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 renowned 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 has been recognized repeatedly as one of the best restaurants in the Triangle in Indy Week, News & Observer and Chapel Hill Magazine.