You won't find anyone at Husk Savannah sitting at their desks hitting the "that was easy" button, celebrating the first eight months they have been open. They have been anything but easy. You can take, for starters, an opening date that was moved a few times because of Savannah's first real snowstorm in decades. Remember that?
A few months later, their first executive chef, Tyler Williams, was let go. The general manager was replaced. Most recently, founding chef Sean Brock announced he would be stepping away from day-to-day operations at all Husk restaurants and continue in more of an advisory role.
The one constant at Husk Savannah this year has been change. Of course, Husk is not the first or the last restaurant to experience growing pains in year one.
This week, they believe it all gets back on track with the hiring of Chris Hathcock as executive chef.
"I had been in Atlanta," Chris tells me, "when I saw that Husk was planning locations in both Greenville and Savannah. I had worked with Sean in the past. So I thought it could be something I wanted to be a part of."
After an audition, Chris says he was offered the executive chef spot here in Savannah before they opened. But the timing was off.
"I have a son in Raleigh," he says. "I just felt like being a little closer to him there was the right move for me. So I decided to take the No. 2 spot at Husk Greenville."
When changes were made here in Savannah, the first person management turned to was Chris. "I gave it a lot of thought after the fact," he says. "Initially the timing wasn't right, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought we could have a good fit. I have good connections in Savannah."
That he does. You see, Chris spent a lot of his childhood here in Savannah. He was a member of the first graduating class at Coastal Middle School in 2000. He spent a year of high school at Benedictine, then a year at Johnson High School before his family moved back to Atlanta. "My grandmother is from Savannah. She graduated Savannah High School back in the day."
Coming back to Coastal Georgia is hardly foreign territory for him.
In the time he was gone, he worked not only with Brock, but also with other big names in Southern cuisine. He spent three years at Hugh Acheson's Empire State South in Atlanta. His first gig as an executive chef was in Asheville, N.C.
"I've lived all over the South my whole life," he says. "Mountains, upstate, Charleston, here in Savannah." Those experiences, he believes, have prepared him for this moment, running his own kitchen at Husk.
"Husk is a brand that is established. There are a few staples, but they are specific to each location," he says. "I've been given complete autonomy, but I understand the vision. Husk is not strictly Southern food. We are a celebration of Southern ingredients.
"Our first task is getting some new procedures in place, but I would expect the whole menu to change pretty quickly."
That isn't anything, really, to be alarmed about. Husk's menus are supposed to change regularly. "I have some ideas. There are lots of great people here already. The bones are all there," he says.
His ties to the area have allowed for a smoother landing, if you will. A childhood friend set him up with a place to live near downtown, so there will be no commutes to speak of. His best friend, Jacob Hammer, has been promoted to executive sous chef.
"Jacob has been cooking in Savannah for over 10 years," Chris says. "He has spent time at The Grey, Local11ten and others. He will be a great resource for us in Savannah. We're going to do something really special."
We are looking forward to eating and liking it.
See you on TV,
• Savannah Waterfront Association is hosting its fifth annual Bacon Fest this weekend down on River Street from Sept. 7-9.There will be live music, a waterfront kid zone and of course, bacon! Performers, times and more details at riverstreetsavannah.com.
• A couple of updates on new spots, because we are regularly asked. Rhett is the new restaurant at the Alida Hotel on Williamson Street near the river. They are about a month away from opening there. Black Rabbit, on Barnard near Henry, is about three weeks away. La Scala, Italian on Abercorn and 37th, is inching its way closer to an opening later this month.
• Trust me, there is a lot more coming this fall. Of course, the easiest way to stay in the loop with all of it is to sign up for our newsletter at eatitandlikeit.com.