THE GREY

“I felt the need to learn about who I am and what I had to say.
I became the chef that was looking backward
in order to move forward.”

Mashama Bailey

THE GREY | SAVANNAH

The sidewalk leading to The Grey restaurant on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Savannah carried a sheen from the soft rain that lightly showered the historic street earlier in the evening. Dinner reservations for three guests were made four months prior to secure a table in late September. During this time, the pandemic is in full swing with its newest variant, Delta. Though various parts of Georgia had lifted most of its Covid precautions, the restaurant continued distanced seating, thorough cleansing of the establishment, and required its staff to wear masks.

I first learned of Mashama Bailey during season 6 of Chefs Table (Netflix). Chefs Table is a docuseries highlighting the influences, familial histories, and cultural significance that affects these innovative chefs from around the globe. Bailey’s narrative shares the barriers, complexities, and expectations of the southern black community in terms of food. Her culinary journey begins in her grandmother’s kitchen during her early childhood, the transition from life in Savannah to New York, her short career in social work, the leap to France for culinary school, her time as a sous chef with Gabrielle Hamilton (Prune), and finally, returning to Savannah to open The Grey.

When approaching the restaurant, its neon lights reflect against the long window featuring the dimly lit bar. The Grey was once a segregated greyhound bus station and the restaurant proudly uses a greyhound as their logo. Inside, soft voices and light fill the front bar as the warmth of the restaurant welcomes its guests. Terminal numbers grace the walls within the main dining room while a modern, streamline design transports you back in time. Black and white historical photographs delicately adorn the walls; its image may be subtle, but its message is profound. Since the remodel of the building had limits, The Grey used the original bones and walls from when it was built.

It is poetic. Once a space that embodied racial segregation at its core has now evolved into a space that embraces cuisine rooted in slavery and survival. People, communities, and families marked by war, colonization, oppression, and racism develop deep relationships with whom they share a meal with whether it be family or friends. It is in these rare moments that whatever sadness or hardship may exist at the moment, it can temporarily be forgotten with a meal that provides solace and comfort. The ingenious of Mashama Bailey forges these identities, not only into her passion as a chef but also into each culinary dish she creates..

Bailey’s childhood memories of southern food combined with her French technique in addition to west African influences and spices creates sublime, balanced, and complex dishes. The palate is taken through an extraordinary journey through a chefs tasting of seven courses including classic southern vegetables, staples such as grits, and local seafood. These locally sourced ingredients partnered with haute cuisine creates an unique and elevated menu.

L-R
Breads with butter
Amuse Bouche: Duck Liver Mousse – brioche, pickled mustard seed, Mackerel Tartare – lavash cracker, serrano pepper, Deviled Egg – smoked catfish, caviar
1st course: Melon Gazpacho – melon, basil vinegar, shrimp
2nd course: Amberjack Crudo – chanterelle amino, loquat verjus, radish
3rd course: Scallop – farro verde, dates, carrot ginger puree
4th course: Foie – yellow grits, muscadine mostarda, onion gravy
5th course: Summer Vegetable Bagna Cauda – eggplant, okra, miso
6th course: Beef Duo – 28 day aged ribeye with oxtail, habanero peppers, allspice, scallion
Intermezzo: Raspberry Sorbet with lime zest
Dessert: Sweet Corn Cake – caramelized peaches, vanilla cream, cornflake crunch

For more on Savannah cuisine, please head over to –> Deviled & Boiled
Interested in traveling to Savannah? Read more on my travel essay –> America in the South

AT THE TABLE features culturally significant cuisine that I have experienced and/or researched during my travels. From Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills to Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express in London or local New York eats such as Jack’s Wife Freda that just remind me of home, I am fortunate to have opportunities to visually capture these creations as well as enjoy what these restaurants offer (Blue Hill does not allow guests to photograph their food as it ruins fine dining aesthetics).

* * *

EIGHTHREE MEDIA would like to thank:
The Grey Restaurant
Mashama Bailey
Luisa Strada
Savannah, GA

Copyright 2002-2022 ERICA HILARIO
Copyright 2002-2022 EIGHTHREE MEDIA

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