By Michelle DiMuzio, Communications Coordinator
With influences from Southern cooking, immigrants, and farm-to-table communities, Nashville’s food scene has burgeoned into an eclectic mix of noteworthy spots. One of them is Henrietta Red, located in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood. Chef and owner, Nashville-native Julia Sullivan, focuses on seasonality and sustainable fish, with an emphasis on simple and fresh ingredients.
Henrietta Red, a Snail of Approval winner, embodies good, clean and fair food. We chatted with Julia about her experience as a chef, pandemic restaurant trends, and the joy of food.
Julia is no stranger to sustainable food. “I learned about Slow Food for the first time in my Intro to Gastronomy Class at the CIA [Culinary Institute of America], and it’s something that has informed a lot of decisions I’ve made in my career,” Julia explained. “It’s an exciting thing to be a part of.” She then completed her externship at the world-renowned Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which first exposed her to sustainable agriculture.
Since then, she has used these principles in her current endeavors, and as a cornerstone for Henrietta Red. “We make really good, interesting food that is accessible. Sure, we are a place you can come to for a special occasion, but you won’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to get really good food. That is the goal,” Julia shared. Although she emphasized the difficulties of being in the restaurant industry and maintaining sustainable practices due to the many waste streams, Henrietta Red is a model for sustainable dining. The restaurant has implemented composting, uses local produce and proteins, cooks seasonally, and engages in a circular economy, a concept that rids of our current take-make-waste economy, and instead recirculates waste and implements a regenerative economy. Fish and oysters are important to the identity of the restaurant. “Oysters are a sustainable protein and do a lot for their ecosystems; we do a lot to support the southern oyster industry because they are doing great work,” Julia stated. When utilizing fish, Julia and team ensure they are engaging in sustainable practices. “Almost all the fish we bring in is whole fish, so we make sure we use every part of it. Fumé with the bones, if we have trim, we salt it and turn it into something we preserve and can use later; we try to do what we can,” Julia explained.
While Henrietta Red is back and buzzing, signs of the pandemic still linger. “The pandemic exposed a lot of weaknesses in our system,” Julia shared. “Workers rights and wages are still a huge issue, and now we are dealing with major fluctuations with food prices. This opens up a whole other conversation about accessibility.”
Nevertheless, Julia’s restaurant and team are continuing to be innovative and stick to their core values, despite the hardships they have faced. “Our underlying value is to have a kind and inclusive culture,” Julia stated.
When asked what food has been providing Julia with joy lately, she discussed her love of peach cobbler. “My stepmother has a wonderful peach cobbler recipe that is so delicious, I’ve used some variation of it in every restaurant I’ve ever worked in. Recently I’ve been making it a lot for friends and family,” Julia shared.
To learn more about our recently relaunched Snail of Approval Awards, visit: https://slowfoodusa.org/snail-of-approval/
To become a member and support initiatives like the Snail of Approval, visit: https://slowfoodusa.org/become-a-member/