“Cooking is an art – have fun with it!”
This is more than Chef Andrew Blackâ€™s motto, itâ€™s his approach to life. His passion for food and cooking is evident in the way he challenges traditional rules and lets his creativity run wild. A native of Jamaica, Chef Black grew up around constant cooking and fresh food, which sparked his passion for food.
Check out our Q&A with Chef Black!
Q: How did the concepts for Black Walnut and Grey Sweater come to you?
A: Black Walnutâ€™s menu is based entirely on mood. We asked ourselves what it would be like to dine, based on how we feel. Feeling sweet, sour, salty, savory? Thatâ€™s how the menu is organized and we used it as a jumping off point for everything else.
Grey Sweater is the nexus of my life and travels all around the world. The idea for the concept came to me on the heels of my cookbookâ€™s publication; a book about foraging in our area in search of new and outstanding ingredients that I could share with my guests. I wondered what it would be like to think bigger, to forage the entire world for incredible ingredients and design dishes that would take my guests on a journey to those places, all while sitting in a chair in the dining room of Grey Sweater.
Q: How did you develop the backdrop to the food, the plateware, the dining rooms?Â
A: A restaurant has to be something that is needed. It needs to be something that people choose to do; to get in their car, leave their house, and spend a few hours out. How do you offer an experience so interesting that people will get off their phones for a while? We asked ourselves, how can we be whimsical, be luxurious, and stand out? We applied our global foraging concept to everything. The plates come from Spain, Mexico, and France. When we exhausted those sources, my dealer introduced me to Vince Ramos at Dallasâ€™ New Generation Reps. We also found Dawn Henderson in Dallas; she did the complete design for both restaurants.
Q: How did you meet Vince?
A: My restaurant supply dealer made the connect after we realized that what I wanted for the restaurant didnâ€™t exist through the normal channels. We needed plateware that made a statement, as much as the food made a statement and working directly with the artist was the best route to that.
Q: What is your shared artistic process?
A: Weâ€™ve worked together long enough that he knows the aesthetic. Heâ€™ll send ideas for pieces he thinks would suit the food and aesthetic, and Iâ€™ll find references at the restaurant and in my travels. We go from there.
Q: How did you work with Dawn on the dining rooms?
A: We consulted first so that she could understand me and then she really brought the imagination to the rooms. I wanted luxury that is touchable and usable and she gave us exactly that. The chairs are custom made for the restaurant and are soft and comfortable, as well as beautiful; they make you want to sit down and stay awhile. She sourced our blue light fixtures from a railroad station in London. She matched our global menu perfectly with decor that is equally global in its sourcing and sets a tone of travel and glamour from the moment you walk through the front doors.
Keep up with Chef Andrew Black’s updates on Instagram.