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Nashville Moment: Margot McCormack

Chef and owner of East Nashville's Margot Café and Marché Artisan Foods, McCormack celebrates 15 years in business.

Written By:  Kate Parrish

Photographers:  Shannon Fontaine

>>> Nashville Moment with Jeremy Cowart

 

Margot McCormack, Chef

One could argue it was chef Margot McCormack’s East Nashville restaurant, Margot Café, that finally convinced locals to cross the river. We are certain it kick-started a food and dining revolution, which has turned Nashville into an international culinary destination. This month, Margot Café celebrates its 15th anniversary and McCormack’s ability to create an experience that feels both new and familiar continues to cement her restaurant as one of Nashville’s most sought-after dining spots.

Age: 52

Getting started: McCormack, a Nashville native, first had the idea for her own restaurant while working for legendary Nashville restaurateur Jody Faison in the 1990s. She recalls a moment when she imagined creating a restaurant like Faison’s one day. After a move to New York City and a stint at the now shuttered F. Scott’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar, McCormack turned her passing thought into reality. She opened her café, a converted 1930s service station located in Five Points, in June 2001.

Neighborhood changes: By settling in East Nashville in the early 2000s, McCormack knew one of her early challenges would be drawing clientele from across the river. “We took on that crusade,” she says. It wasn’t until 2006—when Margot’s sister-restaurant, Marché Artisan Foods, opened around the corner—that McCormack noticed the neighborhood begin to undergo rapid change.

“Jack White started popping into Marché—then, The Black Keys, Kings of Leon. 2006 really brought this new demographic.”

>>> Inside the Chef's Kitchen: Margot McCormack

 

Keys to success: “When I got back to Nashville [from New York City], it felt like everybody was looking on to everyone else’s paper.” Throwing caution and chicken Caesar salads to the wind, McCormack decided she wanted to do her own thing. She calls herself “old-fashioned,” citing her love of simplicity—pot and pan, knife and fork, and deep relationships with local food purveyors, farmers, and guests—as her key to success.

What’s next: As McCormack looks forward, she sees the finish line in sight.

“Ten more years,” McCormack says. “I’m putting a 25-year stamp on it. It’s a really nice run of time.” When reflecting back on the last fifteen years, McCormack adds, “this has been way better than I ever could have imagined.” 

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