Louisville Magazine

MAR 2012

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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Page 49 of 116

DEEP-SIXING BY JOSH MOSS PHOTOS BY NICHOLAS KAREM & JOHN NATION Te restaurant venture 732 Social was a culinary success from the time it opened its doors to the day last September that it closed them. But while satisfied smiles prevailed in the dining room and front patio, the rocky partnership that launched 732 in March 2009 soured almost immediately and, a few ugly courtroom battles later, led to the restaurant's inevitable death. H e comes to this restaurant, this place where nobody recognizes him, with such regularity that he orders B2, the pho with sliced beef and beef tendon, without consulting a menu. "I love it here," he says. "Tey don't know who I am." It's mid-January, a Tursday afternoon, and Jayson Lewellyn is at Viet- nam Kitchen, in the South End's Iroquois Manor Shopping Center, to talk at length about 732 Social, his critically acclaimed restaurant that died last September at not even three years old. "Social got pried out of my cold hands," he says. When Lewellyn discusses brothers Steven and Michael Ton, who were once his quote-unquote partners in the restau- rant, or Gill Holland, his former landlord, his eyes tend to bulge behind his black-framed glasses. "Te four of us," he says, "we should have never met." In a surging waterfall of sentences, Lewellyn, 36, details his culinary past, his future in Louisville, the litigation and bankruptcy surrounding 732 Social. He goes on for more than two hours straight, pausing to con- sume a single bean sprout and a few sips of hot-turned-tepid tea. He asks for a plastic container for his untouched noodle soup. "Tere's no way you could look through everything and come to the conclusion that I'm wrong," he says. Te noisy lunchtime crowd left an hour ago, and aside from a few staffers rearranging tables and chairs, dragging them across the blue-and-white linoleum, there are no other people here. "You have my word, hands down, that I'm never going to tell you something that cannot be backed up with fact," Lewellyn says. He nods toward the recorder. "What you've got on there? First time." What began as a straightforward story about 732 Social's demise turned into a tale of inconsistencies — about both the restaurant and its talented former chef. F or $450,000 in 2006, Gill Holland and his wife Augusta bought a dilapidated, more than 100-year-old brick warehouse at 732 E. Market St. and decided they'd put a restaurant on the ground floor once a $1 million-plus makeover turned the place into the energy-efficient Green Building. Holland enjoyed the Frankfort Avenue restaurant Basa and talked to its owners, Steven and Michael Ton. "We were the ones who dragged the Tons down to East Market Street," Holland says. "Tat's when everybody was like, 'Really, a restaurant on East Market?'" Part of the at- traction, Holland says, was that rent would cost 5 percent of gross sales. "If nobody comes to this restaurant — if nobody comes to Market Street," he told them, "then you will be paying very little rent." Te brothers would need a chef because Michael Ton still had to lead Basa's kitchen. Lewellyn says Michael Ton approached him; Steven Ton, during the litigation, said Lewellyn answered a Craigslist advertisement. Lewellyn, a Cincinnati native, had come to Louisville in 2005 to be the executive sous chef at the Marriott downtown, which led to a position as the chef who opened Jeff Ruby's. According to court documents, the initial meeting took place at Proof on Main in the summer of 2008. Ten, Holland says, the three of them came to dinner at his Cherokee Road home. He and Augusta paid about $400,000 for the build-out. "In the beginning," Lewellyn says, "everything was great." In March 2009, 732 Social opened. Marty Rosen, the Courier-Journal's restaurant critic, gave it four stars out of four. "It was a trendsetter, a seminal restaurant not just for the neighborhood but for the city," Rosen says. "It was the first place on East Market where the crowd spilled onto the street, and it gave people an idea what the area could be." Te menu focused on shareable dishes, Rosen says, so "it was tough to go by your- self." And that was the point. Fifty people could squeeze into the cramped 3.12 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE [47]

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