We know everyone’s excited about the opening of Tarbox & Brown, Kissing Tree’s new signature restaurant that will open in our brand new Golf Clubhouse. One of the most wonderful things about T&B is our new Executive Chef, Chanel Beattie.
Chef Chanel came to Kissing Tree from Johannesburg, South Africa, by way of South Dakota, but her love of cooking first began when she was a teenager growing up in Beijing. We recently sat down with Chef Chanel to find out about how she got to Kissing Tree, her plans for the menu, favorite dishes, and what she has in store for Tarbox & Brown!
KT: I wish the people reading could hear your beautiful accent! I know you’re from South Africa – how did you end up here in Texas?
CB: Well, my husband and I and our two sons emigrated to the United States 4 years ago to give our kids a better life. When we first came, we ended up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It’s beautiful, but we were there for exactly a year and we had 9 months of snow! (There’s not snow in South Africa.) My husband works with screening equipment for mines, and he was able to get a job here in Texas, and so we moved to Gruene 3 years ago.
KT: What a journey! And then how did you find Kissing Tree?
CB: Well, for the first few years we were in Texas, I was staying home with my sons – it was the pandemic. When I realized I was ready to go back to work, I saw the listing for Tarbox & Brown, and this was the first job I applied for. When I first came onto the property, I just knew I was going to work at Kissing Tree. I told them, “I’m going to be your executive chef.” For the cooking demo, I cooked for 9 people and made Waldorf salad and a New York strip steak with maple bourbon sauce and garlic mashed potatoes. I also made a traditional South African dish, peri peri chicken, with fresh pasta, as well as green beans, and for dessert, a lemon cake with a peach filling and vanilla frosting. They ate it all, and they offered me the job on the spot.
KT: Tell us about your culinary background.
CB: My degree is in hotel management, and I went to culinary school in South Africa, where I studied French cuisine. I’ve worked in multiple kitchens, and I’ve been an Executive Chef since I was 25, at the Michelangelo Hotel in Johannesburg. I was the first female chef to get the job and the youngest executive chef they had ever hired. I was there for 4 years, until we moved to the States.
KT: Did you grow up in Johannesburg?
CB: In Cape Town, actually – we lived there until I was 13, and then we moved to Beijing – I grew up in a diplomatic family. We were there for five years, and I spent my whole high school career there. My love of Asian food came from my time there – I love everything from noodles to sushi, there are so many flavors and so much you can do! I think it excites me the most!
KT: Oh wow! Do you speak Mandarin?
CB: I do! I’m fluent in Mandarin and I speak English, Afrikaans, and a little Zulu.
KT: Tell us more about your vision for Tarbox & Brown.
CB: Lunch will offer counter service with wraps, salads, and sandwiches, and then dinner will be upscale. Dinner service is my baby – this is our chance to be really creative, and to give people something special they haven’t eaten before.
KT: I know you’re still working on the menus, but can you tell us about what flavors you plan to incorporate?
CB: We’re excited to do some things people haven’t seen, but we’ll also have some familiar favorites. We’ll have Asian and Texan dishes, and some French-influenced items as well. And of course I want to add some South African flavor. A lot of people who live here are well-traveled, and they’ve been to Cape Town! They’re asking for things that I didn’t think they would have eaten already, but it feels like home!
KT: What about special diets?
CB: Kissing Tree is an active living community, and we know people want healthy options, but they also want cake! We’ll have some gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan items, as well as a kids’ menu with basics like grilled cheese.
KT: How do you like Kissing Tree so far?
CB: I find the people very welcoming! I’ve worked in active living before, but at Kissing Tree, they really mean it! People say hi and stop and hug you; they make an effort to make sure you feel welcomed.
KT: What are your favorite local spots?
CB: I love Gruene Hall, of course, for live music. For cocktails, I love Mozie’s in Gruene. Cody’s is also really good, and they have a Kissing Tree cocktail!
KT: Oh, one more question – any pets?
CB: We have a Husky rescue dog who we got 2 years ago – her name is Piper! She’s like an emotional support dog; she talks but doesn’t bark.
Thanks to Chef Chanel for taking the time to chat with us – we can’t wait to try her cooking at Tarbox & Brown. In the meantime, if you want to come be part of all the fun here at Kissing Tree, find your home and come join us!