With incredible food and beverage leading the way, the new Unscripted Hotel in Durham is bound to be a favorite with locals and travellers alike, thanks to its winning mix of the new and the familiar. To gain more insight into how the property’s F&B programs came to be, we recently caught up with F&B Director JEFF LEE to talk about Durham, community and, of course, having the best burgers in town.
UD: Tell us a bit about the first steps in establishing Unscripted Durham’s F+B program. How did it all start? JL: The first step in any process is research. What does Durham have? Where is it underserved? What has worked? What places are doing a great job, and why? This is always my favorite part of the process. Being able to experience so much of what a city has to offer first hand is special.
What is currently driving the Unscripted brand from an F + B standpoint? Unscripted as a brand is all about adaptation. I have always believed in a localized approach to food and beverage. What works well in one area can and should be reimagined for others. It is exciting to know that with each new community that Unscripted enters, we will be able to create a product and vibe that caters to a local experience.
How did the restaurant concepts come together? We started with a lot of research on Durham’s food scene. Together with the creative team, we curated an overall vision for the property. I wanted the F&B component to fit within that vision, while also nodding to the history of Durham and the building itself. It has been a fine balance between old and new, past and present.
Tell us about the actual restaurants. What went into constructing them? The great thing about designing a restaurant is that it is always evolving. In Durham, we are off to a great start. We have contracted Bull Durham Fabrications to make a patio bar that looks like an Airstream camper. We have also ordered a custom La Marzocco espresso machine, which is the industry’s best, from Italy.
What are some of your favorite features on property? The rooftop pool at The Patio stands out most. There is nothing like it in Durham! I am looking forward to seeing that space fully activated and breathing with energy. I also love the top floor of the parking garage as an event space. It has the best views in all of the city.
How do you see Unscripted’s F&B options fitting into Durham’s food scene? I have always envisioned our F&B options in Durham to be approachable and fun. We want to create an atmosphere that is inclusive, while also offering diverse dishes and drinks that help tell our story. I see us fitting into Durham perfectly. Great activations, events, pool parties, music, food, drinks, and fun.
What role does local product play in your menus? I am a big believer in sourcing local, sustainable products. This will be represented in the vendors that we have chosen to purchase from and the relationships we create within the culinary community. We will buy some of our produce and meats directly from the Farmer’s Market and bread from La Farm bakery. We are also working with Fullsteam Brewery on creating an Unscripted brew made from North Carolina-sourced ingredients.
What are some of your favorite dishes that will be available on property? Tough question! The menus were designed so that every item is a favorite. The Sushi Cones are at the top of my list. Line caught Ahi Tuna, Osaki Crab, Faroe Island Salmon, and goodies all rolled in sticky sushi rice and nori. This item is a perfect snack for The Patio. I also like the Sammy, which is a breakfast sandwich with Benton’s Country Ham, Gouda cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes, and LaFarm ciabatta. But I have always felt that the staple of any great menu is a burger. And ours will be the best in Durham.
Now that you are on the other side of things, what were some of the best parts of putting everything together. Did you learn anything new in the process? The best part of this process was being able to be part of the progression. We took this project all the way from concept to execution and that’s always the most gratifying part. As for what I learned, it takes an army….