Husk’s Fix-It Woman – On what it takes to keep people-and herself-happy

BY HELEN MITTERNIGHT

Jennifer Bresnahan studied sports medicine at the College of Charleston and she still patches the odd scrape or cut for the staff at Husk, where she is general manager.

“I probably do it more than I should,” she says, sitting at a booth in Husk’s bar, a separate building adjacent to the storied restaurant. “I’m the in-house nurse. From cuts to falling down, they ask me to bandage them and ask if they need to go to a doctor. If there’s any doubt, I send them.”

Patching up humans is just part of the fix-it duties required to keep the popular restaurant running smoothly.

Bresnahan says she’s sealed leaks, cleaned the toilet, even stepped in to assist on the pastry or bar lines. It’s a job that keeps her hopping 50 hours a week and she still checks email and comes up with ideas on her off time.

“GM is a catch-all title for everything that nobody else wants to do,” she says, “from doing the financials to human resources. I’m the first line of defense responsible for staff happiness.”

Travis Grimes has taken over for celebrity chef Sean Brock, who left for Nashville. Bresnahan says she and Grimes have worked together for so long that they have a true partnership. It frees her up to solve the myriad challenges that pop up on any given day at.

Husk is a place people travel just to dine and they count on the restaurant to make their memories. “The biggest challenge is not having the wiggle room to go above and beyond for everybody,” she says. “I have to say ‘no’ a lot. It’s the most frustrating part of the job, but there’s no way to hold 20 tables knowing everybody has an anniversary tomorrow. We can do special menus and personalize them if you let us know, but at the end of the day there are only so many people one restaurant can take care of. It doesn’t make everybody happy.”

Husk serves around 400 to 430 people a day and another 90 in the bar, where snacks and bar food are served from a separate kitchen.

Bresnahan says she loves challenges and they keep her from feeling stuck in a rut after being GM for five years.

“The key is being organized and having answers before getting asked,” she says. “A lot comes with the experience of seeing things go not so well. It’s having forethought and coming up with a solution and having the humility to ask for help. Confidence goes a long way. If I look at someone and say, ‘I’ve got this,’ people will calm down.”

Her love of problem-solving has led to her volunteer work on the board of Bread & Butter, a nonprofit dedicated to providing culinary skills to high schoolers who can’t or don’t want to attend college, and to helping mitigate the food and beverage staff shortage in Charleston.

That doesn’t mean she can’t take a break when necessary. Bresnahan says she loves to cook at home (“You can’t help but watch and learn if you really love something,” she says), garden, and going to the beach.

“I love lying under the warm, beautiful sun. I’ll tell you I’m taking a book but, honestly, I’ll probably just fall asleep.”

She’s not sure what her next steps will be. Some days, she thinks she’d like to move up to manage multiple locations.

“But, other days, I can’t imagine leaving. These people have become like family,” she says. “As long as I get challenged and keep learning, I’ll be happy.”

OPENINGS & CLOSINGS
Betty’s Eatery, home of elaborate breakfasts in Mt. Pleasant, has closed. Owner Kelly Chu says she and her husband are going to focus on the continued growth of Red Orchids and their Cirsea ice creams.

After five years of offering artisan brews on Skylark Drive, Craft Conundrum has closed.

Semilla (featured in the May issue) is closing its restaurant. The owners will still be operating their food truck of the same name offering Mexican street food, as well as Street Bird Westside, a chicken sandwich pop-up.

Vicious Biscuit is opening a second location in Summerville this fall and has plans to open even more locations soon.

The downtown—original—WildFlour Pastry is closing in mid-July. Owner Lauren Mitterer says she wants to pull back and spend more time with family and growing the business. The West Ashley outpost will stay open.

Stella’s, the downtown Greek transplant from Richmond, VA, is halting its brunch service, citing the shortage of food and beverage workers.

Washington, DC-based Estadio is bringing a branch to 122 Spring Street this summer. Chef Alex Lira, formerly of Bar Normandy, will be in the kitchen turning out modern, Spanish-style food.

Herd Provisions, combining a butchery, a restaurant, and takeout food, is now open at 106 Grove Street.

Pho King (and yes, if you say it right it’s naughty!) is now open in Mt. Pleasant at 700 S. Shelmore Avenue.

CHEF & STAFF MOVES
Kelly Franz is ending her long tenure as executive chef at Magnolia’s and is heading to the Beeliner at the Beach Club on Kiawah Island to cook for famed chef Mike Lata.

Jeremiah Bacon is back to being chef-partner at the Indigo Road Hospitality Group as Stuart Rogers relieves Bacon in the kitchen at the Macintosh. Rogers is the new executive chef and comes from the group’s Oak Steakhouse in Atlanta.

Vintage Lounge on King Street has brought in new executive chef Dylan Walker, who’s bringing in some new small plates for diners.

EVENTS
Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co. is hosting Drayton Hall’s Palladian Society for a fundraiser to preserve one of Charleston’s most iconic historic structures on July 11 from 5-8 p.m. You can reserve through the restaurant.

Take a trip to Puerto Rico on the last Sundays of the month this summer as Wild Common’s executive chef Orlando Pagán celebrates his Puerto Rican roots with a pop-up dinner series. A four-course tasting menu will showcase his family recipes and go for $65 a person. You can also get piña colada specials and a selection of Puerto Rican rums. Use Resy for reservations.

Taste of Charleston is returning on Oct. 13 at Riverfront Park after taking a 2-year break. The event, which features food from all over the city, will be cashless this year. Attendees can pre-load wristbands so they can eat their way around the city without leaving the park. Tickets are available at freshtix.com/events/taste-of-charleston.

All of the Indigo Road restaurants—Indaco, O-Ku, Oak Steakhouse, Macintosh, Mercantile and Mash, the Cocktail Club, Bar Mash and the Cedar Room—are donating 100% of the proceeds from select menu items to the Homeless to Hope Fund all during July. The philanthropy is in celebration of the restaurant group’s 10th anniversary.

MENU & VENUE CHANGES
Minero is changing its dinner hours.
It will now be open Sunday-Thursday
from 4:30 p.m to 9:30 p.m
and Friday and Saturday
from 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

KUDOS
People Magazine is infatuated with the fried oyster rolls at Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop—they named it #1 best sandwich in the state!

Queen Street Hospitality Group and the Charleston Restaurant Foundation have partnered with nonprofits I Heart Hungry Kids and the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project for Catch Up on Lunch, a fundraising effort to repay past due lunch debt for public school children in Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley Counties. After raising more than $25,000 through “Spirit Nights” that donated partial profits to the cause, four schools had their lunch debts paid off.

Open Table is calling Fleet Landing one of the country’s best Al Fresco Restaurants for the year.