Today Watershed restaurant in Decatur announces the appointment of chef Joe Truex as its new chef and operating partner. He replaces Scott Peacock, who left the restaurant in February after 11 years, to pursue a documentary film project and begin working on a memoir. Truex, who has run Repast restaurant with his wife, Mihoko Obunai-Truex, for the past four years, will assume the position June 1.
“I couldn’t ask for a better place to get back to my Southern roots,” says Truex, a Louisiana native. “It’s where I’m at right now in my career and my life.”
While Truex will leave many of the restaurant’s signature dishes — including its iconic Tuesday-night fried chicken — he plans to change the menu more frequently than it did under Peacock’s leadership and to introduce more daily specials that reflect seasonal produce. He will also take a lead role in remaking Watershed’s wine program.
Truex will join co-owners Ross Jones and Emily Saliers as a managing partner. Saliers, who is half of the folk-rock duo Indigo Girls, calls the hiring of Truex a “no-brainer.”
“He has a local cultural sensibility about food,” she says. “He’s obviously classically trained and has all the accolades, but he’s rooted. Also, we like his energy. He’s going to infuse the staff with a renewed sense of inspiration.”
Saliers believes that Truex’s decision to pitch Watershed’s set-in-Georgia-red-clay menu for a changing one — still deeply rooted in Southern vernacular — is key. “I think people really like variety,” she says. “I know foodies do. You can’t let your menu remain the same for a long period of time or they lose interest.”
One of metro Atlanta’s earliest practitioners of farm-to-table cooking, Watershed grew from a gift and wine shop that served mostly sandwiches and cold food into a leading destination restaurant during Peacock’s tenure. He brought the restaurant national exposure with his cookbook, “The Gift of Southern Cooking,” which he penned with his longtime friend and mentor, Edna Lewis.
A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Truex worked at Le Cirque under Chef Daniel Boulud. Prior to opening Repast, he cooked at restaurants and hotels in Basel, Switzerland, Las Vegas and New York City. He was also the chef at Chateau Elan in Braselton, Georgia. He and his wife live near the restaurant, and he counts being able to walk to work as major plus.
The job at Watershed, Truex says, “is about coming full circle for me and my progression as a chef. That’s why I traveled and went to all these places. For me it’s all about coming home.”
As I reported here yesterday, Mihoko Obunai-Truex will take over as sole chef at Repast and take the restaurant in a new direction.
(Full disclosure: The Truexes are my neighbors and personal friends.)