I still get the same questions five years in… “Is there parking near you?” Yes! Park at the Aloft
Hotel right across Biltmore Avenue. “Are you open for lunch?” Yes! Lunch five days a week and
Brunch service starts at 10 AM Saturday and Sunday. Housemade Bloody Mary’s, the almost
silly “Big Ass Mimosa” and free flowing kegs of Prosecco make Brunch a true wake up call.
Perhaps followed by a nap. “Is it the same as Corner Kitchen?” Well… We have the same core
values, but Chestnut has its own way of being, its own culture that makes it unique. For one
thing, being in an urban setting, Chestnut has to be different. The building itself sent Kevin and
me in a particular direction. We let the 1924 storefront tell us what to do.
As in everything my business partner, Kevin Westmoreland, and I do, Chestnut was started as a
“Craft Project”. By that I mean we wanted to make sure that Chestnut came across as a
personal statement. We achieved that at Corner Kitchen through the limitations of thrift.
Meaning we really didn’t have any money to spend, so we did everything ourselves, or got
friends and family to help. In early 2004, I went to the City and got all the permits. And I made
little hand-written drawings on graph paper that substituted for blueprints.
At Chestnut we had progressed… We hired Jim Samsel, one of Asheville’s leading architects, to
draw out a coherent and cohesive floor plan. He was instrumental in helping us with the
acoustics as well. We Got Trey Greer of Elm Construction (by the way, if you are going to do a
restaurant in Asheville, use Trey- the guy is great!). We even hired Tracy Kearns of Alchemy
Design to steer us in the right direction with regard color and textiles. Not so “Hand-crafted”,
eh? Yes and no. I will say that Jim and Tracy wanted to do more. We stopped them where we
knew we could take over because Kevin and I needed to get our hands dirty. We needed to
bond with the space.
These days we look back and can see a trajectory. Chestnut has worn a neuron path through
the psyche of Asheville. We now focus on excellent dinners. Our menu used to change daily,
and now Executive Chef Brian Crow has instituted a monthly menu that reflects the seasons as
well as incorporating the vast creativity of all of the chefs and cooks (including me!). Our wine
list has evolved under the curation of Renee Childers. Recently receiving the coveted Wine
Spectator “Award of Excellence”. Our bar program has gotten a little crazy, but fun under the
skilled hand and dancing skills of Bar Manager, Jessica Wharton. Our General Manager Brad
Philpott has helped to bring it all together. Brad does everything from bussing tables to hand
marketing all things Chestnut.
We look forward to the next five years of serving Asheville. We will try to continue to respond
to the needs of all our guests while keeping it personal. We will continue to grow with this
town. We all have come a long way…
~ Joe Scully