Watershed on Peachtree Road has been sold to chef Matt Marcus—the former executive chef of Portofino and Bluetop. The restaurant was founded by Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls) and Ross Jones along with their partners Leslie Zweben and Susan Owens in 1998. Watershed is known for its refined takes on classic Southern dishes.
Marcus took ownership of Watershed on Wednesday and tells Eater Atlanta he is keeping the name.
Watershed will continue service as usual under current chef Zeb Stevenson through Sunday brunch this weekend. Stevenson will then turn the kitchen over to its new chef/owner. Marcus plans to close the restaurant on Monday to revamp the a la carte menu and add a new tasting menu before reopening as the “reimagined” Watershed Tuesday, April 17.
Just what “reimagined” will look like for this perennial Atlanta favorite remains to be seen.
Eater Atlanta spoke with Jones on Thursday afternoon regarding the decision to sell Watershed after 20 years.
“This was a very difficult decision but we came to the conclusion that it was time to begin a new chapter of our lives,” Jones says of the sale. “I can’t describe the tremendous impact this restaurant has had on my life over the last 20 years and the lives of my business partners. It’s been an honor, and we are so proud of what Watershed has become and means to Atlanta.”
Jones says she and her business partners feel positive about Watershed’s future under Marcus who they call “enthusiastic” and “respectful” of the restaurant’s legacy and the impact its had on the Atlanta dining scene.
“While our chapter with Watershed is ending, this isn’t the end of Watershed. That makes us all so happy.”
Stevenson was tasked with delivering the news to his staff Thursday and says it’s his understanding some will remain with the restaurant.
“These people are more than coworkers, they’re family. I’m very protective of them. I didn’t think I was going to be emotional, but these are my people and they mean a great deal to me. It was a hard.”
Jones and Saliers brought Stevenson on in 2014 following the departure of chef Joe Truex. Stevenson immediately began to breathe new life into the restaurant and arguably brought Watershed’s food to its pinnacle.
Prior to Watershed, Stevenson was the executive chef at Parish in Inman Park. Before that, he worked in the kitchen at the Livingston at the Georgian Terrace Hotel. One of his most talked about events with the Livingston was the “blood dinner” he hosted with chefs Ryan Smith (Staplehouse), Josh Hopkins (Empire State South), and Tyler Williams (formerly of Tap).
“We adore Zeb. He’s been such a huge part of Watershed’s success over the last three years,” says Jones. “We want to keep working with him. We have something in the works with Zeb for the future. That’s our next chapter. We will reappear. This will be Zeb’s moment to shine.”
Stevenson didn’t divulge much more on his future with Jones and Saliers but confirmed their relationship isn’t over and more details regarding the new venture would be forthcoming.
“Ross, Emily, and my team at Watershed are family. These last three years with them have been so incredible,” Stevenson says. “I’m proud to have been a part of this chapter and am excited for the next phase of my career with Emily and Ross.”
Chef Anne Quatrano (Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Floataway Cafe) was Watershed’s opening chef in 1998 before chef Scott Peacock came on board in 1999. Following his departure in 2010, Jones and Saliers relocated Watershed to its current location at the Brookwood in Brookwood Hills after 13 years in Decatur. The move proved successful, with the restaurant gaining a fresh following among Atlanta’s in-town residents and business tourists.
Eater Atlanta is working to gather more details on Watershed’s future under Marcus.
Updated April 6, 10 a.m.: The story has been updated to reflect the new reopening date. It was set for Thursday, April 12.