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Will Aghajanian

Frozen guava, sea water meringue and black olive plated dessert by Will Aghajanian

Frozen guava, sea water meringue and black olive plated dessert by Will Aghajanian

Photos: Ahsley Cohen, Libby Carper.

When entering a signature restaurant, there is nothing as rewarding as to notice exactly that, the signature, something different, unique and difficult to compare with other experiences. Aware of this, Liz Johnson and Will Aghajanian have turned The Catbird Seat in Nashville (Tennessee) into a place that reflects their personalities and culinary conception. The U-shaped space allows diners to practically be in direct contact with the cook while he is preparing their dishes, an intimate relationship, as it can be said, that invites one to get carried away by dishes that, in the words of the chef himself, ‘bounce around from more polarizing combinations to things that are simple ‘, with the aim of achieving a ‘fun and energetic’ experience.

Liz Johnson and Will AghajanianWill Aghajanian acknowledges the turning point in his career as a chef to be in his experiences he had while living in Spain, more specifically working in the kitchen of Mugartiz. ‘The idea of constantly evolving and creating new techniques was a huge inspiration for me as a young cook’, he recalls from that point. The commitment to make their own way for Will and Liz is non-negotiable; in the face of possible external reactions there is no doubt ‘sometimes you have to put blinders on, and not listen to the opinions of others’. It is not easy to achieve this isolation, and more so when you are aware that your desserts have unrecognizable forms, and often play with little (or no) common flavors in the sweet scope. ‘A majority of our guests tend to be excited, but there are those few who just wish they had a large slice of cheesecake,’ confesses Will Aghajanian. And that is the path that leads to innovation, also in the field of plated desserts, as we could see in so good #23. In this sense, the chef asserts ‘if you put yourself in a bubble, and you stop looking at what others are doing, or immerse yourself in different art forms that are not cooking,’ then you leave room for something totally new to arise.

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