Generalísimo will open next spring at 565 King St.
First things first, Southern Charmer Whitney Sudler-Smith
and Planet Hollywood
creator Bryan Kestner
's new King Street restaurant Generalísimo will offer French-Mexican fusion fare. Second, the restaurant name is loosely connected to Sudler-Smith's late '80s red Porsche vanity license plate because of course.
"Whitney and I were living in the same building in L.A.," Kestner, Generalísimo's managing partner and co-creator of Southern Charm
recalls. "Whitney would park next to me, and he had a Virginia license plate that read: G. Lee." Sudler-Smith and Kestner struck up a conversation over the The Dukes of Hazzard
and quickly became fast friends. Today, three decades and a Bravo series later, it seemed only right that the buddies' new restaurant gives a nod to their auspicious beginnings. Call it kismet, as Kestner does.
But why are two Hollywood guys creating another Mexican restaurant in Charleston? Especially Kestner whose movie-themed '90s mega chain went bankrupt twice? Kestner is honest. "The last thing I wanted to do was another restaurant business," he says. When Planet Hollywood flopped it was a blow to the actor/producer/entrepreneur. Kestner claims that the all-star cafe we know today — there are eight remaining, one in Myrtle Beach — turned out to be nothing like his original vision. And when Planet Hollywood went bankrupt in '98, he got out, and planned to stay out of the restaurant business for good.
But then he and Sudler-Smith came up for the idea of Southern Charm
(which in their initial plans was a docu-drama a la Mad Men,
Kestner says). Around the same time, Sudler-Smith decided he wanted to open a restaurant. It made sense as a convenient tie-in to Southern Charm
's storyline. When Kestner found Taylor's Pawn Shop (565 King St.), and investors Kestner calls amazing people, the plan began.
After removing a drop ceiling and plaster walls, Bryan Kestner and architect Kevan Hoertdoerfer uncovered three stories of exposed brick
"We wanted to incorporate the restaurant into the show," Kestner says. "But the show does not dictate the restaurant." Meaning, yes, Southern Charm
playboy law student Craig Conover
might be tending bar when the Generalísimo opens sometime next spring, but, no, there won't be camera crews at every happy hour ... or lurking on one of the restaurant's three floors or the rooftop balcony. Kestner says, "This is a business first and foremost."
As for the cuisine, as we reported last week, acclaimed Chef Bob Waggoner has signed on as consulting chef. Contrary to our recent interview with Waggoner, where he told us he was done with the big restaurant craziness
and just wanted to work for himself, well ... he's not. But Waggoner says his contract with Generalísimo won't be a full-time commitment. He'll come in early in the week and for special events — no 80 hour work weeks. And he's still opening In the Kitchen
. What Waggoner says he does plan to do, however, is have fun with the French/Mexican menu.
"Most cooking is based on French cooking and methods, so it's really French techniques we're talking about," Waggoner says. "We'll do a rabbit taco or duck confit taco, or you can maybe get a bone-in ribeye with jalapeño and cilantro." He adds that this is not an attempt to follow in the new "kernel-to-taco" movement.
"Are we gonna make our own taco shells? Hell no," Waggoner says. Instead he sees a menu of sharable items — like a bowl of rabbit confit with cactus and a pile of tortillas to make 10 tacos for around $20.
As for Waggoner making any Southern Charm
cameos, those have actually already happened. He was filmed in three scenes discussing restaurant plans. That said, Waggoner, who is no stranger to the camera (he hosted Off the Menu
and Sing for Your Supper),
is still cautious about his on-screen time. "
As long as they know I don't care," he says of being on the show.
As of now, the space is a construction zone. Architect Kevan Hoertdoerfer design plans have pulled down a drop ceiling and plaster walls revealing three-stories of beautiful exposed brick. And Kestner is letting the building dictate the look of the space, remaining vague on details for now. "I want people to be wowed when they first come in," he says. And as far as clientele, Kestner sees the place as having a wide appeal. "I have very successful Hollywood friends I can see coming here," he says. "But I want everyone to come experience it."
A second story balcony will overlook the dining room and bar and include two-tops and space for a band.