Accomplished Chef to Launch Downtown Restaurant
It’s finally happening. We’ve dreamed of it for years. Chef James Roberts is opening his own restaurant.
Toutant (pronounced “too-tawnt”), named for Roberts’ great grandfather’s trapping and fishing camp on the South Louisiana marshland, will occupy the space adjacent to Seabar and the Ellicott Lofts. Located at 437 Ellicott St., the storefront formerly known as the Golden Swan is an extension of Rocco Termini’s Ellicott project.
Owned and operated by Roberts, Toutant will offer contemporary country cuisine and libations, served in a comfortable, casual setting. Focusing on high-quality, seasonal ingredients, Roberts’ Southern Louisiana roots and dedication to New York’s farming community will provide Buffalo diners with access to modern, fresh cuisine influenced by the American South.
Ideally, Toutant seeks to invoke the memories of its guests’ early childhood family dinners, demonstrating the heart, preparation, and comfort experienced at those gatherings. Guests will enjoy upscale Southern comfort fare from a menu featuring vast amounts of fresh Gulf seafood and shellfish, buttermilk fried chicken, and accurate renditions of numerous Southern favorites like jambalaya, house-smoked sausages, cast iron skillet cornbread, and authentic barbecue offerings. The bar will feature seasonal daiquiris, local beer and wine, as well as hand-selected bourbons, whiskeys, and moonshines, arranged geographically.
The restaurant will occupy the entire building, with seating for approximately 120 diners on three floors. Toutant will create a setting conducive to socializing on all levels, offering an environment suited to all dress codes. A sleek, natural color palette will add warmth to the building’s historic exposed brick walls and wooden architectural elements. Low profile seating and minimalist decorative elements will make the space feel contemporary and well lit.
Roberts, who was born and raised amidst Louisiana’s coastal shrimping and fishing community, began cooking in restaurants professionally while pursuing a secondary education in the medical field with an emphasis on chemistry and biology. During this time, he discovered a passion for the industry, his local cuisine, the kitchen brigade system, and elements of great service and hospitality. This change of heart led to Roberts traveling the country, where he augmented his training, honed his skill set, learned different regional cuisines, and developed a strong management style. Roberts then pursued a culinary degree, and graduated from Johnson & Wales University at the top of his class.
In 2007, the young chef relocated to Buffalo to take on the role of executive chef for an esteemed country club. He fell in love with the area and its people. During his time here, Roberts has been recognized for his remarkable mentoring and leadership skills, with dozens of his young staff members going on to find great success locally and worldwide (including one who competed in the Bocuse d’Or as part of the two-man team representing the U.S. in this Olympic-style worldwide culinary competition). It is also noteworthy that Roberts is the only restaurant industry person to have been invited to speak at TEDxBuffalo, sharing his principles of mentorship with a large national audience.
Expanding his focus outside the walls of his operation, Roberts has embraced the local food movement, developing meaningful relationships with local farmers and food artisans. He also entered and won a regional cooking competition (Nickel City Chef), and has been invited, on two occasions, to cook with internationally lauded chefs during Toronto’s annual Terroir Symposium.
After 20 successful years, Roberts looks forward to the opportunity to fully realize all that he has worked and trained for by opening a restaurant where his cooking abilities, culinary vision, commitment to leadership, and positive, focused management style can be utilized to their full potential. His love of the Western New York region and the city of Buffalo makes Toutant the ideal location for his lifelong goal to be realized.
Toutant is expected to be open in early 2015, and I’ll be counting down the days. Get excited, folks.