Seasons Innovative Bar & Grille chef pays attention to the details
A formative moment in Deron Little’s development as a chef came on Page One of the 923-page Escoffier Cookbook. Under the heading “Basic Principles of Cookery,” M. Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935) wrote, “Indeed, stock is everything in cooking, at least in French cooking. Without it, nothing can be done. If one’s stock is good, what remains of the work is easy; if, on the other hand, it is bad or merely mediocre, it is quite hopeless to expect anything approaching a satisfactory result.”
Little starts with excellent ingredients for his stock and cooks it down for 36 hours to produce the veal glace on Seasons’ Black Angus Filet Mignon. “It will change your life,” he says. The aged center-cut house-rubbed pepper-crusted filet itself is so soft in texture that it truly melts in your mouth, with the flavors of caramelized onion, torched bleu cheese, and rosemary working together with the garlic mashed potatoes. “It’s a symphony,” says Little. “Nothing fights against each other. It’s a piece of art.” No one is arguing: Little has put his culinary magic to the test in many Cityview Top Chefs competitions, and he has placed near the top every time.
Pre-COVID, Little’s Turkey Creek restaurant was packed both inside and in the generous patio area with loyal Farragut neighbors and fine diners who had heard about the Roasted Corn Bisque and come to taste for themselves. Then came the lockdown—and the biggest challenge of Little’s career. “He was tenacious, determined, often hard-headed,” says Cityview publisher Nathan Sparks. “He had the drive to outlast the adversity. He found a way when most people would have hung it up.”
Nowadays, diners like Michelle and John Holztrager are regulars for Wednesday half-price salads and wines, then show up on weekends for scrumptious dinners. There are plenty of patrons like them outside, in the patio, and in the main area—socially distanced throughout. They get great attention from a wait staff that does an outstanding job of anticipating the needs of diners in the three distinct areas.
Many Seasons loyals come just for their favorite appetizers and small plates. Top raves go to the unique texture and taste of the Sesame-Seared Ahi Tuna, sliced to perfection and served with soy sauce, wasabi cream, Thai cucumber relish, and a hint of Cajun seasoning. The wild-caught grilled Gulf Shrimp come with three different wild, sautéed mushrooms, garlic cream sauce, truffle-scented arugula, and white truffle oil.
Seasons fans like the Holztragers appreciate Little’s elegant variations on old favorites like the Iceberg Lettuce Wedge—with grape tomatoes, bleu cheese crumbles, crisp smoked bacon, red onion, home-made bleu cheese dressing, and balsamic reduction—and the Summer Tomato Salad of organic California baby greens, arugula, vine ripened tomatoes, truffle ricotta blend, sliced red onion, fresh avocado, balsamic reduction, and white balsamic vinaigrette.
Similarly, Little brings unique touches of visual artistry to entrées like his herb-encrusted Rack of Lamb, with Kentucky mint bourbon sauce with grapes, bleu cheese, and mashed potatoes; and his Duo of Maple Leaf Farms Muscovy Duck. This combines Chinese-five-spice-scented smoked duck with a duck sausage, served with honey strawberry compote on a quinoa-wild rice blend.
The desserts are made fresh in-house by Deron’s son Dane. They are hard to resist and even harder to choose between from a list that includes White Chocolate & Strawberry Reduction Custard, Millionaire’s Chocolate Torte, Pina Colada Bread Pudding, Coconut Crowned Key Lime Pie, and Red Velvet Cheesecake.
Part of Seasons’ success has been its emphasis on moderate prices, and this tradition continues in the post-COVID era. Like a good neighborhood spot, Seasons is still a surprisingly good deal.