Sean Brock has opened four restaurants in Nashville in the last two years, each meant to showcase a different style from the places that launched his career, McCrady’s and Husk in Charleston. Now the chef is debuting June, his new Nashville restaurant, and making a full-circle return to the maximalist tasting experiences for which he gained fame well over a decade ago.
A press release announcing the opening of June in East Nashville’s McFerrin Park neighborhood this week calls it the chef’s most ambitious restaurant to date, the culmination of Brock’s two decades in the industry. Dinner entails 20 or more courses over two to three hours. The menu, which Brock plans to change twice a season, is divided into five “acts”: canapes, water, land, dessert, and petit fours, and emphasizes “extreme seasonality,” according to the release. June is located above Audrey, Brock’s most recent restaurant, in the same Meridian Street building, and seats around 32 guests across nine tables.
The opening announcement emphasizes the role of the restaurant’s research and development lab, which was first introduced with the opening of Audrey as a way to supplement Brock’s stated goal of using organic, biodynamic, and sustainable ingredients. A representative says that while the lab continues to contribute to Audrey, it plays a “huge” role in menu development at June, particularly in the plan to produce eight menus a year — utilizing ingredients in the lab “at the peak of their quality.”
So what the hell is the lab? If you’re thinking something along the lines of a large-scale, multi-level research and food production center, think again. It’s basically a small test kitchen visible from June’s dining room that’s outfitted with various pieces of equipment to modify, infuse, or otherwise control ingredients and products. A representative provided the following examples of machines used in the lab:
- Incubator rooms: Made up of a a space heater, mister system, and fan connected to a temperature and humidity sensors, these are used for growing koji mold, primarily, but also to culture cheeses and mushrooms and to dehydrate and ferment. “One of the two incubators has been converted to an aging room for misos, shoyus and other fermenting products,” says a representative.
- Ultrasonic homogenizer: June says this machine is mostly for making dressings and sauces with “ingredients that normally wouldn’t mix,” using the power of sound waves, which apparently vibrate at a high enough frequency to infuse ingredients quickly without using heat.
- Microwave extractor: If this one sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the machine used for cannabis terpene extraction, in which terpenes are isolated for use in products. June uses it to extract flavor from things like vegetable peelings, corn silk, or other vegetable byproducts. Microwave radiation heats up the ingredient, evaporating the natural water inside its cells and pulling out the ingredient’s flavors and aromas.
June is a continuation of Brock’s homage to his Appalachian-born maternal grandmother — Audrey is her first name, June her middle. He’s credited her as his biggest inspiration for his cooking career, specifically her mastery of butchering, beekeeping, gardening, and preserving. While June continues to highlight products from the American South — deer, paw paw, and sweet potato, for example — Brock is also incorporating more rare and “extraordinary” ingredients than at Audrey, he says, and aims to use more modern, “envelope-pushing” techniques. Sample dishes include a snow crab, freeze dried buttermilk, and parsnip pudding; uni, sweet potato, spinach, and citrus blossoms; and black cod, celeriac, and cabbage. If Audrey’s interior sets a lively, casual tone with a purposefully patchwork feel, June is more toned down and earnest, a minimalist space made up of dark wood and spa-like touches and centered around an open kitchen with a custom-built stove.
His fifth restaurant in two years, Brock has called June his last restaurant for a long time, or maybe ever, a compelling but hard-to-believe possibility. Either way, it might be his most extravagant — reservations go for $250 per person, with the option to add a zero-proof pairing for $100 and a regular drink pairing for $180. Bookings are released on a monthly basis are there is currently availability for seats at the end of July and August. See more of June’s lab, food, and interior below.