Water Under the Bridge 

Watermark chef bids farewell

Chef Joe Shaw, who helped build Watermark restaurant into a culinary landmark in the emerging Gulch, has left the kitchen as of this week. Citing an amicable departure with Watermark’s owner, health care executive Jerry Brown, Shaw is exploring other culinary opportunities but has no clear next step.
Chef Joe Shaw, who helped build Watermark restaurant into a culinary landmark in the emerging Gulch, has left the kitchen as of this week. Citing an amicable departure with Watermark’s owner, health care executive Jerry Brown, Shaw is exploring other culinary opportunities but has no clear next step.

“I very much want to stay in Nashville. It has become my home in the last two years,” says Shaw, an Alabama native who worked in catering and at Frank Stitt’s Bottega restaurant in Birmingham before the launch of Watermark in November 2005.

While he has no specific plans, Shaw says he would ultimately like to start a restaurant of his own where he could continue to explore the cultural heritage of Southern food. For now, he is meeting with potential investors and reading John Egerton’s Southern Food, a treatise on the history of the region’s cuisine, which he says “has reawakened something inside me.”

Meanwhile, in the gleaming dining room and kitchen at Watermark, it’s business as usual, says director of operations Nathan Lindley. Having made a gorgeous splash in its first year-and-a-half, Watermark now faces the challenge of demonstrating staying power in an increasingly busy market of upscale contemporary restaurants. Chef de cuisine Sean Norton will oversee the kitchen and the current migration to the summer menu. Expect a roster of fresh, seasonal foods such as walu (a Hawaiian fish), sweet corn crepes with lobster and charred corn, and heirloom tomatoes, as well as a menu of cocktails drawing on summer fruits and flavors.

507 12th Ave. S., 254-2000.

Getting the fingers

Why did the chicken cross the county line? Because McDougal’s Chicken Fingers & Wings owners John and Tommy McDougal want to franchise their family-friendly chicken-and-beer concept. After three years in Hillsboro Village, the McDougals are ready to spread their wings—so to speak—in the booming suburbanopolis of Cool Springs. A second successful location could be just what it takes to convince potential franchisees that the McDougal’s name has legs—so to speak.“We feel like we’ve got a cool concept,” says John McDougal, adding that they recently changed the name from McDougal’s Village Coop to McDougal’s Chicken Fingers & Wings in an effort to create a more universal brand.

John McDougal will lead the new location in the strip mall that’s home to Wild Noodles and Moe’s Southwest Grill while his brother oversees the flagship store. McDougal is in the process of putting a deck on the former Hometown Hearth & Grill in an attempt to re-create the casual outdoor feel of the original “Coop” on Belcourt Avenue and hopes to open by late summer.

McDougal’s is the latest in a string of restaurant nameplates migrating toward Cool Springs, including Noshville and Boscos—both of which plan to open this summer—and Dan McGuinness Irish Pub, which recently had its Cool Springs debut. McDougal says he hopes to convey the same feeling of the original store while maintaining the commitment to simple, fresh food. (McDougal’s chicken is never frozen and the fries are hand-cut.) Expect a familiar menu of grilled and fried chicken along with salads and sandwiches. And McDougal plans to make fried pickles—a popular special in Hillsboro Village—a regular menu item in Cool Springs.

401B Cool Springs Blvd., Suite 220.

Cake off

It makes you wonder how David Allan Coe would decorate a cake. On July 1, country music celebs will pair with luminaries from the baking world to produce their versions of The Ultimate Country Song Cake. Aaron Tippin and wife Thea, Julie Roberts and mom Sandra, Robert Dean Sams and Michael Britt of Lonestar, and Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry with wives Tracy and Angie, respectively, will tie on their aprons and get baking with the help of professionals and a panel of judges including Juanita Lane of Dulce Desserts in Edgehill Village. The spectator sport—part of the National Pastry Team Championship—will benefit the T.J. Martell Foundation’s efforts to raise money for research on leukemia, cancer and AIDS. Tickets are $20 and are available through Ticketmaster (ticketmaster.com, 255-9600) or at the door. The event runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Gaylord Opryland Resort. Doors open at noon.

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