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Chef Deb Paquette is a staple of the Nashville food scene and has been since 1997 when she and husband Ernie Paquette opened Zola on West End Ave.
The restaurant, which arrived on the scene before Nashville became the culinary destination it is today, caught the attention of those who sought adventure in their dining experience.
Following a 13-year run, Paquette closed Zola but returned two years later to open Etch, a downtown restaurant where she says she could be at her creative best with global flavors and bold presentations.
In August 2016, Paquette opened Etc., a smaller, yet sleeker version of Etch, in Green Hills. The menus at Etc.—lunch, dinner, midday, brunch and others—change with the seasons and incorporate Paquette’s favorite spices, produce and recipes, along with wine, craft beer and cocktails.
Q&A with chef Deb Paquette
I noticed you’re debuting a new fall menu soon. What goes into preparing a new menu for Etc.?
If I’m preparing a new menu and you walk into my bedroom, my entire bed is covered in cookbooks and papers. I go through a lot of books to reinform myself and to look at things I might have missed before. I try to come up with a balanced menu that offers a little of everything. From there, I throw the ideas out to my staff to see what they think and get their opinions. If they don’t care for something, we talk about it, and if it’s a better change, we change it. As long as it’s balanced and when they taste it, it’s going to be yummy.
How do you approach Etc. differently than its sister restaurant, Etch?
Sometimes the food here is a little less complicated because we’re in a neighborhood, so we try to not make things as extensive as downtown. Although it’s less complicated, we still like keeping things in the realm of what I like to do, which is something I call the bastardization of global cuisines. That means I don’t do true Moroccan, true Indian, true Mexican. I tone it down and have to teach the kids that you can’t make food exactly like you would at an Indian restaurant or at home.
You’re coming up on two years here in Green Hills. What do you enjoy about operating a restaurant in this area?
The familiarity. When you’re out somewhere and see someone you know, you get excited. That’s what happens here in Green Hills because people have eaten my food for such a long time. There are even some people I’ve known for 20 or so years when I had Zola’s. It’s exciting for both me and them.
Dylan Skye Aycock is a Nashville-based journalist and photographer. As a reporter for Rover, Aycock follows transportation, housing and retail trends, as well as other hyperlocal and city-wide issues that affect residents in Green Hills and Belle Meade.
She previously contributed written and visual content to The Murfreesboro Pulse, American Songwriter Magazine and The Tennessean. Aycock earned a journalism degree from Middle Tennessee State University, where she honed her craft as editor-in-chief of Sidelines, the university's student-run publication. When she's not out on assignment or live-tweeting city council meetings, you can find her discovering new local spots or catching a show at one of Nashville's many music venues.