Let there be no doubt, chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto have every intention of opening the finest, nicest and best restaurant Mississippi has ever seen.
The two recently sat down with the Mississippi Business Journal to discuss their vision for the 10,000-square-foot Seafood R’evolution with seating for 317 which is set to open in November at Ridgeland’s Renaissance at Colony Park.
Their restaurant development company, Home on the Range’s first endeavor, Restaurant R’evolution, opened in the New Orleans Royal Sonesta Hotel in 2012 and instantly won culinary acclaim.
No expense has been spared; every corner has been covered as the world-renown chefs intend to make their mark and make Mississippi “new culinary epicenter of the South.”
And in taking Mississippi to new culinary heights, they intend to do it with Mississippians, by Mississippians and for Mississippians.
That starts at the top as Folse and Tramonto have moved their corporate headquarters to Mississippi, where they will run their world-wide businesses.
Their corporate offices have moved here out of Louisiana and into Mississippi into Renaissance, because “we want this to be ground zero for us,” as their Mississippi work will become the staging ground for everything they do after this.
“Rather than moving our office to Louisiana, where I live or to Chicago, where Rick runs (the world-famous Tru Restaurant), we wanted to come to Mississippi to do our business,” Folse said.
Secondly, they didn’t do a nationwide search for chefs. Nearly everyone was hired from Mississippi.
“Everybody is pretty much home grown. We bought one of our sous chefs from New Orleans who became our Chef deCuisine here. We brought our assistant sommelier to become our sommelier here. So, everyone who has been working and helping us in New Orleans the last two years has been given an opportunity to grow,” Tramonto said. “But out of 12 people, only two are from New Orleans and the rest are from Jackson.”
Folse said it is important to make connections with Mississippians.
“We could have brought a whole team of really great culinarians here from across the country, but what we would have missed is the fundamental development of our restaurant companies. And that is about paying homage to region we are in — understanding the region, paying proper respect to the region and cuisine and how it developed,” he said.
“In order for us to really understand how things work here, it so important that we surround ourselves with the best team we can find locally,” Folse continued That’s what we did in New Orleans and it worked wonderfully.”
They didn’t stop with the staff, either.
While their million-dollar kitchen is still in the production phase, the Revolution staff have been able to step across the street to St. Andrew’s Episcopal School’s upper school campus to use their kitchen over the summer as a test kitchen for menu development.
“The menu is not about Rick (Tramonto) or John Folse.,” Folse said. “The menu is more about what the people of this region expect, while the our chefs enhance the menu with our background, our skills, our interpretation of food.
“So when we first began to journey here, we started off touring the state from the Gulf Coast all the way to Memphis,” he continued. “We looked at the regions of the state. We looked at the agriculture. We looked at the fish farming. We looked at the country hams. We looked at the tamales, everything. We looked at the iconic restaurants. Whether is was Doe’s Eat Place (Greenville) or Ubons BBQ (Yazoo City), it didn’t matter. We had to do our research to understand, first and foremost, what were the roots of the cuisine from blues belt, catfish farming.”
As for the menu itself, Folse and Tramonto say the menu as it will be rolled out will be recognizable for the clientele. Everything will have an order to it.
“You’re going to find a chop steak, but you are going to find it will be done in a ‘Revolutionary’ style,” Folse says. “You’re going to find tamales, but there will be a tryptich of tamales — three or four varieties to showcase the region. You’re certainly going to find all the local fish, and you can get it fried; you can get it broiled; you can get it however you want it..
“Our menu will be participatory. You can decide what you want. It’s not like ‘Here’s our menu, take it or leave it.’ …”
Bill Johnson of the The Johnson Studio in Atlanta is the lead architect and has designed two main dining rooms inspired by “great Gulf resorts of the past”, a raw bar, three private rooms, outdoor patio dining and Bar R’evolution.
Then, there is the kitchen, which Tramonto touts as “the ultimate kitchen stadium,” for which there are great sight lines from all corners of the dining rooms.
Tramonto says that through the years he has learned more and more, and this kitchen will reflect that.
“We have beautiful clear walk-in doors to look inside of these beautiful fish coolers and produce coolers. It will be second to none. I am sure the state of Mississippi will not have seen anything like the advances of this restaurant before. From technology to cooking technique.”
“I don’t know if there is a better kitchen in America. I doubt it,” Folse said. “… it’s because we love the best kitchens and that kitchen was needed to deliver the product. Every piece of equipment was designed specifically for a reason as the whole restaurant is.”
And the customers will be on hand for the show.
“They’re watching all the chefs work — pastries being made right in front of everybody. Our raw bar is spectacular. We are going to have a raw bar that is second to none,” Folse said. “I think the restaurant is going to resemble a great community meeting place. It’s so wide open, if you walk in, if you have friends in the restaurant, you are going to see them. They aren’t hidden away somewhere.”
Folse compares the dining area as a great communal eating experience, “the way the South wants to live — an open front porch and a kitchen that is always open to the guests.
“But most important to us, when they look at the menu, they are going to say, ‘Wow, they really studied Mississippi.’ “
Even the construction company is from Mississippi and all of the furniture in the restaurant will be from Mississippi
“We were headed to Boston for the furniture until we found out there was a Mississippi furniture building in the Delta. So, we had our designers come in and buy all of our furniture in the Delta,” Folse said.
“So, our food is coming from Mississippi, our people’s coming from Mississippi, our furniture is coming from Mississippi, our construction is coming from Mississippi. We are a Mississippi place.”
It seems no stone has been left unturned.
With the online reservation system, you can choose your table, the date you want to come, the times you can get in. Folse calls the open table reservation system “magnificent.” And all of their online support is coming from, you guessed it, Mississippi in Ridgeland’s maidenish
Want wine? The wine list and wine cellar is iPad driven.
“I am sure we missed a few things but I can’t quite figure out what they are,” Folse joked.
So, it doesn’t appear Folse and Tramonto are worried about setting expectations too high.
”If other chefs walk into that restaurant, they are going to say, ‘Wow.’ My God, how did they do this?” Folse said.