The priceless space on Knox Avenue that was once the Chili's makes way for a promising new restaurant from an inspired restaurateur and two rock star chefs. Called Up on Knox, it's from Stephan Courseau, owner of Le Bilboquet, and the chefs are Dennis Kelley and Melody Bishop, the husband-wife duo who previously ran the kitchen at Lark on the Park.
All three will be dedicated to creating a low-key but excellent restaurant, what Courseau calls an American brasserie, that will serve the neighborhood plus any diner seeking a certain California je ne sais quoi, which makes sense since Kelley and Bishop moved here from California and Courseau is French. Is it tedious when people explain jokes?
After four years with Le Bilboquet, which has become a top destination for Park Cities diners and lady gatherings, Courseau has learned about and evolved with the neighborhood.
"I won't say it was easy, but Le Bilboquet has become the neighborhood restaurant I always envisioned," he says. "I've also become a local, as well. I live four blocks away. When I heard the Chili's space was available, I wanted to stay in the same neighborhood. I'm a hands-on guy. Being a few blocks away means that, 45 minutes after I have dinner, I'm at the restaurant. I'm happy that I get to stay a local guy."
"American brasserie" is his attempt to describe what is really just going to be a nice place to eat.
"Nowadays, everyone tells you about their concept. I don't have a concept," he says. "I do and I don't. My concept is to try to open nice restaurants where people can have great food, atmosphere, and hospitality. If we need to label it, because we have a French restaurant a block away, we'll call it an American brasserie, a smaller scale of the brasserie, with high ceilings and brass elements in the décor."
Up on Knox will be open seven days a week, beginning with lunch and dinner, and eventually breakfast, too. The targeted opening date is September. The menu is still in development, but one thing it will have for sure is an oyster bar.
"But at the end of day, the cuisine is not going to be French," he says. "There might be some French techniques, but I want it to be much more expansive. Our idea is to not only be sustainable with local ingredients but also to be able to incorporate any type of influences the chefs think they should incorporate."
Kelley was recently laid off from Lark on the Park, an unfortunate turn of events that turned out to be fortunate, as he, Bishop, and Courseau represent like-minded souls.
"I always thought they were talented and they embody the perfect approach with a California take on 'local' and also lighter, with not putting 10 things on the plate," Courseau says. "They're such nice people. I worked for Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] and Daniel Boulud, and you find with geniuses they are often gentle people. When I met Dennis, that's what I felt like — he’s a normal guy who wants to create great food, produce proteins, keep it local, and emphasize the hospitality, working together with the people running the front of the house."
Bishop is from Dallas originally, and the couple wanted to find an opportunity to stay.
"With all these concept restaurants, there aren't that many opportunities for people like them, and part of my mission was to keep someone so talented and passionate here," Courseau says. "It's wonderful to meet two other people who want to keep making great food, that's what it's about in the end."