Thursday, June 6, 2013

ai3 chats with the team behind Ink & Elm

Ink & Elm opens this summer in Emory Village, and since this is the first venture for Hunter, Keith, and Nick (HKN Restaurants), we thought we'd share a brief introduction. . . 

After some reflection over a whiskey on the rocks, Nick Chaivarlis and Keith Osborne offered their thoughts:

1. Tell us a little about the inspiration behind your vision...

NC: We knew we wanted to operate a full-service restaurant with integrity. The vision of Ink  & Elm came to us once we realized what the community was lacking. We used Frederick Law Olmsted, a figure in the community that brought unity to the area, and put our heads together to form a concept that serviced the needs of the community. From there, we just filled in the missing gaps and made sure to be exactly what we all desire- a comfortable, neighborhood destination.

KO: Plain and simple, to design a space uniquely tailored to the Druid Hills community with the aim of evoking a sense of familiarity, comfort and intimacy, that when combined contribute to a refined dining experience and evoke our firm commitment to the notion and practice of eating and drinking in season.
Lounge at Ink & Elm
2. What about the Druid Hills Neighborhood is special to you?

NC: I think what's most special about the area is its general camaraderie and hospitality. The residents have embraced us with open arms so far- and we're not even open. It already feels like home.

KO: The spatial layout of the community is unlike any other part of Atlanta. The neighborhoods are intersected with parks and old-growth forests. The homes feature an eclectic arrangement of architecture and these diverse elements have attracted an equally diverse array of residents.
Dining area at Ink & Elm
3. What makes the business partnership between you work? What do each of you bring to the table?

NC: We all have passion for the same thing: the industry. We're all able to put 100% of our focus into our individual niches because we have one another. Keith's hospitality methods, my bar skills, Hunter's love for the industry paired with his business skills, and Steve's raw talent in the kitchen are what make Ink & Elm a hopeful and ambitious project. 

KO: We all work incredibly well together, largely because we each come from diverse backgrounds and have divided our roles to accommodate our skill sets. Nick has designed the cocktail menu and will manage the beverage program as a whole. Hunter takes care of the business side of things. I am the Wine Director and will play the role of restaurant GM.

(L to R) Nick, Dan Maas (ai3), Keith, and Hunter (standing) during ai3's Vision Session
4. What was the moment when you all decided to jump off the metaphorical "cliff" and build a restaurant?

NC: For the last few years, we all knew that we wanted this dream with or without one another. The benefit that we had is that we're all friends. And the one good thing that friends do it talk. I think it was when we sat down and realized how ambitious our visions were that we decided to form a partnership that made sense. Then we jumped.

KO: It's been in the works for a while. I have had my hand in virtually every aspect of hospitality management (restaurants, clubs, theaters, hotels) and with each endeavor honed my own unique perspective on how hospitality should be implemented. At some point everyone wants to test their own ideas to see if other agree with your outlook.
Dining area of Ink & Elm
Tavern at Ink & Elm
5. Do you have a favorite part of the design and construction process, and if so, what was it?

NC: How ai3 became a part of this partnership. They forced themselves in quickly and it was a very unique experience to say the least. Every design element came with a conversation. Those conversations are my favorite part of the design process because they never felt as if they came with an expiration date. This group has had our back since day one and they continuously propose ideas and concerns that have longevity to them.

KO: The early stage of the design process was by far my favorite. I compile wine lists from conceptual templates. I found the "vision session" and early design discussions to be very complimentary to this thought process.
Nick Chaivarlis in ai3's Vision Session
Chef Stephen Sharp

6. If you were reincarnated as a cocktail, what would it be?

NC: I'm a huge bourbon drinker, obviously. But I definitely drink with the season and the one drink I can ALWAYS drink is a Negroni. I'd like to be made with Aperol instead of Campari, though. I'd like to be garnished with a burnt orange peel and topped off with a dash of bitters. A Negroni. I'd like to be a Negroni, please.

KO: Perfect Manhattan with a twist, bold and complex... like me :)

Ethan Lewis' stamp studies of elm trees for the Ink & Elm logo

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