Chef dumps Park Ave. to start Sanford eatery

Nat Russell is betting big on downtown Sanford.

Classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Nat is quiting his job as the executive chef at a popular French restaurant on Winter Park’s toney Park Avenue to open a one-month long pop-up restaurant on 1st Street in downtown Sanford (“Winter Park chef eyes trendy pop-up in Sanford“).

Nat plans to open The Tennessee Truffle by mid-May for a one month period. If business is good, he will make a permanent commitment to the space at 125 W 1st St.

When I pointed out that I admired his faith in Sanford, he laughed nervously: “I’ve either got faith or I’m crazy.”

So what will it take to turn his one month experiment into an established downtown venue?

“I want to see that there is a future,” Nat said. “I’m not looking to make a fortune the first month. I just want to see if there is support for what we want to do.”

Nat and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Sanford, so he’s familiar with the revitalization occurring downtown.

“If the choice is Park Avenue or Sanford, I’ll choose Sanford every day,” Nat said. “I like the small-town feel, and the eclectic vibe in downtown.”

Nat, who grew up in Memphis, said he chose to name his new venture The Tennessee Truffle (the “The” is part of the name) in part because it sounds like a line dance named after a Waylon Jennings song.

Which is appropriate since the menu will feature Southern cuisine with a modern twist.

Keep up with any new developments at The Tennessee Truffle on The Bokey.