Published on October 3rd, 2019 | by Elizabeth Tettleton0
Julep Steakhouse & Flights: A Conversation with Owner Clint Boutwell
He’s got five restaurants under his eye, but Chef Clint Boutwell doesn’t have his sights set on a Star or a Beard. Clint is here for one thing: to serve quality food that is, well, approachable. When I had the opportunity to sit down with Clint and discuss his recently opened Julep, I wasn’t surprised he wanted me to come again during service hours and let me try the menu. A few days later I was able to try some of his favorites, which we’ll discuss in a moment, but most inspiring was hearing how this Mississippi-local restaurateur has come to find his place in the kitchen, observing how he empowers his staff, and witnessing how he is challenging the Oxford culinary scene to reexamine how they consume fine dining.
Serving Fish for B.B. King
Clint Boutwell began his career in Greenwood, Mississippi, working for a utility company when a friend of his and head chef at Giardina’s restaurant asked him to hang out with him at work at the restaurant one night.
Although the restaurant had been in operation since 1936, Fred Carl had recently acquired Giardina’s with the intention of placing it inside of the present-Alluvian Hotel he was remodeling. Boutwell eventually was offered a job on sauté at the restaurant, and the opportunity to switch from the utility industry to one that he could see himself in long term. Three weeks after the new restaurant location opened at Alluvian, with Boutwell on saute, their kitchen fed B.B. King and 25 or so of his guests with only a few-hours’ notice.
Boutwell was challenged to execute new sauté methods he had only just learned that week in order to meet the accumulating ticket orders. The first time he landed and mastered flipping two fish in a skillet to pull double duty was the moment he knew: this adrenaline rush life of the kitchen was for him.
“I had no choice but to try to do what I had only done a few times before . . . flipping the fish in the pan with no spatula,” Boutwell said. “I tossed the single fish in the air and it landed with a little splash of oil on my arm and it burned. I just kept going.”
Boutwell moved on two fish at a time to meet the demands of his head chef, spout orders over the flames and pouring on more heat. “I grabbed each pan, on in each hand, each pan holding two red snapper, flipped them up in the air and they landed perfectly! At that moment an adrenaline rush came over me I’d never experienced. At that moment, while cooking B.B. King’s fish, I knew then I wanted to become a chef.”
Chef Boutwell is the owner of five restaurants: Oxford Grillhouse, Julep, The Grillehouse Southaven, Attaboy! Brick Oven Pizza & Wings (Southaven), and his most recent addition, Tipsy Texan Grill & Cantina (Southaven).
Julep Brings Steak + Flights to Oxford
There aren’t many places in Oxford to find a premium steak, and Clint Boutwell answered the call in 2011 when he opened Oxford Grillehouse on Jackson Avenue, next to Rice and Spice. He later relocated to the Historic Oxford Square below Rooster’s Blues House in 2013 and brought his Giardina’s inspired curtain booths to pay homage to where he started his culinary career.
“If I could have added 50 seats onto Oxford Grillehouse, I would have done that. I couldn’t, so I set out to try out a new concept and still offer steaks to provide more of what my customers want.”
The Julep menu boasts many of the familiar fan favorites from the Oxford Grillehouse menu with some locally-inspired favorites like the Catfish Lafitte (Downtown Grill, in the current and renovated Bouré location) and Cabernet Glaze (an ode to Yocona River Inn). The largest difference, and my favorite of the evening, were the flights that Julep offers. Perfect for a person like me who wants to try a smorgasbord and not just stick to one entrée.
For the appetizers, you won’t be disappointed with the Korean bulgogi BBQ sauce and wasabi pea-smothered calamari or the salmon flight (the smoked salmon on cucumber and toast was gorgeous and life changing). On the salad flight (yes! A salad flight) my favorite was definitely the “A Berry Good Salad,” that boasts spring mix, a house made strawberry balsamic vinaigrette, seasonal berries, red onion, cucumber, herbed goat cheese, and toasted almonds.
The main courses are where it’s at. Chef Boutwell brings his steaks he is known for in Oxford front and center with the Lobster Oscar Heart of Ribeye, resting on top of grilled asparagus and smothered with a garlic sautéed lobster meat/smoked tomato hollandaise. If filet is more your style, definitely give the porcini and portabella marsala with melty blue cheese topped-filet your undivided attention.
If you have room after that, Ryan Glover from the bar will happily entertain your taste buds with his Yoo-hoo inspired flight with a Strawberry, Cookies and Cream, and Chocolate Yoo-hoo cocktail trio. Pair that with Avril Tatum’s Soda Pop Flight desserts and you’ll be waddling to your metered parking spot with a host of Instagood shots to rave home about.