Cafe Fundamental, a French-Inspired Brasserie, Is in the Works on Porter Road

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At the intersection of Porter Road and Greenwood in East Nashville — just across the street from longtime favorite The Family Wash — a promising new restaurant is poised to open in about three weeks.

Chef Jamie Watson, who trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York, and business partner Sandra Westerman have operated a high-end catering operation for four years, with Watson teaching and cooking for private clients.

Now they’re opening Cafe Fundamental at 1115 Porter Road, in the vintage storefront formerly held by erstwhile Greek restaurant Zavos.

Watson describes Cafe Fundamental as a brasserie and patisserie — the latter meaning the delirious prospect of French pastries, which he said will be available early in the morning for folks starting their day on the east side. The restaurant will also serve lunch Tuesday through Saturday and dinner Thursday through Saturday.

If Watson’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s a frequent television guest, both locally on Channel 4 and on the Food Network with his friend Bobby Flay. In New York, Watson worked with luminaries such as Jacques Pepin and Andre Soltner.

Watson said he hates to use overworked culinary catchphrases, but concedes that one, “farm to table,” is apt.

“We’ll use as many local and regional ingredients as possible, including beef and pork,” he said. Watson added that not only will he grind his own beef, but all the meat in any one burger will be come from a single cow, meaning more transparency in the sourcing process.

The menu will be inspired by the French techniques Watson knows so well, combined with the bounty of Southern ingredients. Basically, he said, it’s classic French with a little bit of a Southern twist.

Watson expects to offer just 40 seats in the cafe, to keep things intimate and perfectly paced. He’ll run the kitchen, and Westerman will run the front of the house.

And what of the name “Cafe Fundamental”? It doesn’t refer to any religious or political leanings. Watson said it’s an homage to the philosophy that was drilled into his head in his years learning, using and teaching the classic French skills and approach. “It’s all about the fundamentals,” he said.

Cafe Fundamental is expected to open Aug. 21.

A version of this story ran in the Food Biz column in today's issue of The City Paper and online in the Nashville Post.

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