Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Congratulations Kerry Wittwer, ai3 Principal!

Last month we announced 1 new Principal to ai3: Kerry Wittwer. 

Kerry joined ai3's studio a few months before I left for maternity leave, 9 years ago. We'd all remained friends since our previous firm-life and believed she'd be the perfect addition to our growing studio.

She has been a tremendous mentor to our staff and a trusted leader to our clients. Her personality and free spirit have been a HUGE part of our culture, and while we miss her daily since she decided to work out of Nashville, we don't want to live without her! How could we? She's the only one to take on ANY dare!!!

Let me share the uber fun that is Kerry Wittwer....

Kerry Wittwer
Principal, ai3

Kerry and her husband Clay pose for ai3's Holiday calendar - inspired by "Juno"

Kerry at ai3's annual Chili Cook-Off. Has she won yet with her Tennessee chili?

Jason Carney, Kerry and Clay polishing off some chili
Bowling for Charity with the ai3 team

Running first 1/2 marathon with Ann-Marie Lima in Nashville

Kerry actually DOES get a lot of work done...

Kerry's dedicated mentees: Jillian Rooker & Elisa Gangone

Wouldn't you love to have these 2 as your studio Principals?

I have no idea.
Yes, our tom-boy had two beautiful girls: Clara and Lilian
Our very own, Kerry Wittwer, Principal at ai3, Inc.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

1 Fish, 2 Fish, 3 Fish, GIANT FISH - Dragonfly

Nestled in the suburbs of Miami, Dragonfly is an authentic Japanese Izakaya and Fish Market concept. Hiro Leung, our friend and client introduced in a previous blog post, initially approached ai3 with a dynamic vision for his restaurant to exude "artful flavor." Steeped in deep heritage, the authentic nuances of Japanese fishing culture inspired our design. From the bustling market stalls of the Tsukiji Fish Market to the traditional tools, clothing, and boats, we cultivated our design out of the intricate details of life on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. 

Suspended in the central focal point of the restaurant hangs a giant fish head composed of hundreds of steel hooks. From a mere discussion, to a sketch, to reality, the process and collaboration between ai3 and artists, Stephen Evans and Mark Wentz, brought a distinct "artful flavor" to Dragonfly's design.

Initial sketch of Fish Head

A small scale, 3-dimensional model from Mark and Stephen
Hey little fishy! 

The fish head arrived in two parts in order to travel from 
Atlanta to Doral, Florida. 

Hundreds of whimsical-looking fish hooks were cut from sheet steel and distressed to give a patina of rustic warmth. 

Artist Mark Wentz climbs onto his "Fish Head Jungle Gym" in order to weld the two parts of the fish head together on site. 

How many guys does it take to hang a giant, steel fish? 
Very impressed that the scissor lift fit PERFECTLY within the fish... 

Finally, after a few hours, the fish head was installed and every hook was thoughtfully hung. Now, all that is left is to hang a light fixture in the middle of the fish to create a chandelier effect. 

Other ai3 creations of "Arftful Flavor," soon to be introduced to the Dragonfly space:

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Chef Doug Turbush of Atlanta's 2016 Most Anticipated Restaurant - Drift

The days of January are passing quickly and the speed of construction is reaching a whirlwind pace to complete Chef Doug's newest restaurant. February will be here soon and this much-anticipated restaurant will be one of the first of 2016 to please diners of Atlanta and Chef's loyal Guests of East Cobb. 

Chef Doug Turbush of Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar
What about the East Cobb neighborhood is special to you?
The people in this community are simply awesome. They helped make all of this possible and have shown so much support for what we are trying to do here. Plus, this is where I raised my family, so it means a lot to us. 

Do you have a favorite part of the design process, and if so, what was it? I like the Vision Session, where we get the entire team to express what we really want to get across. Watching that materialize into a restaurant is a unique process and fascinating.

What advice would you share with someone who wants to build a restaurant from ground up? Spend the time and do the homework in the beginning on exactly what and where you want it. Once it's on paper, it's yours forever, good and bad.  It's difficult to fix at that point. 

If you could offer your teenage-self one piece of advice, what would it be?
You are so much cooler in your 30's and 40's, so don't sweat this phase. Go study cooking in Europe while you're young, 'cause it's too late now and weird for everybody.

What is your favorite kitchen tool/gadget?
Currently, the Garganelli Board makes my favorite pasta and gnocchi.

Are there any aspects of the menu inspired by your family?
Sure, my wife and mother-in-law are both great cooks. We cook a very simple grilled whole fish on the weekend at home, Thai style.  I think you will see that pop up.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dragonfly Fish Market & Kitchen (Doral): Hiro's Story

ai3's team is in the trenches, battling through construction administration on the Dragonfly restaurant in Doral (close to Miami). If you went to U of F, then you may have had a special date night in the original Dragonfly in Gainesville, Florida. While we wait for the dream to take shape, Jillian Rooker and Kellen Minor wanted to introduce you to one of our most creative clients, Hiro, as he builds his empire.  Don't worry, we are doing everything we can to get a Dragonfly Atlanta!

Our chat with Hiro Leung
What is the story behind Dragonfly?
We graduated from the University of Florida some time ago (no time... uu hmmmm) with a P.H.D. - Poor, Hungry and Determined- (not the real Ph D., but the hard knock one). Our venture began with the opening of a small sushi joint with not more than ten tables in 1999. My business partner (Song Kim) and I decided to do this until we found "real jobs" like our friends who were going into the corporate world. As the years passed, we absolutely fell in love with what we do.

What were you going to do with your life?
Growing up, I knew I wanted to be in business. I also knew that I never wanted to have a job. I couldn't stand the thought of going to work and doing something, for the rest of my life, that wasn't fun. I was determined to create a life that would allow my passions of creativity, eating, and drinking to intersect. Yes, we have tough days, but to be able to express that on a blank canvas when we open a new restaurant is amazing- and to watching it grow is an absolutely awesome feeling!

Why did you name it Dragonfly?
Sixteen years ago, when we were in search of a name, we wanted a name that represented Asia and symbolized grace, beauty, and enlightenment. We knew the answer was in nature, and the dragonfly spoke to us. The dragonfly is a symbol that represents the grace and beauty of Asia, but for us it goes even further. With eyes that are much larger than its body, the dragonfly reminds us to keep our vision huge but our bodies nimble.
What is it about an authentic fish market that inspired you to include this retail component in Dragonfly Doral?
Japanese culture is all about creating true meaningful connections. When you look at the restaurant landscape in the U.S., it's all the same. We want to be seen as the misfits; the ones that people ask, "Why?" We are driven to push the boundaries of Japanese cuisine beyond Sushi. When we landed on the Doral location, we knew that Seafood was a huge part of the Hispanic culture there, and using the Tsukiji Fish Market as inspiration was a no brainer!

Amongst your travels internationally and nationally, what is your favorite Japanese restaurant?
I have two favorites. One is a hole in the wall in Okinawa Japan. My grandparents used to take me there when I was a child, but it's not there anymore (the owners have passed away). The food was great, but the time spent with my grandparents going to that restaurant was one of my most fulfilling memories.
The second is Kyoto Japan (I know I'm cheating, but the whole area deserves to be mentioned!). The service, food culture and humility found in many of the restaurants there is simply breathtaking. I think there are more Michelin star restaurants in Kyoto than in Paris.

Is there a place in Japan that you find truly inspiring? If so, what is it and why?
Again, I'm blown away by the attention to detail, service, and food that exists in Kyoto. It inspires everything we do.

Hands down, what is going to be the BEST item on the menu at Dragonfly Fish Market & Kitchen (Doral) that everyone must order?
haha... It's going to be a completely new menu and design. We'll feature fresh seafood prepared with the love and inspiration of traditional Japanese comfort food. From our grab-and-go hot and cold dishes to the Dragonfly Izakaya experience, everything will be unique. 
If you're reading this... you'll have to come and see!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Smyrna's new tavern

Shared interests and witty debates, from history and through progress, communities develop.  Coming together and taken in from scattered places or sources, community centers are created by the people who inhabit them.  Only they can designate it, but the casual and familiar, warmth and openness are at its foundation.

We are so excited to announce Smyrna's newest neighborhood tavern, from the guys with Whitehall Tavern. Here's a sneak peek at what is coming soon!