Chef Robert McDonald | Bistro by the Tracks


Bistro By the Tracks Chef Robert McDonald III grew up in Fountain City. His grandfather Bob was a TVA engineer. His father Robert practices family medicine in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Robert III started cooking when his family put in a gas fireplace on their back deck. “I had access to a grill anytime I wanted,” says McDonald. “I’d be grilling burgers, and friends would start coming over.” His next culinary step was on backpacking trips with his dad, cooking Rice A Roni on the camp stove.

At Central High, McDonald was an actor. His senior year he played Marryin’ Sam in L’il Abner. He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City for a year, then returned in 2003 and worked at the Creamery Park Grille. 

McDonald was breaking down the grill when he met his future wife, Jennifer. In 2005, they moved to Los Angeles looking for Robert’s big break, then moved back to Knoxville and got married in 2006. They have two kids, Liam, 11, and Audrey, 8. McDonald did some community theatre—his last role was the Butler in Theatre Knoxville’s A Flea in Her Ear in 2010—while continuing to pursue his passion in the culinary arts.

“The acting helps you present your work. I love having a stage and having fun and talking to people. I enjoy the opportunity to play a little bit and show off. We try to be different and unexpected with the menu and our wine pairings. We try to branch out and show off a little bit more than the normal bistro fare.”

Appetizer: Fried chicken skins with basil crème fraiche and caviar, paired with Brut Yellow Label 

Entrée: Miso-cured salmon, ginger butter, sautéed strawberry and mushrooms, paired with Yealands Estate SV Pinot Noir 

Dessert: Sponge cake with mango and white chocolate, paired with Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

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