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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Tennessee Truffle's Nat Russell cooks at the Imperial Monday night

Posted By on Sun, Sep 23, 2018 at 10:25 PM

click to enlarge Tennessee Truffle's Nat Russell - ROB BARTLETT
  • Rob Bartlett
  • Tennessee Truffle's Nat Russell
In case you hadn't noticed, the Imperial at Washburn Imports in Ivanhoe Village has been steadily improving and expanding their food offerings after owner John Washburn brought on chef Jeannine Gage (former proprietor of Ivey's Kitchen and catering manager for Hunger Street Tacos) as food operations manager.

As her title suggests, Gage oversees the kitchen at the Ivanhoe Village location and will do the same at the Winter Park location when it opens in late October/early November.

The hope, she says, is to have one full-time cook at each location with Gage shuttling between the two locations for menu development.

Gage has been whipping up such meals as summer corn and asiago risotto with sea scallops, and sous-vide tenderloin steak atop truffled potato gratin with chimichurri at Imperial's kitchen since July.

Now the Imperial is instituting a venture for talented local chefs called Monday Night Bites, a culinary campaign that'll see chef Nat Russell of Sanford's Tennessee Truffle helm the kitchen inside the furniture shop Monday night.

The showcase fits right into to Gage's vision of making the Imperial a regular destination for gastronomes.

"We've been looking for ways to up our food game at the Imperial, and we've been wanting to collaborate with local chefs and food producers, so I thought [Monday Night Bites] would be a great way to do both at the same time." 

Gage will, ahem, gauge public response to the first Monday Night Bites, but the plan, she says, is to have the event take place at least monthly, and then bi-weekly and, hopefully, every week.

And much like the furniture inside Washburn Imports, Monday night's event will take on a decidedly Indo-Asian theme.
click to enlarge Monday Night Bites menu
  • Monday Night Bites menu
"I knew of John's extensive trips all over Asia to find these great pieces," says Russell, "so I thought why not create a melange of flavors from India to China?"

Indeed, fashioning papadums, bao, satay and fermented black bean paste presents a bit of a departure for Russell, whose Sanford resto specializes in creative Southern staples.

But, for the CIA-trained Russell, it shouldn't pose a problem.

Future Monday Night Bites will see Alex Carjaval of Black Bean Deli, Chelsie and Jamie Savage of Sanctum Cafe, and Gage's former employers Joe and David Creech of Hunger Street Tacos take over the kitchen.

The inaugural Monday Night Bites will run from 5-10 p.m. with dishes ranging from $7-$12.

Chefs interesting in taking part in future Monday Night Bites can contact Jeannine Gage directly at

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