Greenvillle Chef Brandon Qualls is putting the finishing touches on his new restaurant Ford + Shep, which is slated to open in April in the hip Dickinson Avenue corridor.
The restaurant and bar, at 718 Dickinson Ave. beside Smashed Waffles, will serve locally sourced, scratch-made food in a creatively renovated space with an outdoor patio and cocktail bar.
Brandon began his culinary career as a senior in high school, interning and then serving as Maitre D at the historic five-Diamond resort The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Mass. He earned a degree in Hospitality Management from East Carolina University in 2005.
Brandon has held a number of restaurant positions in eastern North Carolina, including executive chef at Village Wood-Fired Kitchen and Bar at the Hilton Greenville; director of food and beverages for the Hilton Greenville and the Greenville Convention Center; executive chef and managing partner at Pia's in Washington, NC, and New Bern; and sous chef at Chefs 505 in Greenville.
Brandon said Ford + Shep is named for his two young sons, Redford and Shepherd.
"Heirloom modern" describes the concept for both the food and the restaurant design.
"Our menu will be globally inspired and change frequently," Brandon said. "It will not be uncommon for our menu to change a few times in a single week.
"We will locally source the majority of our ingredients. We also are going to grow some of the ingredients right outside and inside our conservatory that connects the two buildings.
"What goes on the menu is a direct correlation to the growing season and what animals our farmers have available. Look for fresh day boat fish and interesting cuts of meat and game.
"We will be preparing everything from scratch including bread and desserts. We will constantly be creating new and exciting dishes that use amazing ingredients with modern techniques and artistic touches."
Brandon has been honored for his creative approach to food that elevates Southern ingredients.
The Food Network featured Brandon's Grilled CBR Burger from Villege on its list of "51 Top Burgers from Coast to Coast" in September. Brandon combined ground chuck, rib eye and short rib for the patty, which he grilled and topped with smoked Gouda and white Cheddar pimento cheese, candied applewood-smoked bacon, deviled egg spread, lettuce and tomato on a brioche bun.
Brandon also won the Chef's Hat at the North Carolina Seafood Festival cooking competition for two consecutive years. One of his winning dishes was N.C. Sheepshead with Jasmine tea pepper jelly glaze over creamed collards, farro and sage sausage with corn bread crumble.
A recent fall salad Brandon created that may find its way to the Ford + Shep menu features persimmons, plums, fennel, purple Napa cabbage, cone head cabbage, spiced benne wafers, pumpkin seeds, pears, and butternut squash seed oil vinaigrette.
Ford + Shep's restaurant space will be as unique as its menu.
"We have done an extensive upfit to the Dickinson Avenue property, connecting two buildings together with a clear roofed greenhouse/conservatory-like structure," Brandon said.
"The old bank teller building will become an outdoor bar. The patio will include a 14-foot fireplace. During construction we have knocked out two walls to gain access to the outside.
"It was a major up-fit including all infrastructure and kitchen," he said. "Our kitchen has a mesquite grill that can burn wood, charcoal or gas.
"The overall feel will be unique to Greenville. 'Heirloom modern' is the style that comes to mind with beautiful black herringbone subway tile behind the bar, wood and brass accents. Daniel Peoples is building a custom banquette that will be tufted velvet."
Brandon said Ford + Shep will open in April, if construction remains on schedule.
"We will be opening a limited reservation lottery sometime soon," he said. "This will allow us to ease into opening by taking a limited amount of reservations for the first couple of weeks. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram to find out when the lottery will start."
(Photos via Ford + Shep Facebook and Instagram feeds)
Jane Welborn Hudson, a native of Greenville, wrote The Daily Reflector's Hot Dish restaurant column for 12 years and the Greensboro News & Record's Short Orders restaurant column for 8 years. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.