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Restaurateur Jerry Barakat has landed a pretty big culinary fish: Brian Kearns has left the Country Club of Little Rock, where he had been the executive chef, and last week took over as executive chef at Arthur’s Prime Steakhouse and the next-door Oceans at Arthur’s, in the Village at Rahling Road, 27 Rahling Circle, Little Rock. Kearns will use “his well known talent and experience to ensure continuous innovation, creativity and variations to both menus,” according to a recent Facebook post by Barakat.

“Jerry and I have known each other for years,” says Kearns, who moved to Little Rock six years ago from St. Louis with the team that opened Ya Ya’s Euro Bistro in the Promenade at Chenal, directly across Chenal Parkway. “We’ve had a lot of mutual respect and we were looking for a way to work together.” Serendipitously, as it happened, “he was looking for a chef and I was looking for a job.”

Kearns says he’s still finding his feet and getting acquainted with the staff, so specific menu changes, other than a couple of on-the-spot specials he has created, are still uncertain, but he intends to use a lot more local products and he’s looking to do more seasonal shifts - for example, he’ll be “lightening things up for spring.” He’ll also be “freshening up the the presentation,” and, while keeping Arthur’s old-school service structure, is looking at doing more table side presentations. With the help of a new sommelier Barakat is hiring, he’s also looking at monthly wine dinners, and wants to “do some stuff that hasn’t been seen out here.” As far as Oceans is concerned, he’s considering some “more fun, more creative” seafood dishes, “new fish, new presentations.”

He’s joining, in Barakat’s “pond,” sushi chef Alex Guzman, who left Sushi Cafe for Oceans in June. Manjeev Demel, a longtime Barakat associate, will continue as general manager of both restaurants, or, as Kearns calls him, “overseer of all.” Phone number at Arthur’s: (501) 821-1838; the website is

If you’ve been wondering what Donnie Ferneau Jr. has been up to, here it is, directly from the chef himself, via Facebook: “I’ve started a new catering/take-out business called Good Food, focusing on healthy(gluten- and sugar-free) meals for people with active lifestyles & athletes,” he says. “I’ll have lunch, dinner and snacks available for pick up from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday at Pulaski Heights Presbyterian Church, 4401 Woodlawn Ave., in [Little Rock’s] Hillcrest. Call (501) 804-8604 or email me at for more details.” Visit

“It’s good to be cooking up some good food again,” Ferneau says via telephone, explaining that the idea was “inspired by some friends of mine who hired me to do detox-healthy cooking for them.”

It’s also part of his own fitness plan: “As a chef you become what you eat, and I want to stay healthy and fit,” he says, noting that he has lost 30 pounds since he left the kitchen at his own restaurant (originally and eponymously Ferneau, later Rocket 21 after Frank Fletcher bought him out).

Ferneau says he’s keeping prices reasonable, to the point where it’ll be possible to pick up lunch, dinner and a snack for under $25 a day. He’ll be using a lot of local produce. And although he says he’ll always have vegetarian and even vegan options, “gluten- and sugar-free” does not necessarily mean “meat-free.” Entrees include a Dijon-crusted pork loin with grapes, tarragon and caramelized Brussels sprouts; herbed chicken breast with ratatouille; and oven-fried chicken with sweet-potato hash. And you can add chicken (for an extra $3) to any of the salads on this week’s menu - chopped bok choy and asparagus with tamari and sesame vinaigrette; vegetable and quinoa with balsamic vinaigrette; and edamame, black bean and mango with mint citrus vinaigrette. He’s also looking at doing some pop-up dinners in the church’s fellowship hall “in a catering kind of way.”

And he hopes to translate some of this menu to his new restaurant, The Still, with an early-summer target opening in the still-in-development Hall-Davidson Building, 200 block of West Capitol Avenue in downtown Little Rock, and he plans to continue the catering business out of its kitchen.“I’ll be focusing on the midweek diner,” Ferneau explains. “It’ll be a classic restaurant with really great food, in the style I’m cooking now, but of course I’ll have butter and cheese.” He’ll serve lunch and dinner, and, eventually, if there’s enough of a demand for it, breakfast. The place will be “like Ferneau, but at half the price.” Elsewhere, we’ve seen reported that a booklet at a recent Arkansas Repertory Theatre fundraiser describes it as “Contemporary Southern Spa cuisine (Southern food massaged to perfection!) [which] will also feature sophisticated ’60s decor ala Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Central Arkansas’ first outlet of BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse opened on schedule Monday in the Shackleford Crossings shopping center, 2624 S. Shackleford Road, Little Rock. Hours are 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 404-2000; check out the menu at

One of our crew of sharp eyed observers got a guided tour from Nacho (“not a joke, I confirmed I heard correctly”), the “quite pleasant and welcoming” owner, of Cilantros Grill, which has taken over the Lakewood Village storefront, 2629 Lakewood Village Place, North Little Rock, that had most recently housed Taste of India and before that a Chinese buffet. It’ll be a Mexican place, she says, adding that according to the owner, the menu would feature popular items (fajitas, chimichangas, etc.) “but also some different type items.” He also said he’s expecting to be open sometime in the next couple of weeks. We still haven’t been able to get an answer at the listed phone number, (501) 812-0040.

And they’re not quite open yet, but Mylo Coffee Co., a big hit with its coffee and pastries Saturday mornings at the Hillcrest Farmers Market, is going through a series of soft openings in its new brick-and-mortar location, 2715 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, formerly the home of River City Tea, Coffee & Cream, which new owners Regi Ott and husband, Jeremy Bragg, moved up the street to 2913 Kavanaugh last fall. Mylo is looking at getting fully open by Tuesday, whereupon hours will be 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is (501) 747-1880; the Facebook page,

Has a restaurant opened - or closed - near you in the last week or so? Does your favorite eatery have a new menu? Is there a new chef in charge? Drop us a line. Call (501) 399-3667 or (501) 378-3513, or send a note to Restaurants,Weekend Section, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock,Ark. 72203. Send email to:

Weekend, Pages 40 on 03/27/2014

Print Headline: TRANSITIONS


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