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w e b u i lt t h i s c i t y

[My time at Magnolia Grill taught me] the value of a strong team [and the] importance of quality ingredients [and] taking the time to learn and use classic techniques.


Scratch and The Lakewood Assistant baker working dessert service and pastry chef, 1997-2005 (with a break or two)

SCOTT HOWELL Nana’s, NanaTaco, NanaSteak, Bar Virgile

There were many lessons that I took away from my time at Magnolia, but the most important was developing relationships with our local farmers and suppliers. Another lesson I’ve definitely carried with me was the importance of developing my palate in order to create complex dishes that our guests can enjoy and relate to. MY MAGNOLIA MEMORY One year we did an event for the Durham Arts Council. We did a tuna tartare dish that was very popular but also very labor intensive, and our booth got a little behind. Lee Kepler, my good friend and the Magnolia sous chef, looked at Ben, Karen and me and said, “Next year, we’re serving haggis.”

Setting the




COUPLE YEARS AGO, WHEN WE asked how Durham became the foodiest city in the South, Kelli Cotter gave credit to “our largest stepping stone, Magnolia Grill, with Ben and Karen Barker.” ... “So many talented chefs have time with the Barkers under their belts,” Kelli, herself an alumna of Magnolia, added. “That’s no coincidence.” And many of them chose to stay right here and build their own businesses and restaurants. But they won’t forget the lessons they learned at Magnolia, which closed in 2012, or the many memories they made with the Barkers. Here, a rundown of those chefs/ owners who stayed in the Bull City, and some of their reflections:


18 Restaurant Group (Harvest 18) Line cook, 1996-1999 (came back for a second stint in 2001-2002)

The most important lessons I took from the Barkers would be how to minimize waste and how to earn a dollar by being frugal. MY MAGNOLIA MEMORY “The Missing Fig” story is, and will be, the greatest story that I remember during my short stint at the Grill. Ben was notorious on always knowing the exact amounts of everything in his inventory. One day, someone, who will always remain nameless, decided to eat a fig when she was in the [walkin-refrigerator]. Moments later, Ben made up a sign-off sheet saying, “I did not take and eat the missing fig,” and made everyone who was working that day sign off on it. Needless to say, a few minutes later we all knew who the swiper was. The moral of the story is to always know your inventory.




f e b r ua ry/ m a r c h 2 0 1 8

The Original Q-Shack Front production prep cook, 1994

Profile for Shannon Media

Durham Magazine Feb/March 2018  

Durham Magazine Feb/March 2018