Russell Jones is more than ready to open his new restaurant, Tallulah, in the home of the former Dianne's on Devine restaurant at 2400 Devine St.
"It's exciting," Jones told The State Tuesday. "I'm just ready to get going and show people what we're actually going to do instead of just talking about it."
Jones has been preparing for the opening since leasing the space from former owner Dianne Light in July. Now, he is watching the interior walls go up and shooting for an opening date around mid-December.
"We have plumbing and floors down but all the walls aren't up quite yet," Jones said. "We're getting there."
Jones has already started putting together a stalwart staff to help lead the eatery, including hiring Rise Bakeshop's Charley Scruggs (formerly Oak Table pastry chef) as pastry chef and head baker and Jason Davis--formerly with Motor Supply Co. Bistro and Speakeasy--as bar manager.
"We did a tasting with (Charley) and it went extremely well," Jones said. "We pretty much offered him the job on the spot. His relationship with some local farms is going to be pretty important in terms of development of the menu."
He's also hired a familiar director of operations--his wife, Monica.
"She'll be running the office and be director of operations," Jones said. "She'll oversee the front of the house with the assistant manager and bar manager working under her."
A Columbia native and Dreher High School graduate, Jones has lived in Washington for the past 12 years, where he attended French culinary school L’Academie De Cuisine and worked as a chef at Le Paradou, Restaurant Eve and, most recently, the high-end bar and restaurant Jack Rose Dining Saloon.
While Jones plans to incorporate French cooking techniques, Tallulah will not be a classic French restaurant, he told The State this summer.
"What we’ll be doing is taking that French technique and using it in a very modern American cuisine with local seasonal ingredients and a menu that changes frequently," said Jones, who began his stint in the culinary world working at Rosewood Market while attending the University of South Carolina.
Dishes will include items such as grouper with house-made linguine and parsley and roasted cauliflower with coriander and pickled garlic.
Jones plans to have a formal dining space for service-driven, reservation dining along with "a little more upscale casual lounge and bar with first-come, first-serve service."
"Hopefully we'll be able to bring a few things to Columbia that aren't necessarily going on here right now, Jones said.