Chef Andrew Little: Josephine

Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...

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We have known Chef Andrew Little since 2007 when he was helming the kitchen at the Sheppard Mansion in Hanover, Pennsylvania. We ate his delicious food, talked with his farmers and producers and have kept in touch ever since. Recently he made a move to Nashville, guiding a brand new restaurant with his own brand of cooking. We recently spoke with Andy about his new life down South. Here’s what he had to say:

Congratulations on the beautiful new restaurant, Josephine. Tell us a little about what it was like getting everything up and running. You started from scratch, right?

Chef Andrew Little: We did start from scratch. Josephine is housed in the 12 South Flats building in Nashville’s bustling 12 South neighborhood. Starting from scratch certainly was a learning experience for me, but it was pretty fantastic and stressful all at once.

Nashville is hot right now with a bunch of buzz about the food scene there. What’s it like to be in the middle of all that energy?

AL: The creative energy of Nashville is what originally drew me to the city. I think it obviously starts with the music business here, but there is such an obvious creative energy across disciplines; you can really feel it! It has been amazing being in the middle of such a tight chef culture. Everyone here is really pulling for each other to be successful.

I’m doing my best to continue the idea of cooking food that has a distinct sense of place.

What are you trying to do with your food at Josephine? Give us an idea of the menu’s direction.

AL: I’m doing my best to continue the idea of cooking food that has a distinct sense of place. The place may have changed for me from Pennsylvania to Tennessee, but the rooted sense of place hasn’t.  I’ve also been able to take dishes from my life experiences and incorporate them into the menu here.

Sourcing is always a question mark. Talk a little about how you’re using what your region has to offer. Any surprises? What’s knocking you out about what’s available?

AL: It’s the middle of winter , so produce is not as plentiful as it would be in the spring and summer. I am currently meeting with farmers and growers to plan their seed schedules and the items that we’ll like to buy when they come in season. There are also items like sorghum molasses that have been really fun to work with.

How has your food background in the Pennsylvania Dutch country translated to your new home turf? Have you had to learn anything new?

AL: There are a lot of similarities between the southern and PA Dutch cuisines. The respect for using the whole animal, pickling and preserving, using thrift to your advantage….the cuisines share these traits. I have discovered that people in Tennessee are embracing some of the dishes I brought specifically from PA and that makes me pretty happy.

Is there a story behind the photo of Mr. Johnny Cash in your kitchen?

AL: I’ve always liked Johnny Cash and I really appreciate the thoughtful pose in this picture. My sous chef, Brent Golding gave me that photo as the kitchen at Josephine was just about to be finished. It’s really special to me.

It’s pretty impressive that as a new restaurant Josephine is already mentioned by Travel + Leisure as one of THE places to eat in Nashville. What does that feel like? How did that happen?

AL: It feels great and I’m not really sure how it happened! I think we just go in to each day looking to be a little bit better than we were the day before. Always concentrating on providing the best experience for our guests.

You say on your blog “I want food to have a personality.” Tell us what that seemingly innocent sentence means.

AL: I think that great food has a story. Maybe it’s the ingredients, maybe it’s the preparation, but it should be personal and it is. When you are cooking with your heart and you are able to transfer yourself into the dish and the food has personality.

Staying with your blog for another second, here’s another quote: “Let the food vibrate a little, feel it, that’s great cooking.” Are you letting the dishes vibrate at Josephine?

AL: Yes, always! That’s great cooking!

What have I not been clever enough to ask you?

AL: You should have asked me if I’ve been able to hit up any open mic nights at the Broadway honky tonks yet! The answer is NO, but I’ve had my share of Pabst at those honky tonks!

Well, Chef, thank you for your time. It was nice speaking with you.

AL: Well, thank you and come to Nashville soon and let me feed you!

What’s your favorite restaurant of 2014 so far?

Photo credit:  Andrea Behrends