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VOL. 130 | NO. 87 | Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Renowned Farm-to-Table Restaurant Hitting Memphis

By Amos Maki

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A restaurant chain known for propelling the national farm-to-table dining movement will serve up its acclaimed fare at two high-profile Memphis locations.

The Kitchen, which focuses on serving healthy, locally sourced meals, will operate restaurants at Shelby Farms Park in East Memphis and Crosstown Concourse in Midtown.

Kimbal Musk, one of The Kitchen restaurant concept founders. The Kitchen plans to open Memphis locations in Shelby Farms Park and Crosstown Concourse.

(Wikimedia Commons)

Founded by Kimbal Musk and Hugo Matheson, The Kitchen will operate a community bistro and “grab-n-go” at Shelby Farms and a community pub at Crosstown.

“As we engaged the public on our master plan there was a great need for food service at the park,” said Laura Morris, executive director of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy. “We wanted something that was ‘of the park” and aligned with our ethos of sustainability and community.”

“The park is about contributing to a healthier environment and healthier people and contributing to a sense of community, social cohesions, if you will,” Morris said. “Shelby Farms is more than just a park in the same way The Kitchen is more than just a restaurant. What a great alignment. I can’t help but feel it was serendipitous.”

An artist’s rendering of The Kitchen Next Door, to open in 2017 at Crosstown Concourse. The restaurant concept – headed by famed entrepreneur Kimbal Musk – will open locations at Crosstown and Shelby Farms.

(Courtesy of Crosstown Concourse)

The Kitchen will begin serving its farm-fresh, local food at Shelby Farms in 2016 and at Crosstown in 2017, respectively.

For Crosstown Concourse development team co-leader McLean Wilson, The Kitchen fit perfectly with the $200 million project’s mission. The development team is transforming the formerly blighted Sears Crosstown building into a “vertical urban village” through arts, education and health care, with a heavy dose of local institutions such as the Church Health Center, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, St. Jude’s ALSAC fundraising arm and Gestalt Community Schools, among a host of others.

“For the first time we’re really starting to think about retail,” Wilson said. “For a lot of people retail is about consuming goods, but for us it has to be about much more than that.”

“It’s got everything we care deeply about,” he said. “Plus it’s a kick-ass restaurant.”

Matheson, a chef known for his work with local farmers and chefs around the world, and Musk, who helped develop PayPal and Space X with brother Elon Musk, launched The Kitchen in Boulder, Colo., in 2004.

The Kitchen at Shelby Farms Park will begin serving farm-fresh, local food in Shelby Farms' new events center starting in 2016. The restaurant also plans to open a grab-and-go-style cafe in the park's visitors center.

(Shelby Farms Park Conservancy)

"Memphis is a vibrant and diverse city that is on the verge of a 'real food' renaissance," said Musk in a statement. "We are more than thrilled to be part of that movement by investing in the Crosstown and Shelby Farms Park developments. Together with our restaurants and our nonprofit organization we hope our mission of 'community through food' flourishes across Memphis.”

On April 7, The Kitchen Community, a complementary nonprofit founded by Matheson and Musk that brings outdoor vegetable gardens to schools and community spaces, broke ground in Memphis with its 100 Learning Garden initiative with Shelby County Schools, Jubilee Catholic Schools and the Achievement School District.

The Kitchen Community has already built 200 learning gardens reaching more than 120,000 school children daily since its 2011 launch.

The Kitchen will have two locations inside Shelby Farms. The Kitchen at Shelby Farms Park will operate in the new eco-friendly event center at the redesigned urban park. An additional grab and go-style cafe will be located in the new visitor center, offering a more casual dining experience and giving visitors the option to take their food out into the park.

The 4,500-square-foot Kitchen Next Door at Crosstown Concourse will be located at the southeast corner of the building next to the new main entrance and atrium. The restaurant’s design will embrace the building’s history with exposed brick walls, wood-formed concrete ceilings and repurposed Sears items. The restaurant also will feature an outdoor patio overlooking the new, 2.5-acre main plaza.

“What’s really exciting is having this organization that thinks so broadly and so big involved in Memphis, getting to know the city and getting to know the area,” said Crosstown Concourse development team co-leader Todd Richardson. “We’re happy they’re literally buying into the city and they will be here for a while.”

The Kitchen arrives as Memphis increasingly becomes a “foodie” city with restaurants offering adventurous menus in place of standard Southern fare and barbecue.

“Memphis is really a ‘foodie’ town,” said Morris. “It’s a fun place too and (The Kitchen) just enhances it.”

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