Restaurant Iris' Kelly English on the Restaurant Industry

Note: This is the forth entry in our new weekly blog, "Beyond the Bio," where we ask MBQ Power Players to write a post of their choosing about their industry. The Power Players category in the November/December 2012 MBQ is Restaurateurs. We've had José Gutierrez of River Oaks Restaurant reflecting on 30 years in Memphis dining, Lauren Boggs McHugh of Huey's on growing up in the food industry, and Ben Smith of Tsunami talking about the "new normal."   This week, Kelly English, chef and owner of Restaurant Iris, shares why he was drawn to the industry. Check this space weekly for future installments of "Beyond the Bio."

There are many reasons that the restaurant industry has always seemed to call me. I love the idea of selling smiles: Yes we sell food, but that is merely one aspect of this industry (albeit a very important aspect). The service we strive to provide is just as important as the food we serve, as is the ambience guests experience during their time at Restaurant Iris. So, I like to think that we sell smiles.

I have always been drawn to the Socratic nature of food. By this I mean that a question rarely leads to an answer; a question actually leads to another question or a line of questions. There is never enough knowledge in this business, I can learn something from every person I get to work with. Part of that pursuit of knowledge is knowing the people who produce the food we serve. I like the idea of using Tim or Keith's tomatoes, Jim's goats cheese, or Elizabeth's squash. Our products don't show up on the back of a truck from who-knows-where; I take pride in the fact that I can vouch for those who produced the food our guests are eating.

I feel so lucky to be involved in a profession I love, in a town I adore. Memphis has given me so many opportunities. I share the pride we have in this town for what is done well and what is done right, and it makes me smile to be a little part of that.


Power Player Bio:

Kelly English

Chef and owner of Restaurant Iris, and Kelly English Steakhouse at Harrah’s St. Louis Casino and Hotel. Bachelor's degree, University of Mississippi; Culinary Institute of America. Memphis Prince of Porc 2012; Founder’s Council for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival; Restaurateur of the Year 2010, Memphis Restaurant Association; James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast 2010; Best Restaurant and Best Chef three straight years, Best Service four straight years, Memphis Magazine; Best Restaurant and Best Chef 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 Memphis Flyer.

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