Bryant “Chef Baul” Williams, who recently served as the private chef for Atlanta hip-hop trio Migos during their 20-stop world tour, plans to open “soul food kitchen and bar” Chef’d Up in the Old Fourth Ward, the AJC first reported. The restaurant should open in September.
Chef’d Up takes over a somewhat troubled restaurant space in the Highland Walk apartment complex at the corner of Highland Avenue and Sampson Street. P’cheen, Last Word, Cast Iron, and, most recently, The Barrelhouse have all opened and closed there over the last five years.
Williams, who grew tired of being a private chef, spent the last several months developing his plans for the restaurant and moved quickly when the Barrelhouse closed in May. The chef says he’s not concerned about the location’s turnover history. He simply wants people to embrace him and his food in the Old Fourth Ward.
“I was concerned that no one had brought this kind of food to the community. It’s a nice location. I don’t even think about that [the restaurant closures],” Williams tells Eater Atlanta of his decision to open in Old Fourth Ward. “I just know what I’ve gotta bring to the table. I’ve spent a lot of time over there, and you can’t find what I’m offering in that area. I’m just staying down, selling plates to the streets.”
Williams plans to make changes to both the interior and exterior of the building, giving it a “more earthy feel” influenced by restaurants he has visited throughout the United Kingdom and in Amsterdam.
The menu will likely reflect Williams’s world travels as well as his vegetarian lifestyle. Dishes could range from pork chop lollipops, ribeye steak, and stuffed lobster tail to salads with CBD-infused dressings and an Impossible burger. Williams employs French cooking techniques in many dishes, like his hoisin-glazed salmon. He’s working on a recipe for brunch tacos that incorporates South African spices.
Chef’d Up also includes a full bar serving cocktails.
Williams began his culinary career working at Atlanta’s Cafe Intermezzo when he was just 17 years old. He washed dishes, working his way up to sous chef, before striking out on his own. After departing Cafe Intermezzo, the chef started cooking and selling his food online, using Instagram to simulate the direct-to-consumer model that has long benefitted hip-hop music entrepreneurs.
For the past five years, Williams has prepared meals, shared photos of his dishes, and announced when each dish would be available for pick-up via Instagram. He then collected money online and provided an address for customers to pick up their food orders — sometimes at his home and other times from the trunk of his car at a pre-determined location.
Once a dish went live on Instagram, Williams claims it would sell out in 15 minutes.
Williams became connected to his celebrity clients through an old high school friend, a rapper named Johnny Cinco. Cinco had a recording contract with Quality Control Music, home to Migos, Lil’ Baby, and other Atlanta-based trap musicians, and invited Williams to sell his food at the label’s recording studio.
Since that time, Williams has prepared food for celebrities and sports stars such as rapper Kendrick Lamar and Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones as well as other visiting celebrities and musicians.
He was also featured on the Atlanta episode of the Thrillist web video series “Instachef”. Williams prepared hoisin-glazed salmon topped with sautéed shrimp served with a side of lobster mac and cheese for Atlanta rap legend Big Boi (Outkast) during the episode. Last year, he published his first cookbook called “Chef Baul’s Instafavorites”. The cookbook highlights 25 recipes Williams says took him “all over the world,” ranging from cilantro-lime scallops with smoked gouda grits to fried oyster and lobster tacos.
In January, Williams threw a pop-up at downtown lounge oAK Atlanta on Ivan Allen Boulevard. It sold out quickly and served as confirmation that it was time for Williams to finally open his own restaurant.
“I’m from Atlanta, so I know what Atlanta loves, and from traveling the world, I bring little things back to the nest that everybody doesn’t get a chance to experience.”
Chef’d Up will be open for lunch, brunch, and dinner. Hours are still being determined. Previews prior to the official opening might include a few celebrity friends and some of his former celebrity clients.
701 North Highland Avenue NE, Atlanta.