Chef Shayne Lewis Brings Experience, Favorite Dishes to Blowing Rock’s Newest Restaurant

Published Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 8:13 pm

 

 

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Rustique head chef and owner Shayne Lewis is pictured recently with friends and colleagues in the restaurant’s newly renovated dining room. Pictured (from left) are Chef Alvin Howard, General Manager Rich Scheurer, Wine Steward Paula Horton and Lewis. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

 

By Jessica Isaacs

After traveling and exploring restaurants around the world, trained chef Shayne Lewis is bringing his favorite dishes and a one-of-a-kind fine dining experience to Blowing Rock’s newest restaurant, Rustique.

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Rustique on Sunset Drive in Blowing Rock

Throughout his life, Lewis has spent much of his time visiting the area with his mother and father, former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, who are members of the Blowing Rock Country Club. He’s worked his way up in the restaurant world, and recently opened a place right here in the High Country that’s already the talk of the town.

GETTING STARTED

Although he’s always had a passion for good food, Lewis said he first recognized his affinity for cooking as a college student at Wake Forest University.

“As opposed to going to class, I was spending my monthly money on going to the grocery store and cooking for roommates,” he said.

As he moved on to the next chapter in his life, a determined Lewis stepped into the kitchen of a Charlotte restaurant, where he often worked for no pay in order to gain experience. Ready to learn and willing work, he was prepared to turn his passion into a career.

He later spent a year in Paris studying at Le Cordon Bleu — a premier culinary arts program that attracts students from across the globe. With plenty of experience and a world-class education under his belt, Lewis set out to make his own mark on the food industry.

His talent and enthusiasm took him to kitchens across the country, including some in Charleston, South Carolina and San Francisco, California.

After traveling the world, running a few places on his own and making a name for himself in the business, the restaurateur found an opportunity to put down some roots in the small, familiar town of Blowing Rock.

THE RESTAURANT

He purchased the building at 349 Sunset Drive, formerly home to the Blowing Rock Grille, and got to work right away in bringing a new kind of restaurant to the High Country.

“I’ve been coming up here for a long time. My parents have had a house up here for 20 years, at least,” Lewis said. “There are too many things around here that are similar … the town needs a better range of quality restaurants. I wanted to bring something that would be a perfect fit for what people might be looking for here.”

He brought together a group of people he knew he could count on to get the place up and running, including friend Rich Scheurer who now serves as general manager.

“I had a lot of other projects going on, but I really was psyched to jump in with Shayne because I believe in what he’s doing,” Scheurer said.

With a location secure and a team in place, Lewis set out to create an experience for local customers that would bring the classic elements of fine dining together with the natural beauty of the North Carolina mountains.

Photo by Ken Ketchie.

The dining room at Rustique features natural elements paired with high end tableware and accessories.

Before he could get started in the kitchen, though, Lewis invested in a complete remodel for the building. With the help of interior designer Pamela McKay, ASID of Dianne Davant and Associates and a team of capable craftsmen, a two-month renovation process brought to fruition the environment that Lewis envisioned for his new place.

“With my other restaurants, I kind of inherited the buildings and was leasing — any improvements that you make are not yours. So this is definitely, by far, the first one that I’ve been very happy with on the inside,” Lewis said. “I had a great, great crew of people who could do anything. If I had an idea, it appeared.”

Now, the union of natural elements, like reclaimed Pennsylvania barn wood, with high-end accessories and tableware adds distinct character to the restaurant — an atmosphere that emanates both comfort and sophistication.

“It’s absolutely stunning. The décor, the setting and the design match how awesome and wonderfully-crafted the food is,” Scheurer said. “When you walk in here, you know what you’re going to be getting.”

THE WINE

The renovation also added an elegant wine room that offers an impressive selection of more than 600 bottles.

“The wine list compliments the restaurant really well, and the wine room adds the extra exclamation point,” Scheurer said.

Wine steward Paula Horton said the room offers an old world/new world variety of tastes and something for every budget.

“It’s kind of a dream wine cellar. This room alone holds more than 600 bottles — you can spend $30 on a bottle or you can spend $800,” Horton said. “We’re trying to go classic with the food and the wine — it’s an all-around experience.”

As Rustique’s resident wine expert, Horton aims to help customers identify the products that best suit their tastes, their budgets and their food choices.

The wine room at Rustique features more than 600 bottles. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

The wine room at Rustique features more than 600 bottles.

“Here’s my motto — the only wine I don’t like is bad wine. I like all types of wine and I think all wine has its place,” Horton said. “I don’t take wine too seriously. If it tastes good to you and you like it, then it’s good. To me, it’s more about finding out what someone’s preference is like, what they are going to eat and what they want to pair it with so I can point them in the right direction.

“We’re fortunate that we could really do a nice wine list and have a lot to offer. If they want something obscure, if they want a good value, if they want a certain brand … we can get it for them.”

Rustique offers half bottles, three-ounce half-glass servings and many high-quality wines by the glass — options that allow the customer to sample a greater variety of drinks as they enjoy their dinner.

“I’ve got some things that would normally be $80-$100 that you can have by the glass for $16. Not many places offer the opportunity to try stuff like that,” Horton said. “You can have a half glass or a glass of something that’s really special and you’ll know the next time that you want the whole bottle. I also like to bring people into the wine room so they can see what they’re getting.”

THE FOOD

A true blend of luxury and rural living, the building now lives up to the restaurateur’s concept. Restaurants from around the world inspired the name and the logo, and the menu puts a Southern twist on both modern American food and French culinary tradition.

“It has a distinctly southern kind of flare to it, but that wasn’t necessarily intentional,” Lewis said. “There are some French things, too, like Duck Confit — it’s one of my favorite things.”

While many people are asking what type of food he’s serving, Lewis chooses not label his restaurant or his menu.

“I purposefully didn’t put bistro on the sign, or café or bar and grille or any of that stuff, just to keep it wide open,” he said. “If we want to do an Asian-inspired dish, we’ll do it. I’ve also got pasta on the menu.”

Photo by Ken Ketchie.

The sign out front featuring the logo.

Scheurer said the community will love the menu because it’s something that’s new to the area.

“The quality of the food and the artistry of the food, from its taste to its presentation, is something you don’t see too often up here in the High Country,” Scheurer said. “There are two or three other restaurants that come close, but I’d say it’s a new deal.”

Menu entrees include grilled salmon, pan-seared Sunburst Farms trout, oven-roased duck breast, shrimp and grits, maple-brined pork chops, a variety of steaks and more.

THE OPENING

Since the restaurant’s opening in mid-April, Scheurer said the food and the experience have been well received in the community.

“Almost universally, people love it. They say they don’t have to travel far for a fine quality meal that they’d usually have to get in a bigger city or bigger market,” Scheurer said. “They’re happy that they don’t have to leave too far from home.”

Scheurer noted that the folks working behind the scenes are essential to the restaurant’s success and its future.

“We’ve been blessed with some really great people to start with — a really great core group of people who have a strong sense of dedication to the restaurant,” he said. “They’ve worked the extra hours to start it up, which is always a little bit more difficult. It’s the true test of fire when you see people start out in a place and they stick through it, so we’re very fortunate to have a really great starting staff.”

Guests enjoy dinner at Rustique during its opening in mid-April. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

Guests enjoy dinner at Rustique during its opening in mid-April.

Rustique is now open for dinner from 5-9:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and from 5-10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch on Sundays. It can seat up to 70 customers inside the building, and a new outdoor patio will soon add 30 more seats.

As he continues to build his staff, and as summer takes off in the High Country, Lewis said he plans to open the restaurant for lunch starting in June.

With completed renovations and an established menu, Lewis can get back to doing what he loves — working in the kitchen alongside a longtime friend and colleague. His Charlotte home is now on the market and he’s getting settled in Blowing Rock, meeting new people and beginning new adventures every day.

His plans for the future include improving and expanding the menu, networking with local growers and getting to know the community.

“I look forward to everything running smoothly so we can focus on our menu items,” Lewis said. “I hope to put this town on the map as far as somewhere to come and eat.”

Visit Rustique online for more information or stop by for Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday.

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The wine room at Rustique features more than 600 bottles.

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Guests enjoy dinner and drinks at Rustique during its opening in mid-April.

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Susan Wright and Hugh Schindler enjoy dinner and drinks at Rustique during its opening in mid-April.

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Suzanne Russell and Jane Myers enjoy dinner and drinks at Rustique during its opening in mid-April.

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Guests enjoy Rustique during its opening in mid-April.

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The wine room at Rustique features more than 600 bottles.

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The wine room at Rustique features more than 600 bottles.

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Guests enjoy dinner and drinks at Rustique during its opening in mid-April.

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Guests enjoy dinner and drinks at Rustique during its opening in mid-April.

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Guests enjoy dinner and drinks at Rustique during its opening in mid-April.

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Guests enjoy dinner and drinks at Rustique during its opening in mid-April.

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Guests enjoy dinner and drinks at Rustique during its opening in mid-April.

 

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