It’s rare to find a chef who helms the kitchen at two different restaurants that each could be considered the best of their kind in Nashville, but that’s the case with Bryan Lee Weaver. The self-effacing chef arrived in town to open up the second outpost of the Charlestonian Middle Eastern favorite, Butcher & Bee. Even though Weaver already had the basis of a menu in place from the original Bee, he didn’t have much experience at the time cooking the cuisine. He set about discovering how to build the Mediterranean flavors using locally sourced ingredients, and the results include the addictive whipped feta appetizer, which has achieved cult status, and his avocado crispy rice dish, which ought to satisfy your entire palate. It wasn’t until Weaver actually took a trip to Israel with Butcher & Bee’s culinary team a year after opening that he realized how well he’d been faking it.
With his second venture, Redheaded Stranger, Weaver put in the research first, traveling around the Southwest to discover what elements of the cuisine he wanted to include in his dream breakfast taco joint. His facility with the more familiar flavors of his youth shines through in a menu accented with authentic regional ingredients like chorizo, Hatch green chiles, smoked beef brisket and his own house hot sauces. There’s even a taco that includes both the whipped feta and the crispy rice. Be still my heart!
Weaver’s quiet leadership of two hardworking kitchen teams is integral to the success of both restaurants, which depend on precise rapid assemblage of many ingredients into small plates. He also demonstrated his compassion and leadership in a late-night text to a couple dozen industry friends at the very beginning of the pandemic asking what they could all do together to save their businesses. Inspired by Weaver’s heartfelt query, the recipients of his text chain quickly coalesced into the Tennessee Action for Hospitality coalition, a group that has been integral in working to protect the industry across the state. CHRIS CHAMBERLAIN