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Chef James Jeffries brings fresh culinary vision to Kanvas

Putting art on the palate



The brush strokes have changed at Kanvas, a small art gallery at the corner of East Sixth Street and North Davidson Street. Part of the transformation comes in renovations and add-ons, including a kitchen and bar.

These new sections will be operated by executive chef James Jeffries and mixologist Henry Schmulling. Together, the pair has concocted an exclusive menu with plate and drink pairings to be served up in five-course segments (or less, depending on what guests fancy).

Jeffries, 26, found his way onto the culinary turf as a teen who liked to eat well and wanted to avoid his mother's cooking. He went on to attend culinary school before occupying kitchens at Soul Gastrolounge and Pisces, where he formerly worked. But Jeffries, who is as passionate about his cooking as he is about local art, looks forward having creative reins at Kanvas. He'll be offering visually stimulating dishes that are prepared with fresh seasonal produce from the Piedmont region.

The gallery is slated to showcase art and will hold special events, in addition to an ever-evolving menu that changes with the seasons.

Creative Loafing: You mentioned that you have synesthesia and that flavors and colors can get mixed up with your senses. Has it been beneficial or a hindrance in regards to plating?

James Jeffries: Definitely beneficial, in the way that I feel I can show someone that same synesthesia. I was always told that we eat with our eyes first, so it really helps to have this particular type of sensory mix-up. Unfortunately, I have no way to verify that everyone tastes or sees the same, but I think the overall sensation of all of the stimuli is and should be unique to each person.

The interior of Kanvas and the art lining the walls also have some influence over the dishes you're creating in the kitchen. Can you tell me more about that?

Yes. Seasonally, we'll always have a drink and some part of our food that will be that indicative orange color that we accent everything with at Kanvas. So, even the aesthetics of the location are going to be brought into the food and drink. For instance, right now we have the butternut habanero sauce, but say in summer it might be peach and orange bell pepper or something like that. To be able to present the thematic elements throughout the year is one of the things I'm really excited about.

Kanvas entry is through membership only. How does that work?

It'll be a private membership club, but there will be different echelons to membership. By no means are we going to turn anyone away. There will be a free sign-in membership and then at the higher levels certain private events will be planned. There will be cooking instructional classes, cocktail/bartending classes and even really exotic tastings and flavor parties for people who want to stay on the super cutting edge. We'll be able to keep them updated and give them a peek at things before anybody else does.

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