This is the second of our interviews with the staff of our Louisville location. Travis Hall is the Executive Chef of Eddie Merlot’s in Louisville. His restaurant experience is considerable, and he’s a native of Louisville, making him a perfect choice to help launch the new Eddie Merlot’s.
He is a 1996 graduate of Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies. He moved to Clearwater, Fla., after that and worked for the Belleview Biltmore Country Club, and then moved to Atlanta and worked for Angelo & Maxie’s, a high-end steakhouse. He came back to Louisville and opened two successful restaurants in Louisville, selling both of them. Eva Mae’s in Harrod’s Creek was sold to a couple, and Olivia’s on Goss was sold to another operator and is now Michele’s on Goss.
Travis brings strong management experience and in-depth knowledge of food with him to Eddie Merlot’s, and we’re delighted to have him on board. Though he stays busy in the kitchen, you may have the opportunity to meet him, as he does enjoy getting out to meet customers from time to time.
We sat down to talk to Travis about his work recently.
Eddie Merlot’s is only open for dinner most of the year. How early do you get into the restaurant, and what is your day like?
“Usually I get in about 9:30 or 10 a.m. The first thing I do is a walk-through of the restaurant to ensure that nothing is out of place. I inspect the kitchen. The crew is usually getting in around that time. Then I usually handle any paperwork and office work that needs to be done, including ordering food for the next few days and handling some of the prep work. We usually wind up at the day’s end checking on food for the next day. It’s a very full day. We’re fortunate to be very busy.”
What’s your favorite Eddie Merlot’s dish on the menu?
“Tuna wontons. The simplicity and the crunch and the sweetness and the ginger is a wonderful combination. I also love our artichoke dip. “
How would you describe the Eddie Merlot’s customer?
“They are very educated on food and service. They really pay attention to food. Our customers love to share with me their experiences of having great food, and most of what they tell me is about the food that we serve and how incredible it is. We are an upscale fine dining steakhouse, but not pretentious or stuffy. We are not intimidating. We have the best of both worlds. We have a lively lounge. Our guests are not put off by the pricing because we make up for it with comfort. We put you at ease.”
What distinguishes the Eddie Merlot’s menu from other menus you’ve seen?
“I love our menu. Our product is superior. Our sides are dominant over any other restaurant in the area. That’s what people remember a lot. For example, people tend to have a negative reaction to Brussels sprouts but they haven’t tried ours. Ours are not overcooked and seasoned with crispy bacon, and grated parmesan. I think that they are the best out there.”
What does it mean to a customer to meet the chef? Why is it important to you to make sure you meet people?
“A lot of people who know me want me to come out and say hello. They want to interact and ask questions. They want to talk about the salad prep and other similar details. They want the inside view. The Food Network has especially opened people up to this whole new area of food and nutrition. People want to know how it works in the kitchen. They are intimidated by an upscale kitchen but they’re also very curious and they want to know how everything is done.”
Part of what Eddie Merlot’s does during the dining experience is educate the customer. Tell me about how that adds to the overall experience.
“Our guests are value-driven, and particularly in these times, people want to stretch their dollars as far as possible. We really give you a lot of value for your dollar by creating an entire experience. We carve out a steak for you in front of you. We prepare the bananas foster at tableside. It engages the guests, and it gives the server more time with the guests.”