EXECUTIVE CHEF – JOHN BAUSONE
Chef John Bausone grew up in Cleveland, OH, where he fell in love with food through frequent visits to the West Side Market with his family. His mother was a caterer, so cooking with fresh ingredients was ingrained in Bausone’s lifestyle from an early age. He began working in restaurants when he was just 13, his first job with a local Italian deli and bakery. Then in 2003, Bausone opened his own eatery, Arabica Cafe, where he served pastries, sandwiches and soups.
After five years of operating and managing Arabica Cafe, Bausone decided it was time to truly hone his culinary skills. He moved to Portland, OR, to study at Chef Studio under luminary Robert Reynolds, who had an extensive background in French cooking. It was there that Bausone developed a passion and flair for creative dishes curated from fresh, local and sustainable ingredients.
While studying at Chef Studio, Bausone made a point to immerse himself in Portland restaurants and culture. He cooked at Artemis Foods and later assisted Courtney Sproule with the Din Din Supper Club. Bausone moved back to Cleveland in 2011, when the local food scene was just beginning to flourish. Over the next five years he gained experience at Beachland Ballroom, Grovewood Tavern and Forest Hill Kitchen.
Bausone joined Buffalo Nickel in September 2016 and immediately began to develop a new menu that highlighted his personal take on food. His inspiration came from the term “americana,” and the fact that America is a melting pot of people and cultures. The base is traditional southern fare, but Bausone brings an ethnic influence to each dish while using local, seasonal ingredients.
The menu is simple and approachable, but taken up a notch through the use of quality products and Bausone’s attention to detail. He puts thought into every ingredient and every stage of the cooking process. According to Bausone, 90% of cooking is caring about what you are doing. If you respect the food and the people, that feeling will come through on every plate delivered to the table.
When Bausone isn’t donning a chef jacket you can find him exploring the great outdoors through hiking, backpacking, camping or paddling. He also enjoys gardening, music, exploring the city and, of course, spending time with his wife and three children.
MIXOLOGIST – JAMES FRENCH
Mixologist James French grew up in Shreveport, LA, where his first foray into the restaurant business was a casual, part-time job at a roadhouse-style steakhouse. He then moved on to serving at a local bistro for a few years before temporarily transitioning out of the industry.
French moved to Asheville in May 2014 in pursuit of a more relaxed lifestyle and a chance to break away from all things familiar. Shortly after his arrival, French began working at The Biltmore, where he assisted with banquets, weddings and other events. Then in August 2014 he joined Buffalo Nickel as a server and immediately utilized his hotel experience to become a model to his colleagues.
Soon after, French left The Biltmore to work full-time with Buffalo Nickel. He was cross-trained so he could fill-in behind the bar as needed, but shortly after was shifted exclusively to that role.
Without any formal training as a mixologist, French hit the books and began studying classic cocktails. He drew his inspiration from traditional drinks, such as the Manhattan and Old Fashion, and added a Louisiana influence.
French’s cocktails are simple, featuring just enough to take the edge off the liquor but still pack a punch. His favorite to make is The Carrier Street, an original recipe for Buffalo Nickel, which includes mckenna, velvet falernum, perucchi vermouth and bitters. While the drinks are kept simplified, where French really gets creative is with details such as craft ice cubes, spice rims and absinthe rinses.
But when he finishes a long shift behind the bar mixing cocktails for other folks, French usually opts to pour himself a simple pint of craft beer. He is not a “hop head” though, and instead prefers Belgian style beers or sours.
According to French, what sets Buffalo Nickel apart from other Asheville establishments is the close-knit staff and high quality of food and drinks offered within a semi-casual environment. Customers can come in and shoot pool or watch sports but still get served a top-notch meal.