Pierce to reimagine British cuisine at Marshall Free House

by Kristi Maier

| @triadfoodies

Local star chef Jay Pierce is headed back to the Triad. After a brief stint with Rocksalt in Charlotte, Pierce, who formerly worked for Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, has been lured back to Greensboro to become Executive Chef of The Marshall Free House, a UK-inspired Gastropub and flagship restaurant for the Marty Kotis company, Kick Ass Concepts.

Pierce will begin his new role on September 22 at MFH, but Kotis says the chef will eventually oversee all of the restaurants in the group, including Darryl’s Wood-fired Grill, Burger Warfare and Pig Pounder Brewery. Kotis says, “We’re really excited to be able to convince him to come back to our area. Jay will be able to offer his team members the opportunity to grow and move up within the company with what we are doing in Greensboro, as well as any expansion in other cities.”

That means Pierce will be involved in future projects as well, including a couple of new concepts that Kotis has up his sleeve, like the new beer garden and speakeasy that will be located near the Railyard in Downtown Greensboro and an Argentine Restaurant & Tapas spot called the Vineyard Grill, which will be located behind the Village Tavern off of Battleground Avenue. Kotis is also toying around with the idea of a savory biscuit place, also in the newly dubbed “Midtown” area. In the future, Kotis says we should also see Pierce overseeing an anticipated Midtown Farmers Market, an urbantype outdoor market featuring local produce and provisions.

“Jay fits with what we want to do with our restaurants,” Kotis says. “He’s always been one of my favorite chefs. And when he worked for Lucky 32, we didn’t want to pull him away from what he was doing there. But when he left for Rocksalt, I thought there might be a way we could bring him back. He was fair game.” But, Kotis says, Pierce was still chosen from a number of wellnoted chefs from across the country”¦ major cities like New Orleans, Orlando and Las Vegas. “Now,” Kotis adds, “his direction will be to take MFH to a new level and add more funky gastropub fare, mixing it up to add other ethnicities, as well as some Southern food. And, with his recent experience, we know he’ll up our seafood game.” Pierce also joins Quaintance-Weaver alum, Bart Ortiz, who’s now the President and COO at Kick Ass Concepts.

Pierce is nationally renowned who’s most recent connection to the local area was his long tenure at QW’s Lucky 32. Before that, he worked in Emeril Lagasse restaurants in New Orleans and Orlando. In addition to numerous articles, blog posts and public appearances, he’s now an author. The book, Shrimp, was released this past spring.

When Chef Pierce took the job at Rocksalt, his family stayed in the Triad. He admits that he couldn’t stay away from Greensboro. “The distance from my family, who stayed in High Point because of Guilford County schools, was too great,” he says. “Rocksalt needs more, so it is a win-win for me to return home to such a wonderful opportunity and now Rocksalt can get someone who can focus more and travel less.”

Pierce plans to rekindle relationships with local farmers and purveyors and make good use of Kotis’ own Haw River Farm, which brings in herbs, pumpkin and other produce, and water, which is trucked in from the farm a couple of times a week. “My focus is sustainability and food with a narrative and connection to a place,” Pierce says. “I’m excited that the Free House has a farm and a brewery and is very inspired by authenticity.” He adds, “Exploring traditional British cuisine reimagined within the context of a restaurant in the Piedmont region of NC, with a scientific laboratory at your disposal, sounds like a fantastic journey.”

After a few weeks of getting settled, the official takeover begins in early October. Says Pierce, “I’m a firm believer in food as entertainment. We are here to educate and entertain, and that is the cornerstone of Kick Ass Concepts. We’re going to have a good time.” Kotis echoed that sentiment, “We want food to taste great, that have flavors that people understand. A clean approach to ingredients. And we want people to be comfortable in our restaurants, to be able to laugh and have a good time, and not necessarily have to be quiet. That’s not what we’re about. We’re just 3 guys who grew up in the kitchens of restaurants. It’s exciting to watch this organization come together.” !


The Marshall Free House is located 1211 Battleground Avenue, Greensboro.

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