As a thriving metropolis, Atlanta is the home to an expansive list of actors, entertainers, athletes, major corporations and has more recently made another name for itself -the “Hollywood of the South” – as film production within the city continues to boom.
But in the eyes of hometown native,T.I., Atlanta is missing something.
He looks to fill that void when he opens the doors to his upscale restaurant located in historic downtown Atlanta, off Ivan Allen Boulevard, in early March.
Just days after news broke of his plans to become a restaurateur, T.I. gave me a sneak peek into the vision of his first culinary venture – an upscale restaurant featuring Southern cuisine cleverly named Scales 925.
“You can get Southern cuisine all around town, but where can you experience Southern cuisine in Atlanta with a happy hour, a rooftop overlooking the city and a lounge?” T.I.P. asks aloud.
“Jeezy and I ride around Atlanta all the time and there is nowhere to go besides Magic City. Strip clubs are becoming some of our best restaurants- it’s filling the gap. People go to Club Cheetah and Magic City not just for the entertainment always, but simply to eat and be social.”
Passionately frustrated yet fervently optimistic, the self-described King of the South holds high expectations for his city.
“We should be cutting-edge economically, socially, in everything! The population has evolved and businesses should follow. There is a strong need because of our diverse population,” states the multi-faceted mogul.
Familiar to the four and five star dining scenes of New York, Las Vegas, Miami, and Los Angeles- which include critically acclaimed West Hollywood hot spot Soho House – T.I. quickly noticed the lack of exclusive venues; or venues that capture the experience that is.
He observed that Atlanta lacked the “cool factor.”
“We don’t have any members’ only venues,” expressed T.I. “Where can Michael Jordan go and enjoy a cigar in comfort? I wanted to create an atmosphere where you could have a nice meal, a drink or socialize and one where it could be done effortlessly. Scales 925 is a representation of me and the things I look for as a consumer. ”
Comparable to premier award-winning steakhouses Mastro’s and Ruth’s Chris, T.I.P. plans to deliver an unrivaled high-end dining experience never before seen in Atlanta; but Scales 925 will execute it with a Southern flare.
Ardent about not classifying Scales 925 as soul food, this rising restaurateur aspires to reach a broader demographic with the dash of a secret ingredient- the WOW factor.
“It’s Southern cuisine but with an upscale vibe- good food without the cafeteria feel,” explained T.I.P. “We will have steak, lobster, and seafood- but it won’t be our specialty. We will look like an Ocean Prime or Mastro’s. ”
Although a choice has not been made as to who will be titled head chef of Scales 925, Chef Ashley, T.I.P’s private chef of eight years is a front runner after initial tastings at the restaurant’s chef’s table.
Chef Ashley, CEO of Chef Ashley Inc., is no stranger to the celebrity culinary scene having begun her career with former NBA basketball star Charles Barkley. She continued to share her culinary style- fusion– with everyone from Kanye West to Tyler Perry, Floyd Mayweather, and Ludacris.
“Salmon is not a traditional plate,” he notes. “But when you pair it with mac and cheese- it is. Chef Ashley likes to call it fusion ” said the multimillion-selling Grammy winner.
Both are natives of Atlanta and agree on one thing: “Creating the experience,” as cited on Chef Ashley’s company webpage.
With a childlike innocence, this modern day jack-of-all-trades disclosed his longtime aspirations of one day becoming a restaurateur, “I’ve always wanted to own a restaurant,” said the mega-successful rapper, CEO, philanthropist, father and actor. “Chef Ashley and I have held previous conversations about a restaurant idea and through the grace of God, here we are.”
When asked about Southwest Salmon – his favorite dish from Chef Ashley- the Bankhead ambassador paused, finally offering that “taste can’t be described in words, it has to be experienced.”
Devoted T.I.P fans recognize the significance of numerals 925 in the restaurant name as symbols of his birth month and year- September 25. This date characterizes him as Libra who is recognized by measuring scales on the zodiac calendar.
“There is a lot of balance in life,” he said, “Life is about trying to balance. So the scales signify that balance in life…business and pleasure, wants and needs, contemporary and traditional, private and public, nutrients and sweets. We’re going to reach a broad spectrum. We’re open to the public but we will reach the upper echelon too.”
The hands-on future restaurateur continued with a brief layout of the venue.
“The restaurant is on the main floor and is open to the public. The second floor is a private dining chef’s table. The third floor is exclusive to members only and the fourth floor is the rooftop patio overlooking the city.”
While coyly responding “You never know” when I inquired about the possibility of seeing him adorned in the kitchen clad in a top chef hat, one thing is obvious – he is focused and absolute.
Remember – he is a businessman About the Money; he knows what he wants.
T.I. established the concept and caliber of the upcoming restaurant while intrinsically disclosing his personal taste- resulting in his introduction to the world as a restaurateur.
Seeing his genuine ambition to solve the absence of an experience worthy enough for himself- an A-List celebrity – one can only deduce that Scales 925 will be an experience fitting of a king.
His concept is simple: Create the juxtaposition of the high life while providing hearty Southern cuisine.
More evident than ever, No Mediocre was more than a title from his most recent album Paperwork– it was his modus operandi.
Atlanta should have high expectations for Scales 925.
To see where Ashley goes next, follow her at @ashleyriane on Twitter.