Andaz. Her passion for fresh and local ingredients was a perfect fit for what Jason Restivo was looking for in someone to create a from-the-ground-up operation.
Those of us, again, that know both parties, could not have agreed more that it was a perfect fit for both parties. Not every fairy tale, however, lives happily ever after.
Sometimes friends disagree.
I caught up with Chef Lauren Monday, after hearing she had amicably parted ways with Jason and the entire staff at Atlantic. Head turning news? You bet.
“We didn’t see eye to eye on where things were going.” she said. “I thought it would be best to take some time off. It was very peaceful. I gave Jason a month’s notice and left on great terms.” she added. Jason says she even made prep sheets for the kitchen staff to give them a guide of how to best execute the concept she and Jason brought to life.
Still, I learned a long time ago that everything ends badly, or else it wouldn’t end, right? In this case, both sides insist that isn’t the case.
“I just look at this as a new chapter for Atlantic.” Restivo says. “Everything we do going forward will have her thumb print on it.” “The menu will remain horizontal. It will continue to be affordable, neighborhood food. Really nothing is changing from how we have operated.”
That’s not entirely surprising. A lot of times, a restaurant will bring in a new chef and that chef will come in and change everything up to their liking. Jason tells me that isn’t happening at Atlantic. His style is, and has always been, very hands on. Full house? He’s paying attention to details.
“I know how the evening is going by the how the food is coming out. The smiles on our guests faces.” he says. “If one of my staffers is struggling because we are busy or because things aren’t going as well as they should that night, it is my job to let them know I’ve got their back.”
In the kitchen is a crew, Restivo says, has been given a chance to grow. “It’s an opportunity” he says. There won’t be anyone placed in charge of the nightly operation. He says he is going to let the kitchen staff sort that out themselves. “Leadership will come.” he says.
For her part, Chef Lauren says she’s grateful for the time off right now. When I spoke to her, she was visiting with her father in Sun City in Bluffton. He recently suffered a fall and broke his shoulder in 5 places. “I’m glad I am able to spend some time with him during all of this.”
Of her run at Atlantic, she says she enjoyed it immensely. She’s very proud of what they put together from a patch of dirt she was first shown. “They took me into this building and said ‘the kitchen will be right here.'” Together, they made it one of Savannah’s favorite spots for locals.
“I can be very passionate” she says. Which makes her pretty much like any other chef out there. “But it’s all good.” “My husband said I have 2 months to drink champagne and eat bon bons. So I’m not complaining.”
She is keeping busy. Besides spending time with her dad, she’s hosting a fundraising event in Savannah “Herbalicious” on Wednesday for the Downtown Savannah Garden Club. It will be held at the Coastal Georgia Center at 10am. All proceeds will benefit Tiny Houses for Veterans project.
“I’m doing a demo on herbs with Jason.”
click here for tickets to that event.
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