Different Strokes 

Wally Joe is the new executive chef at the Brooks' Brushmark Restaurant.

"I've been doing the Brooks benefit dinner for several years and have a great working relationship with Stacy Wright, the director of catering and special events," Joe explains. "But when she called me to check if I knew of anybody who would like to take over the Brushmark after Penny McCraw left or if I had any interest, I laughed at first and said, 'I don't have time for that.' But then I started thinking about it."

He thought about it for one afternoon and was back on the phone the next day to "get some details."

The details are that Wally Joe and his chef de cuisine, Andrew Adams, will take charge of the Brushmark and everything food-related at the Brooks on November 1st. That means lunch, the "First Wednesday" dinners, special events, weddings, banquets, you name it.

Although diners will most definitely get a taste of the signature Joe, the chef has no intentions of waltzing in and changing everything top-to-bottom:

"We'll keep the staff," Joe says. "It's an established team that works well together. We'll keep some of the popular menu items, such as the Brushmark peanut soup and the Brushmark chicken salad, but we'll also get a little more creative with the menu. We'll have a few more entrées, and we'll change some of the menu items frequently to keep things interesting."

So why did Joe decide to take on the Brushmark after he initially demurred?

"There are many great restaurants in museums around the country. The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City or Puck's Restaurant at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago are just two of the better known," Joe says. "It's a trend to combine great food with great art, and I think that the Brooks wanted to take its restaurant to the next level. We're definitely ready to do that."

Because Wally Joe restaurant does dinner service only, Joe doesn't see any conflicts being the chef at both places.

"There will always be a Wally Joe restaurant, because there are certain things you can only do at your own place," Joe explains. "If I want to put Kobe beef on the menu, I might not be able to do that at the Brushmark, but I will at my own restaurant."

By making Wally Joe the executive chef, the Brushmark is getting a package deal.

"If I put my name on something, I'll make sure that the outcome can stand up to it, and if I can't be at the Brushmark, Andrew will be there," Joe says. "Consistency and quality are two very important components of this deal -- for the Brooks as well as for us."

The Brushmark Restaurant is open for lunch Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It's open for dinner the first Wednesday of every month from 6 to 9 p.m., except in July and January. Next month's dinner is on November 1st and will highlight the foods of Mexico.Brushmark Restaurant, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Overton Park,1934 Poplar (544-6225)

When Rob Abbay was newly married

click to enlarge Rob Abbay - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
he was working on his family's farm in Mississippi. He and his wife ate out frequently, and they noticed that there weren't many drive-thru places that offered vegetables. They didn't find any, actually. That's when Abbay got the idea to start a meat-and-three drive-thru restaurant. Three years ago, he opened Abbays in Olive Branch, and in August, he opened a second location on Germantown Road.

Abbays' menu has all the Southern classics. There are 10 meat items to choose from, including country-fried steak with gravy, chicken and dumplings, fried catfish, and meat loaf, plus 20 side items, including turnip greens, fried okra, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes with gravy (available in pint or quart). Cornbread and rolls, banana pudding, and peach cobbler are also offered.

While Abbay still helps out at the farm occasionally, his main effort now is to open a few more restaurants in the Mid-South and then branch out to different markets.

Abbays is open from 11 a.m. to9 p.m. daily.Abbays, 2345 N. Germantown Rd.(384-7622)

Abbays, 8109 Camp Creek Blvd.,Olive Branch (662-890-4222)

This Saturday marks the end of the first season of the Memphis Farmers Market. To celebrate its successful run, the market invites everybody to the Harvest Festival, which will be held at Central Station's Hudson Hall on Sunday. The festival is to thank market sponsors, volunteers, vendors, and customers for their support.

Guests can sample food from several local restaurants such as McEwen's on Monroe, Fratelli's in the Garden, Café Francisco, and Felicia Suzanne's, while listening to the music of Ken and Robin Greene.

There will also be a silent auction to raise funds for the market's next season.

Tickets are $35 per person and $25 per person for market volunteers, vendors, and members. Order by phone at 575-0580. For more information, visit www.memphisfarmersmarket.org.

Memphis Farmers Market HarvestFestival, Sunday, October 29th, from4 to 7 p.m. Hudson Hall at Central Station

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