Young and Hungry

Eatonville Chef Contest ‘Winner’ Rusty Holman Now Working at a Food Truck

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Holy crap, is that Rusty Holman?! No way, it can't be! Don't embarrass him, or yourself, by asking! Don't even make eye contact! But what if it is Rusty? You'd be one lame-ass food writer if you don't find out what he's doing slinging fries out of a food truck on Farragut Square!  Don't forget how you met him: He was the default winner of a profoundly twisted hiring contest and was awarded the opportunity to run the brand-spankin' new kitchen at Eatonville.

As these thoughts were going through my head, Rusty Holman made the first move: "Your name's Tim, right?"

"Yes, Rusty. I thought that was you," I replied, relieved that he took the initiative.

We chatted for a few minutes through the window of the Fry Captain. He said that he's invested some money and sweat equity into Jake Sendar's mobile shake-and-fries unit. He's helping Sendar, a student at Vanderbilt, turn out the best possible products in that tin-can kitchen on wheels; he's also looking for something more suitable for a professionally trained chef with a long history of running his own kitchens.

So how did he end up here?

It's a long story, he told me, but it boils down to the snowstorms in February. He apparently drove a few Eatonville employees to work after the blizzard to help keep the place running, and he promptly parked the car in an emergency snow route. Instant $250 ticket. Holman said that owner Andy Shallal promised to pay off the violation.

Several months later, the ticket was still unpaid and had doubled. Holman said he sent a pointed email to Shallal and others about the issue. Holman wrote something to the effect of, "If it's not paid today, I'm not coming in tomorrow." Shallal apparently decided to accept the implied threat and fired him.

I've e-mailed and called Shallal for confirmation of the story and am still awaiting a response. I phoned the restaurant and learned that Holman's apparent replacement just left Eatonville this week. The eatery is currently between chefs.

The final tally for Eatonville's chef-search contest: The original winner was fired before the restaurant opened, and the default winner was fired a year into the job for apparently bitching about an unpaid parking ticket. And the owner, who's not a big fan of chefs, is in between chefs.

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Holman's current place of employment.

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The hand-cut fries at the Fry Captain are delicious. They undoubtedly benefit from a chef who understands the double-fry technique: Holman blanches the cut potatoes first, then fries them in vegetable oil on the truck. I had mine sprinkled with sea salt and paired with a Sriracha-mayo dipping sauce. (Many other dipping sauces and seasonings are available.)  It's not exactly a meal, but if the Fry Captain were parked outside a festival, for instance, I suspect it'd clean up.

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The hand-spun shake was thick and rich and, dare I say, almost marshmallow-y. My only complaint is that I'd prefer a deeper chocolate flavor.

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