Entrepreneur: Russell Davis

Insider
(Photo by Brian Baiamonte)

COMPANY Eliza Restaurant & Bar; JED’s Local Po-boys

POSITION Owner

LOCATION 7970 Jefferson Hwy.; 672 Jefferson Hwy.

WHAT THEY DO Contemporary Creole fare and Southern favorites

NEXT GOALS Open two additional independent concepts in Baton Rouge


STARTING FROM SCRATCH

When he was just a child, Russell Davis developed a love affair with cooking at his grandmother’s Sunday dinners, where she and his Sicilian mother filled the home with the aroma of heartwarming Italian classics. As an adult, the Boston native began his career as a stockbroker but eventually traded his cold desk in Massachusetts for a hot kitchen in the Big Easy. For nearly 16 years, he trained at various New Orleans culinary institutions, including Commander’s Palace, where he met his wife, Sally, and learned the ropes of the restaurant business from members of the Brennan family. He also operated restaurants in California and Boston, and later owned one in New Orleans, before moving to Baton Rouge in 2015 to be closer to family.

FIRING IT UP

In late 2016, the Davis’ opened Eliza Restaurant & Bar on Jefferson Highway, serving small plates of contemporary Creole fare. “Eliza has been embraced by the community wholeheartedly, and we are very thankful for that,” says Davis, who attributes Eliza’s warm reception to his team’s commitment to high-quality dishes and hospitality. Davis prides himself on running a scratch kitchen that follows time-honored recipes, using only Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana seafood products, and locally sourcing as many ingredients as possible. With Eliza off and running, Davis began working on plans for additional restaurant concepts in Baton Rouge that could replicate its success.

EXPANDING THE PALATE

In December, the couple opened their second Baton Rouge restaurant, JED’s Local Po-boys, in another Jefferson Highway space about two miles down the road from Eliza. Inspired by the iconic po-boy shops of New Orleans, the restaurant features the classics along with innovative spins on old favorites, like a fried chicken po-boy on buttered French bread. Davis hopes to open two more independent concepts in the area over the next four years. “Over the last 10 to 15 years, the independent, chef-driven culinary scene here in Baton Rouge has evolved tremendously,” he says, “and I think it has a lot more potential.”

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

To succeed in a highly competitive culinary landscape, Davis values creativity in the kitchen but stresses one shouldn’t strive to be different just for the sake of appearing unique. “Everyone wants to do something different to stand out, but it has to be different in a ways that make the product better,” he says. With that philosophy in mind, he encourages collaboration among his more than 15 employees, creates buy-in by allowing his chefs to develop original recipes and holds his service staff to the highest standards. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned,” he says, “is to really focus on what is happening during service and to make sure the product you are delivering is top notch.”