Though the question of whether or not we are the sum total of our experiences will likely remain unanswered, Philip Krajeck’s experiences have certainly inspired his fantastic new restaurant Rolf and Daughters.
He was raised as a child in Florida but spent his formative middle and high school years in Belgium, the result of a father in the Air Force and NATO. There he was drawn to the simple, yet beautiful food of Europe, where seasonal ingredients and farmer’s markets were a way of life, not a culinary trend. He returned to the States for college, but found himself desiring the experience of cooking and returned to Europe – this time to Switzerland for culinary school.
Since then, he has spent time in kitchens in Boston, New York and Atlanta, although he is most known for his time spent in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. There, he was the Chef de Cuisine for Fish Out of Water, where his excellence with seafood and seasonal ingredients propelled him onto the James Beard Foundation’s semi-finalist list for Best Chef 2009. Philip had spent some time visiting Nashville during his college years and found himself drawn back after working with a friend on his nearby farm and seeing the culinary and cultural boom of the city over the last several years.
After a two-and-a-half year search for a location with “old character,” he finally found it in the recently revamped Werthan Lofts in the Germantown neighborhood. What once used to house the boiler for the Werthan Mills textile factory has now become Philip’s kitchen. Communal wooden tables and chairs from HollerDesign, pendant lights from Southern Lights, and the Carrera marble bar with a glass rack complement the original exposed red brick walls.
His menu integrates all of his experiences by using “seasonal ingredients with a leaning towards Northern Italy, but also embracing my background of travels throughout Europe.” Everything is prepared and made from scratch in house – including the pastas and the bread (it takes 3 days to make a loaf).
Entrees include brook trout with savoy cabbage and heritage chicken with preserved lemon confit garlic; but it’s his pasta dishes that really shine. The parsley garganelli with heritage pork ragout, as well as the squid ink pasta with gulf shrimp, are both worthy of a trip on their own.
“We really want people to share. I love the idea of people leaning over and dipping into each other’s food,” said Philip. “We don’t want to put something on a plate just to look good. Everything should have a purpose.”
Matt Tocco, who previously spent three years at The Patterson House, heads the stellar cocktail program. Try the “Ghost Writer” with Pig’s Nose Scotch, Melitti and black walnut bitters or the “Man Around Town” with Weller Special Reserve bourbon, Campari and chocolate bitters. A small, but well selected wine list emphasizes Old World European wines.
Philip sums up his vision for Rolf and Daughters with this: “I want people to have a good time. We are a conduit to create a good experience for people and for being connected to community.”
Photo by Eric Staples