Last fall, Chef Hugh Acheson, who is from Atlanta, was in the Triangle to help culinary historian Michael Twitty cook a fundraising meal at Historic Stagville. Acheson and his young daughter stayed overnight at The Umstead Hotel & Spa so they could visit and dine with his good friend, Herons Executive Chef Scott Crawford.
Acheson commented at Stagville that Crawford, whose elegantly creativity helped Herons earn a national reputation for exceptional fine dining, would be better known if he plied his craft at a space other than a hotel.
“I’m really proud of the work I’ve done, but I have wanted to break away from hotel operations,” says Crawford, who earned three James Beard Foundation nominations for Best Chef Southeast during his five-year tenure at Herons. “Every chef wants to do their own thing and really have it be their vision from the ground up. Working in hotels has brought me to where I am, but I’m ready for something different.”
In partnership with John Holmes of Hobby Properties, Crawford has created the Nash Square Hospitality Group. Their first venture, Standard Foods, will open this fall at Person Street Plaza in the bustling North Person district, which straddles the Oakwood and Mordecai neighborhoods. It will be followed in 2015 by Nash Tavern, to be located on Nash Square near the warehouse district. It’s one of the few areas of downtown yet to be redeveloped.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time in downtown Raleigh in the last year and a half, trying to decide where I’d want to be,” says Crawford, who has been quietly negotiating with Holmes for about a year. “I love the park setting on Nash Square, and I love what’s happening at North Person. They are perfect for our vision.”
Standard Foods will occupy a restaurant and grocery space originally envisioned for the now-closed Market restaurant; its former site on Blount Street is now occupied by The Stanbury. A small grocery featuring house-made take-out foods and local produce will adjoin Crawford’s 80-seat eatery.
Crawford says he has not determined a price point for meals, but said it will be “fair” and accessible to more diners than an evening at the upscale Herons. He hopes to bring some of his staff with him to the new operation but declined to say who or how many.
Standard Foods derives its name from the movement back to wholesome, natural foods grown by small farms. “There has been a conversation for a long time about how this should be a standard and not a trend,” Crawford says. “What we’re going to do will hopefully be standard for the future.”
Nash Tavern is intended to become Crawford’s flagship restaurant and will contain a private event space. He suggests that other venues will follow, ideally as a family endeavor.
“My 6-year-old son, Jiles, says he wants to cook with me when he’s older,” says Crawford, who set aside chef tasks and interviews this afternoon to treat his son to a squirt gun that shoots water 25 feet. “We’ll see if he still wants to hang with dad when he has a car and more freedom. I hope so.”