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The Blue Bistro at Brasington Place wasn’t even open yet when they served their first meals. It was Monday, March 4, the day after a tornado whipped through Cairo, and although the historic home in the south central part of the city took a beating, it was still standing. Bistro owner/chef Jennifer Outwater was inside the building when the tornado struck. Looking through a west facing window, Outwater says she saw the monster of a tornado racing straight for her. She could see debris being flung in every direction and heard the emergency siren blaring as she ran to a downstairs bathroom to ride out the terrifying weather event. “I’m in the bathroom and the whole house starts jumping,” she recalls. The high winds rushed under the home and even pushed the house’s back wall six-inches off the foundation, according to Outwater, who is leasing the space from owners Meghan and Robert Ridenour of Cairo.
Although the fury of the tornado made Outwater question her future on earth, “I thought, ‘I don’t think I’m going to make it,’” she emerged in one piece and put her talents to work the next day feeding tornado victims, first responders, volunteers and anyone in need. Still, the tornado had shaken all of her cookware, dishes and glasses off their shelves, broken several windows and overturned all of her tables and chairs. “I lost everything but the furniture,” she says.
Blue Bistro sous chef Matthew Pipkin says he watched the tornado from his home in Southeast Cairo, and saw flashes of light when it took out transformer after transformer as it sped through town. Pipkin hurried to check on the bistro and Outwater says he was there within five minutes of the twister. The two say they found two, eight-quart pots, a couple of sauté pans and then discovered the gas stove was working. The next morning, they started cooking food from the grocery store across the street, IGA, which, like the rest of the affected area, was without power for days. Outwater estimates they cooked 600 pounds of chicken and pork and served 400 free meals the first day, 600 the day after that. She says the dancers of Off Broadstreet Centre for the Dance Arts were a big help and volunteered to serve the meals.
“We knew there was a need, we could see it,” says Outwater, “we just wanted them to have a moment where they were o.k.”
The food served in the days following that catastrophe is not what the commercial kitchen will produce when it officially opens this week. Outwater says the Blue Bistro at Brasington Place will serve authentic Italian cuisine offering tasting menus of three courses or á la carte ordering in a casual fine dining atmosphere. “Everything will be handmade, fresh every day, including our pastas and breads,” she says.
Although Outwater was raised in Marietta, her husband is from Italy, and she is using her mother-in-law’s sauce recipe. Outwater says she operated restaurants in southern Italy while living there with her husband and children, but returned to the United States recently as her older children moved here for college and work. Her 9-year-old son and husband remain in Italy.
In addition to Italian cuisine, Outwater says she plans to include live music for diners and wants to eventually host outdoor music events. Her sous chef was originally hired as a musician, but she soon learned he was as talented with a knife as he was with an acoustic guitar. Pipkin has worked as a butcher and says he grew up in the kitchen. “I have always loved cooking, and as a child I learned the fastest way to eat was to be in the kitchen,” says Pipkin.
Although he will be assisting in food prep, Pipkin is also planning to perform his original acoustic folk music at the Blue Bistro. He says, “There are three things I’m best at; being a Dad, cooking and music.” Pipkin is father to three children ages 13, 11 and 9.
The Blue Bistro at Brasington Place is located at 7 Third Ave. Southeast, and is opening officially on Thursday, April 4. Hours will be Wednesdays through Saturdays, 5 p.m. until 10 p.m., and Sundays, 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. Entree prices range from $11 to $24, dress code is business casual and reservations are suggested. They may be made by calling 229-234-0068.
As she prepares for Thursday’s opening, Outwater says she has high hopes for the restaurant, “I hope it teaches people how to try new things, and that we grow enough to be a bigger part of the community.”