Earlier this month, I enjoyed an amazing opportunity to be hosted by four of Asheville, North Carolina’s off-the-beaten path, perhaps lesser known restaurants, in West, North, East, and South Asheville. As part of my Ten Questions for series, I interviewed the proprietors of each restaurant. Nothing excites me more than someone who turns their life upside down and does a complete 360-degree turn to follow their dream. Therefore, I am thrilled to share the story of Sean Piper and his new restaurant in West Asheville, Jargon, which opened about a year and a half ago, in Sean’s own words.
What inspired you to get into the restaurant business?
Before my movie production career, I had worked many years in the restaurant industry doing various jobs. I was a dishwasher, prep cook, broiler assistant, bar back, bus boy, server, bartender, and eventually a dining room manager. I absolutely loved it. All of it. There’s something special about having guests in your house and making them feel special and welcome. Ironically, it’s very similar to movie production: a group of hardworking folks each with a specific job to do, working as a team, and providing that “escapism” for our guests.
Why did you select your location?
My parents have lived in Asheville for over 28 years, and consequently I’ve spent a lot of time here. I fell in love with the entire area. The eclectic vibe, the creative energies, the waterfalls are intoxicating! An old mentor of mine told me that if I was truly serious about owning a restaurant, I must own the building. After many years of searching for the right space (that I could afford), I found a small condemned building for sale at 715 Haywood Road. It took four years to negotiate the purchase, and I later discovered that it’s a nationally registered historical building. I worked with the Historical Preservation Office, saved the building, and was awarded the Griffin Award for historical rehabilitation in June.
How did you choose the name of your restaurant?
Honestly, it came to me one afternoon after some “midday inspiration” (drinking wine). A friend suggested “Slang” which was too edgy in my opinion. I immediately said, “Ooh, how about Jargon”? I looked up the definition which says that “Jargon is a language that is understood within certain groups”. I loved the juxtaposition of exclusivity and inclusivity, and the play on words that Jargon inherently presented.
Will you share with us details about your restaurant’s design and décor and how the theme complements your menu?
Jargon has also been described to me as “repurposed language”. This was a key to our branding, as we try to look at new ways to use ingredients and décor. We acquired 1952-era bowling lanes from Indiana that we used as my table tops and bar top, we also made glasses from recycled wine bottles, made a 1938 Philco radio as our host stand, used 1940’s Hamilton Printer trays for my bar facade, used antique game boards for our menu backs, and utilized 20,000 scrabble tiles as accent walls in our bathroom.
What is your restaurant’s style of cooking?
Chef Marcus Day is from Louisiana and he has an Italian cuisine background. You can find those incredible Cajun flavor profiles in his cooking, and his house made pasta is simply outstanding. Our Sous Chef Jeff Crowder was born and raised in Western North Carolina, so there is also a Southern flare in many of our dishes.
What are your and/or your staff’s favorite dishes?
My staff’s favorite dishes at the moment are our oven roasted octopus, the scallops and pork belly, and the bacon and Brussels salad. Simply outstanding!
How does your restaurant’s beverage program enhance the cuisine?
Chris Keane, my head bartender has a wealth of knowledge that he brings to our guest’s experience. His craft cocktails are a fantastic way to start your evening. My current favorite is his “Granddad’s Lunch Box” that uses a peanut butter washed bourbon and house made strawberry syrup. Think of it as a PB&J Old Fashioned! Also, I’m very proud of our wine program here at Jargon. We store all wines at proper temperature, serve in appropriate elegant glassware, and decant medium to full bodied wines without asking to open them up as much as possible.
Do you have a philosophy as it relates to food, beverage, and hospitality?
Our philosophy is to treat every single person who comes through our door as a guest in our house. Forget about the outside world and be treated special. My entire staff genuinely cares deeply about everything they do, and it shows.
Do you have plans to open additional locations or restaurants? Why or why not?
We’ve only been open a year and six months, so I’m focused on making this “little gem on the Westside” stand on a firm foundation. That said, I’m having some discussions with some folks who would love to put a Jargon in Chicago!
Do you have any additional information you would like to share with the readers, such as forthcoming menu items, events, etc. We have some great things planned! Starting with a special Valentine’s Day event! We are also discussing a Godfather Dinner Theatre, a Prohibition dinner (where we lock the front door, and folks must enter through the back with a password), another New Orleans Jazz Dinner, a wine maker dinner, and much more! Make sure folks sign up for our newsletter because those folks have first dibs!