Among the new management team are longtime assistant manager Teresa Blevins, who now is part owner of the management company, and new executive chef Kamran Aliabati, who previously worked at Carrabbas Italian Grill in Johnson City and will ad his expertise in Italian cuisine to the restaurant’s Americana/Cajun menu.
Prior to working at Carrabba’s, Aliabadi ran the kitchen at Alta Cucina, his family-owned restaurant in Johnson City for 10 years before it closed.
Why the move from Johnson City to Amis Mill?
Aliabati: “I found this beautiful spot here, and I was really attracted to this place. My in-laws posted the help wanted ad for executive chef, so I came over and checked it out and it’s beautiful up here. I loved the atmosphere they’re going for.”
What will you bring to the flavor of Amis Mill Eatery?
Aliabati: “We’ve got kind of an American, Cajun, kind of a rustic setting, and I want to bring more of that here, but include more of an upscale kind of feel to it. We’re going to add some specials. I’ll keep their classics and things that people like: the smoked prime, smoked and grilled ribeye, the sirloin. The barbecue is amazing here. But I also want to bring weekly specials. Different beefs, new cuts of fish, and fresh pastas, fresh breads.”
An example of a new addition to the menu, on the week that the Times News interviewed Aliabati, he planned a weekly special of stuffed chicken with spinach, mushroom, and sun dried tomatoes, with either a Gruyère of Fontana cheese. Wrap the whole thing in prosciutto and make a sweet wine sauce.
Are you going to have Italian night?
Aliabati: “I will. I was thinking about Thursdays having a family-style special, doing pastas and breads. Maybe a couple of chicken and shrimp dishes, and everyone can just grab what they want and load their own plate.”
Jake Jacobs, what changes have taken place at Amis Mill Eatery, and why?
Jacobs: “We have recognized our strengths and our weaknesses, and we are trying to grow and expand upon our strengths. Being the old man in the group, I decided it was probably time for me to move aside somewhat and concentrate more on the historic aspect of the property and let some young, fresh minds take over the operation of the eatery. We’ve been able to make some good progress with Kamren coming along. I think we can add something new, but yet retain the basis of the operation and continue to grow.”
What did you see in Kamren that you thought would be a good fit for Amis Mill?
Jacobs: “When I had an opportunity to see his resume and visit with him awhile, I was very impressed. I’m very thankful for him, and in fact, I’m a little surprised that we were able to draw this type of talent.”
Jake, what role are you taking now in the management of the property?
Jacobs: “I'm concentrating more on the tourism aspect and the historic aspect. I’ve been distracted over the past several years with the day-to-day operations of the eatery, and I’m going to get back on the road again and working on a coalition of historic sites in our region.”
What is your goal for the historic site having stepped back from the restaurant?
Jacobs: “Our original plan was to grow this place to where we’d have the blacksmith and the wheelwright, and the store, all of those craftsmen and artisans back in place the way it was here in 1782. But we haven’t been able to do that. I ran out of personal capital. We built this restaurant hoping it would generate enough revenue to support the whole place, but my plan didn’t work. We know by virtue of electronic payment, only about 10 percent of our customer base is from Hawkins County The rest is from a five-state surrounding area. It’s all about tourism and bringing people into this county. That’s my focus.”