chef bret jennings
Cooking from the heart with fresh ingredients comes naturally to Elaine’s on Franklin chef/owner Bret Jennings. Jennings grew up surrounded by angel biscuits, country ham with redeye gravy, sweet corn, homemade bread and butter pickles and fresh tomato sandwiches in his hometown of Altavista, Virginia. Putting the country boy behind some of the country’s most celebrated stoves combined with experience studying overseas has produced a signature culinary style of sophistication meets farmer’s market that has regional food critics and diners talking and coming back for more.
Jennings began his culinary career while a college student at NC State in Raleigh, NC. He worked as a caterer, busboy and waiter before traveling extensively to research other culinary traditions in Thailand, Mexico, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. Following his travels, Jennings trained domestically with two of GOURMET Magazine’s Top 50 Restaurants and America’s top chefs, Ben Barker of Durham, NC’s Magnolia Grill and Bob Kinkead of Kinkead’s in Washington, DC.
Barker, a James Beard Foundation Best Chef in the Southeast awardee, describes Jennings as “a culinary genius” and expresses his pride that Elaine’s On Franklin is still carrying on Magnolia Grill traditions while allowing Jennings’ own personality to shine through.
In 1999 Jennings opened Elaine’s On Franklin on West Franklin Street in Downtown Chapel Hill. Wine Spectator magazine has awarded the restaurant its coveted Award of Excellence for its wine list each year since 2001. Jennings has also been featured in Southern Living Magazine, invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard House, and awarded the top rating of four stars by Greg Cox and the Raleigh News and Observer.
“I wish Elaine’s were open on Monday (when Magnolia Grill is closed) so my wife Karen and I would have a place to go out in Chapel Hill, ” says Barker.