Throughout the 200-ish local restaurants I have had the opportunity to personally see launch across the state over the past five and a half years with Rock City Eats and NWA Eats, I have yet to see one with an opening team as impressive as the group forming over at Sauced Bar and Oven. The upcoming restaurant, located in the Market Place Shopping center off Rodney Parham, is loaded with industry vets and some of the best up and coming names around town.
The restaurant is equally divided between a large bar on one side and a large open kitchen on the other. The bar will feature 28 taps, with the majority of those going to local beer. They are also working on an impressive cocktail menu. As good as the bar is though, it will be the kitchen side that shines the brightest at opening.
On the surface the concept seems simple enough with pizza, sandwiches, salads, and a handful of entrees dotting the menu that is close to finalizing. Each of the core kitchen team members could very easily be running restaurants of their own, and in fact most have. Everyone is well balanced and brings a slightly different element to the table.
The kitchen begins with careful attention to meat selection and quality, something director of operations Gwen Jones excels at everywhere she goes. Jones has worked for nearly two years in the Rebel Kettle Kitchen (a place she will continue to manage) building a quality meat focused cajun style menu there. Before that she ran her own Beast Food Truck, a place well known for the quality, as well as several other stops at different restaurants and butcher shops around town. She has made sure that all of the meat used in sauced will be cured, ground, or hand cut in house to carefully match the pizzas and sandwiches.
Along with her is Amanda Ivy, who has become a huge rising star in the local food scene. She has previously worked at several of the Yellow Rocket concepts, ran the day to day operations at the 1836 club, and also runs a personal catering business called Low Ivy. Ivy has been a steady fixture in the food scene lately and always impresses with her skills.
On the pizza oven side Georges Launet who has been a part of basically every major pizza joint in town. Launet helped develop the dough recipe at Raduno, worked for Zaza, and helped run Pizzeria Santa Lucia when it was a food truck, which later turned into The Pizzeria on Kavanaugh. From that food truck pizza oven he has also ran caterings for the past several years.
Speaking of Raduno, former kitchen manager Liv Thompson is also on the team. Thompson has spent time with Yellow Rocket and most recently with Three Fold. She has transitioned by working the kitchen at Rebel Kettle ahead of the Sauced launch and should bring valuable experience and creativity to the team.
Also coming over from Rebel Kettle is Saige Anderson, who has became a bit of a rising star herself. She first made a name doing desserts at Honey Pies, then has quietly shown a huge aptitude on the savory side at Rebel Kettle. Finally rounding out the team is Dillon Bond who spent time with Ivy at 1836 and also worked at South on Main, Oceans and Arthurs, and Prospect Sports bar to name a few. Both of these are well respected up and coming chefs that should make a big impact to come.
The initial team is a bit of a Justice League of a kitchen team, or maybe The Defenders if you factor in Jones’ similarity to Jessica Jones. Most interestingly it is a heavily female led kitchen, making this team even more impressive. From the early food shots they have posted on the Sauced Facebook page it will likely not disappoint.
Sauced is set to open mid-May with a grand opening date coming soon. They will open initially for dinner with pizzas and sandwiches, then slowly transition to lunch service and add dinner entrees, and eventually a brunch option. Once going, the entree list will rotate and always feature a land, sea, and air option to provide a nice balance. They also plan to have catering and private dining options.
There are still some positions in the kitchen remaining to fill. Jones is working hard to make sure all kitchen staff have ample opportunity to improve skills and learn from the talented team assembled. You can email her if interested in a position.