SCENE Hits the Scene

life_taste_center_8j4a1318

What’s a night at the ballet or a Broadway play without a delicious nosh and cocktail beforehand?

SCENE, a small-plates eatery, opened for business on November 29 – opening night of “The Book of Mormon.” That note is important because SCENE doesn’t have set restaurant hours but instead offers bar and food service two hours before all performances in Whitney Hall and the Bomhard Theater, including matinees. For example, if curtain for “The Book of Mormon” is at 7:30 p.m., SCENE opens at 5:30.

The kitchen closes as the performances begin, but bar service is available at intermission and until midnight following performances on Friday and Saturday nights, so guests can continue their fun evening with drinks and discussion of the show.

While the schedule is built around Kentucky Center shows, you don’t have to have a ticket to enjoy the fare.

Executive Chef Scott Darnell says the nonprofit experience makes the job exciting.

“It is a dream come true,” he emphasizes. “It’s very unusual to be in this position, where the overall goal is the patron experience.”

Darnell has 25 years of experience in the food service industry, working for several Louisville-area restaurants, including Le Relais, Lilly’s, Fox Hollow Farms, La Peche and Cheddar Box. His most recent stint was at Somewhere on Bardstown Road. He has extensive experience with Southern-inspired small plates along with fine-dining French, which will likely inspire his menu at SCENE. He said he looks forward to creating an atmosphere of food that blends his classical training with small-plate-focused, homegrown Southern comfort food.

“[The Kentucky Center] wants to focus on as much local as they can and change the menu four times a year, roughly seasonally,” Darnell relates. “It’s part of the performing arts. I’m so in tune with the vibe there.”

He’s just as excited about the food.

“We did gear the menu toward very quick ticket times, so people can get a quick bite to eat and get into the theater,” he says. “I’m also not a fan of the overly pretentious type of food. I like simple food, clean flavors, and I know you eat with your eyes first, so I want it to look really nice.”

Kim Baker, president of The Kentucky Center, affirms that visitors are its top priority: “We hope they will see this as yet another reason to create memorable experiences here. We’ve made every effort to enhance the visitor experience, and that includes bringing a seasoned chef on board to help create the atmosphere for a wonderful time.”

Menu selections include soups, salads, a selection of six small-plate dishes, sides and daily dessert specials. Small-plate dishes include butternut and black bean tostadas with avocado creme, cast iron seared crab cakes with fresh dill and caper aioli, and hamburgers with local beef and Kenny’s Cheddar, caramelized onion and bacon on a pretzel bun. Share warm pimento cheese dip with friends or warm up with a bowl white bean and chicken chili before the show. Locally grown produce will be used when available, depending on the season.

“My wife’s sister is a produce farmer out of Frankfort,” Darnell shares. “We’re using their winter squashes. In the summer, I’ll call them and ask what they picked yesterday, and that will be in my kitchen the next morning. We’re getting beef out of Princeton, Kentucky, and we’re using local pretzel buns.”

There is a children’s menu, which includes chicken tenders, flatbread cheese pizza, buttered noodles and a burger so even choosy little ones can nosh.

All items will be served small-plate style via counter service, with food being brought to the table.

“They’re letting me work with high-end ingredients, and that makes my job so easy,” Darnell concludes. VT