At just 30 years old, Colin Jones has made quite an impact on Charlotte's high-end restaurant scene. Originally from Rhode Island, he went to college in southwestern Virginia, where the admittedly "spoiled child" had to grow up fast once his father lost his job: "I always had my bills magically taken care of, and suddenly, no more." He worked his way up to manager of a prominent restaurant before moving down to Charlotte about five years ago to help open both Ruth's Chris Steak Houses. When he chanced upon a meeting with the future owners of Enso, they offered him a position as general manager, where he's been ever since.
Creative Loafing: As a self-described Yankee, is there anything you miss about living up north?
Colin Jones: Well, I miss the Red Sox, but I like the Knights, the Panthers and the Bobcats, so that keeps things exciting. I did use to live pretty close to the ocean, so I feel a little landlocked at times. I miss the fresh clam chowder and the oysters that you can get right there by the ocean side. But one of the perks of working at Enso is dealing with fresh seafood all the time, so I could get clams for the clam chowder if I wanted to. But Charlotte's a great city and I love where we are.
Your job requires you to live, eat and breathe sushi. What do you like to eat during your off hours?
Just recently, I'm on a big pasta kick. I actually need to be eating more salad because I've probably gained 20 pounds since the restaurant opened, just tasting different things. My wife's kind of a health nut, so lots of good salads with gorgonzola and pecans and stuff like that. I just happened upon a fresh-made pasta place in town, Pasta Provisions, and now I'm addicted. We make good meatballs at home to go with the pasta. I'm a big Mexican food freak, and so is my wife; we're big fans of 1900 Mexican. I like to go out to eat to quieter places away from the EpiCentre where less people recognize me.
Have you ever been tempted to leave the restaurant industry for something else?
I think when I was little, I always wanted to be a golf-course architect; it's so random but I'm a big golfer. I love so many things about my job though, especially the teaching aspect and building relationships. The only drawback is maybe the late hours, but I love the hospitality industry because the energy is great. I don't see myself doing anything else. In my younger days, in my arrogance, I think I wanted to open something like Enso, something big in the center of the city. Now I think I'd like to open up something a little bit smaller, maybe like a higher-end tavern with old golf photos on the walls, but not so high-end that it scares people away. That's the great thing about this business: The sky's the limit.