Opening a second restaurant is a risky business. But if you’re as seasoned in the ways of hospitality as Jason and Julia Scholz are, it’s not that much of a stretch. The couple, who launched Stella’s Southern Bistro in Simpsonville in 2008, was looking to expand when Verdae Development Inc. approached them about opening an anchor restaurant in the Hollingsworth Park community on Greenville’s east side.
Root & Vine // Stella’s Southern Brasserie brings a French twist to local cuisine
“It was a leap of faith on both our parts,” says Chef Jason, “but a confident one. The project checked everything off both our lists.” With a business plan calling for a chef-driven restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the project also entails an up-front, small market of locally produced goods catering to neighborhood residents.
Just as sisters vie for individuality, Stella’s Southern Brasserie goes Gallic, and the original Stella’s continues to flaunt her Southern roots. Both siblings hold fast to the family’s core values of outstanding hospitality and superb cuisine crafted from the bounty of area farms.
Bowled Over // Chef Jeff Kelly brings his culinary craft to Stella’s Southern Brasserie, presenting dishes such as the blue-black mussels with smoked tomato broth and vegetable pot au feu with roasted corn, shiitake, kimchee, squash, local Swiss chard, a farm egg, and soba noodles.
With a black-and-white mosaic tile floor and bare wood tables set with turquoise Le Creuset salt and pepper shakers, little sister is lively and chic—everything a French brasserie should be. Copper pots are arranged artfully on the walls, while white marble tops the bar and communal table. Saturated with natural light, the main dining room overflows onto the outdoor patio and into a 40-seat special-event space embellished with hand-stenciled walls.
Heading the brasserie’s kitchen is Virginian Jeff Kelly, who moved most recently from Washington, D.C., where his wife worked as an assistant curator in the Obama White House—yes, Kelly cooked there on several occasions. The chef, whose resume ticks off time in the kitchens of Peninsula Grill (Charleston), Vidalia, and Bistro Bis (both in D.C.), as well as Devereaux’s and 33 Liberty in Greenville, jumped at the chance to bring his considerable culinary skills to the new project. Both Kelly and Scholz have their hands in the changing menu, which toasts French brasserie fare with steak frites, roasted game hen, and plats du jour.
Kelly’s inspiration shines at the table. Blue-black mussel shells yawn just wide enough to sip on smoked tomato broth, while Marsala-spiked onion soup gratinée summons an amazing depth of flavor from a chicken broth made from roasted bones. Plated alongside stewed tomatoes, garlic sausage, pork belly, white beans, and spicy mustard greens, the crispy duck leg rounds up all the flavors of a traditional cassoulet.
For the beverage program, general manager Aimee Maher curates a fascinating wine list, served by the glass, the “fun” (250ml), and the bottle. She even crafts her own tonic to pair with the 11 types of gin on the cocktail menu. Each is garnished with varying fresh herbs and spices, depending on individual flavor notes.
Committing to breakfast, lunch, brunch, and dinner is a mouthful, bien sûr, but Kelly claims he loves a challenge. “I like that there’s a lot going on,” alleges the chef. “That’s what keeps me thinking and keeps me pumped.” And from the taste of things, Kelly guarantees Stella’s take two is second to none.
Stella’s Southern Brasserie, 340 Rocky Slope Rd, Ste 100, Greenville. (864) 626-6900, stellasbrasserie.com