Monday, August 2, 2010

Nfocus :TASTEMAKERS Making Nashville A Better Place To Live

photo by Eric England

Making Nashville A Better Place To Live
Published On: July 27, 2010

The Gems

There's something about jewelry. Not only does it attract women, but also women in the jewelry business apparently must all be attractive. That was the first thought when three of Nashville's most well-known jewelry goddesses strolled into the studio for their Nfocus photo shoot and, much to our surprise, their first-ever encounter with one another.

That's right: Margaret Ellis, Judith Bright and Cindi Earl had never met one another. Each one looked classically unique and beautiful, much like the jewels they create and sell. The link between the three: they all wore smashing rocks. Seriously.

Each lady traveled different paths to their sparkly destinies. In 1976, Margaret took two jewelry-making classes and was hooked. "I started doing it professionally in 1983 when I quit my day job, made my first set of samples and went straight to New York to sell it," she says. "I still remember how terrified I was when I got on that plane—not of flying, but of stepping into the great unknown."

The world, including viewers of the movies Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada, has reaped the benefits from Margaret's big leap. Her jewelry reflects personal style rather than fashion, she says, which in part is what makes her work timeless. "The craft aspect of my work is very important to me, and I like for the metal to be an important element in every piece."

You can find Margaret at her inviting Cummins Station studio, which is "open by appointment," but in fact, Margaret says you can drop by anytime.

Cindi Earl opened shop selling fabulous gems to Nashville in 1991 when Jamie Stream, "graciously gave me the she has for many." Cindi's decision to jump into jewels came after a traumatic year. "My mother, father and brother all left this life within eight months of each other," she says. "It was one of those times life says, ‘Attention shoppers,'" she adds.

Cindi had worked at Sperry's for years but knew it was time for change. "One day I sat down to find the future and asked myself what do I have left that I love." Jewelry was the answer. She studied at the Gemological Institute and began forging relationships with jewelers around the world. Cindi and her "friends/vendors" design things together. "The Mazza Company, Alex Sepkus, Makur, Mattioli, Stephanie Albertson, to name a few, can be found all over the world, but you will find collections of their works that are very different here in Nashville," she says.

Today, Cindi's bustling shop on Harding Pike thrives on humor. Swing by for a giggle and some gems!

Judith Bright's classic, clean unique personal translates directly to the pieces she creates. After a love affair with jewelry, Judith started making her own six years ago in L.A. before moving to study the craft in Italy. She and her family packed their bags for Nashville, where she's been crafting her lovely pieces out of her home studio.

Next step: Judith is opening a flagship store at The Mall at Green Hills in November. And the world is watching. Judith's work can be seen in movies and videos including the latest Jennifer Lopez movie, The Back Up Plan.

We love these Nashville treasures. EN

The Culinarian

He's handsome and charming. He's got a smile that can light up a room. He's got killer style. And damn, can he cook! We're talking about the one and only Arnold Myint, Nashville's very own celebrity chef. There's a chance you may have seen him as a contestant on Top Chef DC recently, but we can guarantee that you've enjoyed a meal at one of his fabulous restaurants here in town.

Arnold's passion for global cuisine is apparent the second you step inside one of his three restaurants. ChaChah, PM and Suzy Wong's House of Yum are the products of Arnold's creative efforts, all of which are greatly inspired by his travels to exotic places. "I traveled a lot growing up and in my early twenties, always eager to see what the world had to offer. Every time I returned to Nashville, I searched for special places that reminded me of my experiences on the road; small boutique art-filled rooms with magical food and full of personality." His goal of re-creating these memories certainly has been achieved. Bold flavors add a kick to classic comfort food with an Asian twist. While each restaurant has its own distinctive vibe, Arnold has paid serious attention to detail. Expect polished décor, an ingenious cocktail menu and to-die-for cuisine at all three of his enterprises.

Besides running his hot-spot eateries, Arnold is involved with the Nashville Originals, an initiative to support independent and locally owned restaurants. Serving on the board of the organization, Arnold believes Music City restaurateurs must band together in order to succeed. "I find that having this kind of ‘fraternity' is essential in a developing food town. Being able to toss around ideas and support similar goals of other local culinary entrepreneurs is such a relief and very encouraging." Some of his favorite places to grab a bite to eat around town are Nero's Grill (the chicken salad melt, to be exact) and Capital Grille inside the Hermitage (lamb belly). Arnold is doing big things for the local food scene, not only by rallying around other Nashville chefs, but also spreading the message about our town. His recent spell on Top Chef DC allowed him to represent Nashville in a fresh, new way. "Part of my motivation for being on Top Chef was to share a progressive perception of Nashville. I think I at least achieved that." Nashville is constantly growing into a more sophisticated, modern city. Who better to represent this evolution than Arnold?

So what's on the horizon for him? What's next for this culinary artist? "I want to start a foundation that supports various nonprofit organizations focusing on children, food, education and the arts. A product line is in the works, but very slowly, as it will be tied to my foundation. It will be very stylish, chic and fashionable." Coming from a man who totes his chef knives in a Louis Vuitton bag, we have no doubt about that. MM

The Homemaker

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; ...The essential things in life are seen not with the eyes, but with the heart." Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince.

If you talk about home with Bobby McAlpine, your chat won't be limited to that physical place you call "home." Be prepared to embark on a journey of guided self-exploration to discover and more fully articulate your own place in this world.

"I came to Nashville about 15 years ago. Although I called Montgomery, Alabama ‘home' at that time, somehow Nashville called out to me, inviting me to be here. It seemed to make no sense at all, to me or to others. But I heard and responded to the invitation."

McAlpine can live anywhere he likes because his clients are everywhere. A strong sense of home is no doubt a useful anchor for a man who frequently awakens in cities other than his own. We caught up with him as he was leaving town for personal appearances in New York, The Hamptons and Washington, D.C. to talk about his newest book. It's called The House Within Us—Romantic Houses, Evocative Rooms. Published by Rizzoli, it was already in its third printing after a mere 90 days on store shelves.

Sharing ideas with this creative genius will lead you to discover that "home" should be a physical manifestation of your own unique spirit. His book says it best: "What we crave in this life is an outer beauty that reflects the gorgeous world within us. I am speaking about the house within us. What if the house inside you became the house you lived in? What if you envisioned that your life could be just the way your imagined it? Then you are en route to enlightened destiny, because each of us has huge control over our lives. We don't always realize this because, we are, to a degree, defined by so many outside forces. But at the same time, we do have the power to create our own environment and our environment, in turn, shapes us."

"It must be a Middle Tennessee thing," Bobby said, "for people to want to see others do well. It is a kind and common gift that has been extended to me over and over again by the people here. Nashville has always been a spiritual wellspring for talented and creative people. I think we're going to see a lot more of them choosing to move here."

McAlpine's delightful talent to embody the spiritual within the physical, wedding them in structures of beauty and respite is his transformative and generous gift, not only to his clients, but to Nashville and Middle Tennessee. These contributions have already ensured that our well won't run dry anytime soon. MLT

The Creators

It's no secret that Nashville is a fertile breeding ground for inventive and inspired minds. Of course, there are music makers galore, who are artists in their own right. But because Nashville boasts such a unique cultural landscape, visual artists are quickly giving musicians a run for their money. With a genuine desire to make this city a more colorful place, Herb Williams, Beth Gilmore and Trevor Mikula are three local artists you need to get to know.

Each possessing a larger-than-life personality (and a style all their own), these three folks are at the top of who's who list of the local art crowd. Herb, curator of The Rymer Gallery, creates outrageously imaginative sculptures out of your childhood art class staple: Crayola crayons. . .That familiar waxy scent of crayons permeates his space in a delightfully nostalgic way. "I was trained fairly traditionally and tried out every different medium that I could think of before, quite literally, a dream revealed the way that I could re-introduce the crayons. I keep using them because I continue to see new possibilities in them. I love the way that they immediately engage a viewer, young or old, rich or poor. They're a gateway drug." Herb brings some serious legitimacy to the scene, having had exhibits in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, though he consciously chooses to stay and create art right here in Nashville. "I think there's an openness to seeing art and supporting artists," Herb says. "There are so many incredibly talented artists here in town." The talented folks in this town must gravitate towards one another, as Herb counts both Beth and Trevor as two of his buddies.

Nashville native Beth Gilmore has witnessed the city evolve into a thriving hub for the arts. From a young age, her parents encouraged her to embrace all forms of art. "I had art lessons at Cheekwood and etiquette lessons from a lovely lady in a hoopskirt at Longview on Franklin Road and many other of the usual types of enrichment educational pursuits like dance." Nowadays, she's just as busy and involved as she was in her youth. Beth's current repertoire includes a stint as an artist in residence at the Downtown Presbyterian Church, tour guide at Belmont Mansion ("it has always been an inspiration to my work and my life") and curator of Twist Gallery. She finds inspiration in the rich history of our region, which lends her a distinctive and charming style. With a love for the past and the present, she's as Nashville as it gets. "Staying allows me to contribute to the culture that so many have worked to build right here. Nashville has become the city I always wanted to move to." We agree, Beth.

With a youthful energy that's so intense it can't be emulated, Trevor Mikula is force to be reckoned with. The self-taught artist is a born and raised Nashvillian who employs everyday surroundings as his muse. "Everyone here has a story. It's easy to be inspired here simply by observing people in my day-to-day life. Watch out…I might be watching you." Each of his paintings is more charming than the next. One of his pieces entitled "Time Out" features a pouty Boston Terrier pup who has obviously merited some punishment (probably inspired by his own dog, Monet). Another called "Bloody Slow Start" puts a much-needed Bloody Mary front and center, with a snail crawling in the foreground. Who can't identify with that? His artwork is relevant and accessible, yet still very fun. And fun to look at. Trevor most certainly has a vivid imagination. When asked what he'd be doing if he weren't an artist, he responded, "I would be on a beach in the Seychelles sipping a Mai Tai. Or I'd own a doughnut shop with my brother Toby." While those are both good options, we hope he'll never stop making art. MM

The Activists

Picture the Wildhorse Saloon on a chilly, grey weekday, filled with more than 40 tables of 10. Rounding out each table—mostly downtown businessmen in suits.

Onto the stage prowls a striking, powerful couple. Gone is the Country-Western vibe of the space. The room is silent. The couple speaks. It's rhythmic with potent words and messages. They work together, words flowing from man to woman, woman to man. It's political. It's current. Their voices ebb and flow, drawing in the audience who appear awestruck. This is something new.

Yep, it's slam poetry. And it was only this year at the Arts and Business Council of Greater Nashville's Bowtie Awards that many of Nashville's movers and shakers learned just how moving it can be.

Connie Valentine, the head of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville, explains how she came to book GRAVATY. "Last year, I co-chaired the Leadership Music "Artist Day" with Lisa Jenkins and Jeff Obafami Carr. Part of our goal was to expose the current Leadership Music class to cool music projects and styles in Nashville. We had nearly 50 music industry folks, most of whom who had never heard slam poetry. GRAVATY received a spontaneous standing ovation after one piece! They were so real and moving." Connie says.

Tia and Dante Miller—the partnership known as GRAVATY—hail from Ohio but didn't meet one another until they arrived at TSU. After Tia "coerced" Dante to join TSU's forensics team, the relationship blossomed. Today, they are GRAVATY, activist poets who want to set off "a spiritual alarm" that "awakens people to the vehicle that helps them carry out their purpose."

During the day, Tia manages the home and the couple's three children while Dante works as a service manager. But when they are home together, they collaborate. Their topics vary from flooding to religion to politics, and the couple says ideas come via "divine intervention." Tia describes their writing, saying, "There are times we get one word in our heads and that word won't go away until we write it down, or there will be a series of events that confirm the word. Once we begin to write that word, the piece forms. We generally write separately and when we share what we've written with each other, we find that we can easily combine our work."

The issues they tackle enable them to perform everywhere from nightclubs and churches to spoken word venues and theaters across the nation. The couple's goal with their art? "Our mission is to provide entertaining enlightenment to the masses that will serve as a catalyst for positive change against the commonalities of society. Such will inspire and motivate minds past the psychological impacts of slavery and colonization to a mental state of freedom through the spirit, which will resonate in every area of life."

To hear a sample of their work or learn where they will be performing, go to EN

The Dreamweaver

You know those people who just seem to have it all together? They're the picture of a calm in the storm—inviting and comfortable, able to accomplish everything seemingly effortlessly and they've got great style.

That's Janet Kurtz. As director of sales and marketing at The Hermitage Hotel, Janet oversees all of the rooms revenue for the hotel, as well as the marketing and public relations for The Hermitage Hotel and Capitol Grille. "Basically I spread the word about The Hermitage Hotel," she says. "A typical day might include traveling out of town, say to New York, Washington, DC or Chicago, to meet with national associations and corporations about booking their next meeting at the Hermitage or talking with reporters, local journalists and national travel writers, about our new farm-to-table concept in the Capitol Grille."

Janet is something of a chameleon. Wearing a variety of hats, she pulls off everything tastefully and serenely. Her cat-like emerald/ocean-hued eyes gaze evenly at you as she assures you that everything will be taken care of. What an excellent representative this young lady is to put on the road for Nashville. But don't take our word for it. Ask actor David Keith of An Officer and a Gentleman fame. A Knoxville native, he resides at The Hermitage when he's in Nashville so he can be close to government officials to lobby for his nonprofit, He credits both Janet and The Hermitage for helping him take down predators of children. "I couldn't do this without them," he says matter-of-factly.

Janet made her way to Nashville from Ohio with a diversion in between to attend the University of Evansville. After college, she moved to the city at the behest of one of her friends who lived in Franklin. She fell in love with the town, applied for a job at Belle Meade Plantation, where she worked until moving to the Loews Hotel at Vanderbilt. When she arrived at The Hermitage, she quickly climbed the ranks and was fortunate to be part of the opening following the 11-month renovation. She recalls the weekend of the opening: "There were some really funny moments—such as carrying a box of pillows while in a black dress, high heels and pearls, and trying to gracefully fall down the stairs when I realized I missed a step— and some special ones—like watching every person who came through the door gasp as they walked up the stairs, different stairs than those I fell down, and had their first glimpse of the beautiful restored hotel."

Another recent favorite Hermitage memory was a press reception at Glen Leven Estate to announce the new garden that provides fresh heirloom vegetables to the Capitol Grille. "We had a wonderful turnout and enjoyed a fabulous lunch from our garden prepared by our talented chefs and toured the mansion at Glen Leven," she shares. "I decided I was meant to be the mistress of a grand home like Glen Leven and have impressed this upon my significant other. He's working on it."

In our minds, Janet is already fulfilling that dream—hosting people from around the world at the city's historic Hermitage. And she's doing it with style. Plus, word on the street is that she makes a mean chess pie. EN

The Wordsmith

Todd Bottorff is a fun guy. A fun guy with a serious job and a passion for philanthropy and the literature community, that is. As leader of Nashville's Turner Publishing, ranked on Publishers Weekly's fastest growing publishers list for the last two years, Todd oversees the company, its leadership, the books published and company strategies and goals.

After Phil Bredesen appointed Todd to the board of Humanities Tennessee, an organization that works to advance our history and culture through writing, Todd came up with the idea for Authors in the Round, which "matched opportunity with need," he explains. "The Southern Festival of Books brings more than 200 leading authors to Nashville in October each year, and the festival requires funding to be able to offer that to the public for free, so I thought how interesting it would be to have dinner with the authors that are already here," he says. "So, we created the event where guests can buy a table and we assign an author to each table. We have had amazing authors over the last two years including the author of The Help, Kathryn Stockett, and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wrobelewski, both very nice people."

An author himself, he wrote 21 Things to Create a Better Life, which aims to "capture the simplest daily things that a person can do to improve their health, wealth and happiness." The small book is part of Turner Publishing's series Good Things to Know. Todd explains, "Monumental change begins with a single small action, repeated daily."

When it comes to literature, Todd says, "I believe it is a good move, both morally and strategically to cultivate Nashville as a city for writers. Being thoughtful is good for the soul. Examining our lives and telling stories both in written word and in song gives us identity. Living among creative people makes the community so much richer. And strategically, with the changes in technology, there is so much power to make your creative message heard."

Write on, Todd. EN

The Oenophile

Take one step into Village Wines and you'll know that the folks in the shop know wine. Behind the counter, cases of juice that well-heeled Nashvillians and wine lovers have special ordered line the wall behind the register. Back in the corner of the shop, owner Hoyt Hill sits in front of his computer, working on inventory, researching products and reviews, communicating with the world's greatest winemakers.

When a customer walks in and says, "I need something that would go well with…" Before the shopper finishes the sentence, Hoyt has strode purposefully across the room and pulled out the perfect bottle. Really. The man should insure his tastebuds and nose.

Hoyt's love of wine stems in part from his first job during his senior year at Vanderbilt at Julian's. After graduation, Hoyt was offered the position of maitre d' and accepted. "Working for John Haggard was an inspiring learning experience in terms of an unrelenting pursuit of excellence," he shares. From there, Hoyt moved on to F. Scott's, which quickly became one of Nashville's most popular and enduring restaurants, and the Wild Boar. His next step—Village Wines.

How could such a petite shop be filled with so many gems? In addition to Hoyt's knowledge, there's his clout with winemakers. He explains, "Our focus is to bring true value to our customers in terms of the price and quality of the wines we sell—that applies to our $500 wines as well as to the $15 ones. When we find a wine which we think is a special example of its type, we try to negotiate pricing."

Hoyt's passion for the grape has helped fulfill his interest in helping others (you'll see his name listed frequently as a benevolent donor a societal function) as well as his love of travel. He recalls one of his favorite wine journeys: "I was walking in the vineyards in Burgundy about 15 years ago with a well-known American wine exporter named Russell Hone. Russell asked me to walk about two meters across the hillside and tell him if I noticed any change. Well, I walked two meters and it actually seemed to get warmer. When I pointed this out to Russell, he informed me that I had just walked from Batard-Montrachet to Montrachet, and the extra warmth in Montrachet results in riper grapes That is why Batard-Montrachet sells for $150-$350 per bottle and Montrachet sells for up to $3,000!"

You know Hoyt loves his job when he explains the best part of his day: "When you open a bottle of wine with dinner, the TV gets turned off and music gets turned on. It's also more likely that you will prepare dinner rather than bringing something home...Dinner lasts one and a half hours rather than 30 minutes, and all kind of things are discussed that would not have been without the wine." EN

The Artisans

The word handmade conjures up images of a warm apple pie made from scratch or your great-grandmother's artfully sewn quilt. But handmade liquor? Just ask the folks behind Corsair Artisan Distillery, who are breaking the mold and bringing craft made spirits to Nashville. Childhood friends-cum-business partners Darek Bell and Andrew Webber are the masterminds behind this unique venture, which is on the fast track to becoming a world-renowned distillery, with products ranging from Vanilla Bean Vodka, Red Absinthe and their highly-recognized Gin-Head style Gin.

The idea hatched from Darek and Andrew's shared enthusiasm for, of all things, biodeisel. While whipping up a batch of the eco-friendly fuel one day, Andrew expressed his desire to make whiskey instead. Darek had experience making wine, beer and sake and Andrew's family was in the wine industry, so it seemed like a natural fit. Darek noticed there was a real need for bringing a high-caliber craft distillery to Tennessee. "I had been watching the artisan distilling movement in mostly the western states like California, Oregon and Washington. I was amazed that nothing was happening in the South. I didn't want Tennessee to be left behind, given the wealth of distilling knowledge and lore here."

Some say that timing is everything in life. Darek and Andrew would probably agree. As Andrew was finishing up his MBA at Vanderbilt, Darek and his wife (and former bar critic) Amy Lee were moving home to Tennessee from New York City. When Darek and Amy Lee first met in NYC, they spent a good bit of time trying cocktails and visiting different bars around the city for Amy Lee's job. Needless to say, they've always been spirit aficionados. After returning to Nashville, Darek pitched the idea of a micro-batch craft distillery to Andrew. Together, they wrote a business plan and the rest is history.

Nashville seems to have been the ideal location for a start-up venture. Darek says, "I still miss New York City, but I'm very happy to be back. Opening Corsair has been great, and Nashville is the perfect fit for it. It would have been very, very difficult to start out in New York." In addition to taking over the old Yazoo Brewery space in Marathon Village, they've got a second distillery in Bowling Green. With several major awards under their belt, Corsair is headed to big places. "We got a lucky break almost immediately after we launched, when our gin won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the most prestigious spirits competition in North America. We have now won 11 medals at international spirits competitions."

Corsair products are now available in states across the country including Colorado, Oregon and California. Look out for a new whiskey from them called Triple Smoke, too. Darek says it's fantastic and complex, made from three different smoked malts. And best of all, they're constructing a gorgeous new tasting room in the Nashville distillery, where visitors are encouraged to sit back, relax and enjoy the handmade, homemade goodness. Sounds pretty damn good to us. MM

The Champion

A piece of fine jewelry or a luxury timepiece is valued not only for its intrinsic beauty, but for its symbolic depth. Either is a great choice as a commemorative gift for a wedding, birth, anniversary or well-deserved retirement.

So it comes as no surprise to learn that Nashville's newest jewelry purveyor has a deep commitment for his adopted "hometown." David King of King Jewelers says, "Most people wouldn't know it, but in addition to making strategic business sense, Nashville offered my family and me many appealing and compelling emotional reasons for our new store location." He adds, "My uncle's been in the jewelry business here for 40 years. Although our family has deep roots in South Florida, we've known and liked a lot of things about Nashville for a long time."

The Green Hills store opened in November 2008. Social circles were soon aware of King Jewelers due to the company's active participation in fundraisers. But the King family business soon focused their philanthropy on the health of children, a cause dear to David, a former aspiring physician.

Talking about the founding of the Champions for Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, David's eyes light up like diamonds. With co-chairs Beth and Paul Frankenberg, he has partnered with the Children's Hospital to improve the health of children.

The Champions are making an annual gift to the hospital that supports two initiatives: the Pediatric Palliative Care Program at the Children's Hospital which provides intensive symptom management and support services to children with life-threatening illness; and, the Katherine Dodd Faculty Scholars Program which helps junior faculty members create a community of future leaders who will advance the education, practice and policy of children's health care.

This entrepreneur and philanthropist has emerged as a polished children's champion. He attended the University of Pennsylvania to go to medical school, but instead chose to attend the Wharton School.

David returned home to learn the family business. Now in our city, David says his business, family and philanthropic sensibilities mesh well with Nashville. "We are a family-owned business where service is the single most important aspect of what we do. My family has been in business for five generations and Nashvillians value that sense of tradition," David said.

"My experiences in pre-Med led me to realize that I could have a much greater impact on the health of children as a successful businessman more than as a doctor. With Champions, we are going to help shape a healthier future for children." MLT

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