Whether he’s in his kitchen or his studio, Chef Andrew Carmellini stirs things up
Words by Nicole Letts
When Chef Andrew Carmellini isn’t in the kitchen, he can be found in his robust music studio in his home. “I have tons of recording equipment—guitars, basses, and keyboards are everywhere. And sampling machines, and a huge wall of records. It's almost like cooking,” he says. It comes as no surprise then that Carmellini jumped at the chance to open not one but two restaurant concepts in the Music City in late 2021. Ambitious musicians have been making their way to Nashville for decades. Today, ambitious chefs are flocking to the town too, and Chef Carmellini is one of them. From mixed tapes to mixing bowls, Chef Carmellini dishes on his restaurants, his food, and his music below.
Tell me about your decision to branch into the South. I know most of your concepts are in New York, so I'd love to know more about what drew you to this area.
We got recruited to do Nashville almost seven years ago when the building was just a grass plot of land. It's actually amazing to see. There are a lot of great chefs there doing great stuff. It's been cool to see Nashville transform over the last bunch of years.
What is exciting about the Nashville food scene in 2022?
We like a good sense of place, and when you get to Nashville, you know you're in Nashville. There are good products there too. We're getting some local beef from Bear Creek that is unbelievable. It’s really, really delicious. And now that we're coming into the other seasons, we're getting ready to dive into the local produce farming scene.
Some of your food, particularly at The Dutch, leans Southern. Items such as cornbread, rémoulade, collard greens, and fried chicken are all familiar favorites in these parts.
Well, it's interesting. I opened The Dutch 12 years ago in New York, and I wanted to make a great American restaurant with the American classics, which include good regional cooking. We really like to get into what your grandmother cooked, what my grandmother cooked, and celebrate that. The South, as an area, has a strong voice in American cooking culture.
You actually have two restaurants in Nashville, The Dutch and Carne Mare. Besides the menu, tell me how Carne Mare is different.
Carne Mare is for a big night out. I'm really proud of Carne Mare, and the way that we are putting the two things together: the great American steakhouse and Italian meat cookery. We have some cool things there, like the porchetta-spiced prime rib, which is super, super flavorful, and super, super tender. We do a 48-hour porchetta-style rub on the prime rib and
cook it really slow. We do Gorgonzola-cured Wagyu steak, which is this interesting technique where we cure and age steak in Gorgonzola cheese. We do homemade pasta and a lot of cool little snacks. It's fun.
Do you have any plans to expand beyond Nashville at all?
We’re still babies in the market. We need to take our time in Nashville because I'm going to be there a long time. Certainly, if there was something else in another part of town, I would really be interested in doing something. I love East Nashville. We hang out there a lot. I think right now my thing for this year is just to hunker down, try to have great restaurants, and put out a great product.
So, if you're cooking for yourself at home, what are you making?
I’m mostly cooking on the weekends, and it depends on what the mood is. I tend to do theme nights where I'll say, “OK, we're going to cook Japanese tonight,” and I'll put out a big Japanese spread. Or we'll do Thai food, and I'll make curry and shrimp fried rice or sticky coconut rice. I like to say I have two of everything, so we have a huge pantry downstairs and a huge pantry upstairs. We have every kind of spice and sauce base, so we can always throw together something cool.
How do you relax?
Well, in my other life, I was a world-famous record producer, at least in my mind. I had bands and all kinds of stuff when I was younger, so at my house, I have a fairly expensive, large music studio. I mostly make noise and dabble. I don't know if I'm any good, but I do have fun with it.