Matt Bell has been the chef-owner of South on Main in Little Rock since it opened in 2013. The restaurant has been known for a unique relationship with Oxford American magazine, the lauded journal of Southern literature, music and culture. The magazine owned the building and operated out of offices there, but they rented the South on Main space for the restaurant and bar to Bell. The two parties worked together to program the space with art, music and other cultural presentations curated by Oxford American. For his part, Bell presented a consistently praised menu of what the chef calls “refined Southern food.”
A native of Missoula, Mont., Bell attended culinary school at the Texas Culinary Academy in Austin. He then moved to Little Rock, where he worked in restaurants before joining the kitchen staff at Ashley’s in the Capital Hotel. He rose to the position of sous under chef Lee Richardson, another Southern culinary legend. When Richardson left Ashley’s, Bell took control of the kitchen before taking advantage of the opportunity at South on Main.
After his years of working in Little Rock, Bell is excited to be moving to another state capitol. “It wasn’t something I was necessarily looking for,” Bell shared on a recent phone call. “But it’s a logical transition in my career to a bigger property and a bigger job in a bigger market.” He is on track to sell his restaurant to new ownership, which intends to maintain the relationship and programming with Oxford American — so there shouldn’t be many major changes there.
Bell intends to be on-property by the middle of February, and he has multiple reasons to be fired up about the opportunity and about Nashville. “I’m somewhat familiar with the market, and I already have a lot of friends there who have been very helpful with making me feel comfortable. I’m excited to discover new farmers and suppliers around Nashville! Nashville offers one of the most exciting culinary communities in the country, and 21c offers one of the most hospitable travel experiences, so it’s the perfect match. I am looking forward to being a part of the 21c family here in Music City and to extending our hospitality beyond the hotel and into the local community.” Bell is also a huge fan of football (unfortunately he’s a Steelers guy) and NHL hockey, and he looks forward to rooting on his new home teams…
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