Photo by Erica Techo.
Capers on Park Avenue
Chef Jay Roberson serves food at his new restaurant, Capers on Park Avenue.
Capers on Park Avenue, a hub for “soul food with a flair,” opened its doors July 15.
Located in the auditorium at Artists on the Bluff, executive chef Jay Roberson said his goal is to bring in chef-driven menus that feature upscale meat-and-three dishes and a variety of nationalities.
“I’m not necessarily trying to compete or take business from anybody else,” Roberson said. “I want to be our own thing, so there will be times when I’ll do oriental dishes, I may do some tofu dishes that I get in Atlanta.”
Roberson grew up in Bluff Park and kicked off his culinary career at 13, working as a dishwasher at Savage’s Bakery. He has since worked as kitchen manager at Incahoots, executive sous chef at The Summit Club, executive chef at Riverchase Country Club and owned his own restaurant, Capers Comfort Foods, in Alabaster.
His path through different kitchens has influenced his work as a chef and restaurant owner. While at Incahoots, Roberson worked with builders and he carried their lessons on glazing cabinetry and strong furnishing elements into Capers on Park Avenue. He also uses the strategy of teaching employees about all levels of the business — from washing dishes to cooking.
“That’s what I do now, which is the only way you can bring somebody on board is bring them on, teach them everything you know and expect them to do everything you do,” Roberson said. “Like they say, it could all be theirs one day.”
Customers from Capers Comfort Foods in Alabaster, which shut down on July 16, 2007, came up for the new restaurant’s soft opening.
“Half of the people in here today were from down there,” Roberson said on the restaurant’s second day.
The location in Artists on the Bluff denotes a partnership between the venue and the restaurant. He brings people to the art, and AOTB brings people to the food.
“If I bring people in that see the art and see what this is all about, it’s extremely important for Hoover, in my opinion, and Bluff Park,” Roberson said.
Linda Williams, director and consultant for Artists on the Bluff, said she looks forward to having the restaurant as an extra perk for visitors.
“The restaurant is just the icing on the cake, for people taking classes, having their portrait done,” Williams said. “It just brings this community so much together.”
Staff member Belle Jordan said Capers on Park Avenue fits with the feel of Artists on the Bluff.
“We’re unique as far as that goes. You can go to a museum and get lunch, but the atmosphere is totally different,” Jordan said.
During its first days open, Roberson said he was impressed with the turnout. And while he looks forward to growing the business and brining in new employees, he also said he hopes growth will occur slowly.
“I’ve only been two days, and I’m not even inviting [customers and friends] up, I’ll be honest with you,” he said. “It’s over the top. With what we’re doing already, and we’re trying to get our feet wet – a soft opening kind of thing, but we’ve got to get used to this.”
The restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday, and Roberson said he hopes to add dinner on Thursday and Friday, as well as an upscale breakfast on Saturday in the future. While no date is set for these expansions, Roberson said he thinks cooler weather might bring the opportunity for more business.
He is also working with Artists on the Bluff by catering meetings held in the on-site boardroom and volunteering food and time for fundraisers.
“Good food and good service, all of that goes together, so there’s no telling what will happen,” Roberson said.