Recently, Soul Gastrolounge in Plaza Midwood was named "Best New Restaurant" in Charlotte Magazine's Best of the Best. Shaping those culinary delights you love is Executive Chef Jason Pound, who arrived at the restaurant three months after it opened. Before creating signature small plate dishes like tuna tacos and lamb lollipops, Pound served as the chef at Latorre's and Aquavina for 10 years.
Creative Loafing: Have you always loved to cook?
It's what I'm supposed to do. I guess I was inspired by my mother -- I used to cook with her. I spent a couple years in college and wasn't really finding anything I was very interested in. I found that when I cooked for friends, though, they'd really enjoy it and I really liked the validation I'd get from cooking. That's when I decided to pursue it further.
How is Soul different from the places you've worked in the past?
Soul is much smaller; the style of food is simpler. All were full-service restaurants while this one has a lighter style to it, much more casual, less pretentious. If you wake up and feel like making bread pudding that day, you can make bread pudding as bread pudding. You don't have to conceptualize a dish. You can make something that you feel like making that day and just make it good and serve it as a small plate.
What is your philosophy when it comes to food?
I have a more personal philosophy for myself. Some people don't like bananas -- and you have to cook that way. You have to be true to the way you cook. Bananas are good -- I love bananas. A lot of people love bananas all over the world. But some people don't like them; no matter what you do to that banana, they're not going to dig it. And so when you're trying to be creative with food, you want to have a majority of people dig it and like it. But if someone doesn't necessarily get what you're doing or like it, that shouldn't hinder you from trying to move forward with your food. That's why I don't always listen to critics -- maybe they just don't like bananas.