Ever since he closed his Charlotte breakfast restaurant, @Dawn, Rock Hill chef Gregory Collier has been looking for a way to bring his food back to town. Now he’s teaming up with an uptown restaurant to make that happen.
Collier will still have The Yolk, his breakfast and lunch cafe in South Carolina, but he’s adding a second role as executive chef at Loft & Cellar, a block from Romare Bearden Park. Owned by Jerry Mercer, Loft & Cellar, 305 W. 4th St., is one of the few upscale restaurants in Charlotte with African-American ownership. Previous chef Nicolas Daniels recently left.
Collier has been one of the driving forces behind the successful pop-up dinner series, Soul Food Sessions, featuring African-American chefs. The series recently went national after a new partnership with Coca-Cola Consolidated. The group produced dinners in Baltimore and Washington earlier this summer, and has another ahead this fall in Charleston.
“I’ve been wanting to do dinner probably forever,” says Collier. “I’ll be digging into Southern food deeper.”
Collier is currently updating the dinner menu and expects to roll that out in a couple of weeks. After that, he’ll change up the brunch and lunch menus.
The preview menu he shared with the Observer is heavy on Southern ingredients with upscale inspirations, like a calamari gumbo seasoned with the Ethiopian spice mix berbere ($11), a Hot Chicken Thigh with honey butter sabayon, Duck & Dumplings, and Fish & Grits ($15) with salmon, Guinea Flint grits from Geechie Boy Mill in South Carolina, sweet potato chow-chow and crispy winter greens. On the dessert menu: Rice pudding with bourbon-braised cherries, a cornmeal pound cake with brown butter ice cream and salted honey meringues, and sweet potato chess pie with country ham caramel.
Loft & Cellar is an unusual space, with both an entertainment space that often pulls in a cocktail crowd, while it also is a restaurant. Collier says he wants to work to bring in a more food-focused crowd while still keeping the regulars who know it as a cocktail bar happy.
He plans to be there for at least three to six months, working on training staff and changing up the menu while continuing what he and wife Subrina are doing for a loyal crowd at The Yolk.
“For all intents and purposes, I will be the executive chef,” Collier says.
“It’s going to be fun. I have a good feeling about what we can do downtown.”