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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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Joe Truex to become chef and partner at Watershed

n700415651_4709365_5096-1Today 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.)

42 comments Add your comment

jimmy

May 18th, 2010
10:22 am

wow, I didn’t see that move coming. I think it’s a very good one and can’t wait to try out the new Watershed. Joe rocks.

mary

May 18th, 2010
10:53 am

looking forward to seeing some changes to the menu at Watershed.

wendy

May 18th, 2010
11:01 am

would love to see the brunch menu switched up a bit too…change is good!

Emily R

May 18th, 2010
11:02 am

I hope he won’t change the pimento cheese, it’s my second favorite after Shaun’s…

elizabeth moore

May 18th, 2010
11:23 am

Congrats to Decatur, Watershed, & Joe!

just curious....

May 18th, 2010
11:36 am

is repast going to stay open and his wife run it on her own, or are they shutting the doors to focus on watershed?

Reds

May 18th, 2010
11:38 am

Just curious — check out a recent post from JK on the right side entitled “big changes at repast”

John Kessler

May 18th, 2010
11:38 am

Just curious….I have amended the column to reference yesterday’s news about Repast. thanks, JK

Parnell

May 18th, 2010
11:40 am

Mighty fine!

just curious....

May 18th, 2010
11:47 am

thanks…missed that link….wishing them both continued tasty success

Hayseed Dixie

May 18th, 2010
11:56 am

This is exciting news. Seasonal menu, seasonal produce- very exciting.

Hopes he brings a bit more Louisiana to the menu. I would not. mind. that. at. all.

JTex

May 18th, 2010
12:18 pm

I hope he doesn’t get rid of or change the Shed salad. It is my all-time favorite restaurant salad.

burgerfiend

May 18th, 2010
12:24 pm

or the burger, it’s one of the best in the city way before burgers were cool.

Lauren

May 18th, 2010
12:59 pm

watershed needed some new life… had begun to slip from my short-list neighborhood options. Please keep the white truffle chicken salad, beyond that I’m up for change. I also 2nd Hayseed’s thought, more NOLA please.

RK

May 18th, 2010
1:04 pm

There’s Parish…

Lauren

May 18th, 2010
1:07 pm

true but Watershed is a bit easier, lower key and less of a production. Maybe I meant more Southern.

[...] Yesterday, John Kessler reported that Mihoko Obunai-Truex would be taking over full responsibility for the kitchen at Repast because her husband and co-chef Joe Truex was moving on to another Atlanta-based project. Today, we found out what that project is: Truex is taking over as chef at Watershed. [...]

Gina

May 18th, 2010
1:50 pm

Got to have my Watershed favorites, okra to die for, butter beans, squash and fried chicken. See you all soon…

Joseph Davis

May 18th, 2010
1:59 pm

Wow I like everything about this move. I count Joe as a friend and colleague and I see this growth/change as very positive for both restaurants. Bravo to Watershed for picking the right guy.

FM Fats

May 18th, 2010
3:15 pm

Hear, hear. Inventive chef, good guy. Decatur FTW.

Steven Josovitz

May 18th, 2010
3:24 pm

Very cool move!

koko

May 18th, 2010
4:32 pm

There goes my veggie plate! Repast was one of the worst dining experiences I’ve ever had. This saddens me.

Food Clown

May 18th, 2010
5:14 pm

Anyone who hates Repast must love the Golden Girls.

Ken

May 18th, 2010
5:56 pm

Koko – Repast “was” my worst dining experience. I’m writing this in lieu of AccessAtlanta not posting my other review. To all the people who admire Joe as a friend, get some new friends. Unfortunately, Watershed made a mistake.

Someone else

May 18th, 2010
5:58 pm

I feel reticent to post this, since John is friends with the chefs, but I’m with Ken and koko.

ann

May 18th, 2010
6:08 pm

i agree with most everyone’s post except the last few, show some manners people. this is great news, nothing like two great local forces joining together.

Ken

May 18th, 2010
6:20 pm

Dear Ann, Maybe they will post this one. The day my mother past away, I decided to celebrate her life by taking family and friends to Repast (party of 7). A party came in after us that was a party of 12. This party took precedence over us. I informed “Joe” that this was an important event prior to sitting down. Needlees to say; we waited 3 hours (after 11pm) to get our food without even an “I’m sorry.” He charged me for (3) corkages equalling $45. After it was all over, he said he would pick up “a” dessert. Ann, if my manners are poor, than Joe’s are below poor. Again, Watershed made a mistake.

Angie Mosier

May 18th, 2010
6:23 pm

jack trent

May 18th, 2010
7:17 pm

When Joe worked with his wife, it was “his way or the highway”. If he treated his wife that way, wonder how he will react with the other owners.

Msquared

May 18th, 2010
7:21 pm

$15 per corkage is fair. Repast supplied great glassware, the staff to open, pour and cllean up, not to mention the cost o space, utilities, etc. Judging a restaurant on one visit is folly. Welcome to Decatur, Joe.

SaM

May 18th, 2010
7:25 pm

this is great news for decatur, watershed, and truex! cant wait to check out watershed and the new menu

Someone else

May 18th, 2010
9:17 pm

ann, show some manners — people have differing opinions.

JTex

May 18th, 2010
9:32 pm

Another concern – I’ve never eaten at Repast, but Truex seems to come from a very formal background. Watershed has always featured fantastic food in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. When I come back to Georgia, it’s my first dinner destination. I don’t want to see Watershed turned into another pretentious New York clone.

Courtney

May 18th, 2010
10:19 pm

Oh, I don’t know…my experience at Repast was ridiculously small portions (like a serving of salmon the size of half a deck of cards with two baby carrots), ridiculous prices, and just “meh” food. At least at Watershed I can get some ridiculously-GOOD pimento cheese, fried chicken, and a vegetable plate. I hope Truex gives time to assess before making changes.

foodfriend

May 18th, 2010
11:07 pm

Watershed is in no danger of becoming pretentious under Truex’s stewardship. He’s a warm,affable guy who seems to be very much in touch with his small town roots. I get the sense he has a true appreciation for the kind of cooking that Watershed excells in…I don’t think we’ll see “frou-frou” food–just more variety, and I for one welcome it.

Theresa

May 19th, 2010
8:04 am

I had a bad experice at Repast too, and never went back. I ordered lamb chops medium rare. When they came they had NO pink and were definitely overcooked. The waiter took them away, and then brought out chops that were completely red inside. Definitely undercooked. At that point I gave up, ate my sides and never went back.

ann

May 19th, 2010
9:36 am

someone else – differing opinions are good but personal insults seems a bit overboard.

Lauren V.

May 19th, 2010
10:50 am

I’ve not been to Repast, but after my last, lackluster visit to Watershed (including the most abysmal service I’ve ever received), I’m glad that Watershed is making some changes. I’d love to add them back to my list of enjoyable restaurants.

Food Dude

May 19th, 2010
1:00 pm

Our first and last visit to Repast was during a Restaurant Week. It seemed a perfect time to try it out, assuming they would put their best foot forward to capture new clients. We knew the menu would be pared down, but still expected a decent offering based on other restaurant week visits in the past. Wrong. The pork entree seemed like something we could have made at home…a nothing special shake and bake. Then, halfway through our meal, our waiter told us he would have to abandon us for a while to help the valet move cars. Apparently, the valet was illegally parking cars at City Hall East, and they were starting to tow. This left a bad taste in our mouths.

Good luck. However, I will dine at Watershed with caution and doubt now.

Tuncer Someren

May 19th, 2010
4:31 pm

We did not patronize Watershed after we were told that they do not serve bread.It will be interesting to find out their “bread policy”under the new management.

Someone else

May 19th, 2010
5:03 pm

ann — those were personal insults? You must know them personally, because those were not over the top.

jack

May 20th, 2010
1:10 pm

good news for the atlanta restaurant scene!