It’s not at all unusual for the Barnsley Resort, nestled in the rolling foothills between Rome, Kingston and Adairsville, to get all gussied up for the holidays.
This year, significant renovations to the resort are of a more permanent nature and include work impacting all of the resort’s dining venues, including a new executive chef.
“We’re always keeping an eye on ways that we can elevate and enhance the overall guest experience. At Woodlands we began to see some areas that were in need of a refresh, such as the setting and décor,” said David Friederich, president of the Barnsley Resort. “As the culinary program has always been one of the premiere draws to Barnsley, we wanted to stay ahead of the curve and give Woodlands Grill and the entire culinary program a refresh to ensure that it remains a leader in the Southern dining field, not only in quality of food and setting, but also in service. Chef (Nicolas) Lebas joined us at an opportune time this fall. His international experience and knowledge have been key in bringing a fresh perspective to this new and elevated guest experience.”
Lebas comes to Barnsley with experience in kitchens from France to Mexico, Florida, Texas, Colorado and California. Immediately prior to joining the executive team at Barnsley, Lebas served as the executive chef consultant to the Universal Hospitality Solutions team in California.
He will supervise day-to-day operations at both of the resort’s primary restaurants, the Rice House and Woodlands Grill, as well as the Beer Garden. His responsibilities also include management of catering services for weddings and other special events across the sprawling 3,000-acre resort.
The three restaurants at Barnsley are different in that the Woodlands Grill features menus for breakfast lunch and dinner. It received a top-to-bottom renovation of its English hunting lodge atmosphere, led by Atlanta-based Gensler interior design company.
Next to the main dining room, the restaurant’s bar — known as Dugan’s — also underwent a complete overhaul including a new, larger bar with a marble countertop. Dugan’s, which creates an aura similar to an old-world men’s cocktail lounge, is home to one-of-a-kind memorabilia of K.O. Dugan, a prized boxer from the 1930s and great-grandson of Godfrey Barnsley, who originally purchased the estate and for whom the resort is named.
Rice House, located in a 19th century farmhouse which was moved to the resort years ago from Coosa, is open exclusively for dinner Thursday through Sunday. It has enhanced its garden-to-table menu. The dishes prepared for Rice House guests focus exclusively on what’s in season from local farmers and vendors from within a 150-mile radius of the resort, as well as what’s in its peak at the resort’s on-site garden. The opportunity to create menus that feature farm-to-table goods was something that attracted Lebas to Barnsley.
“The garden program that we have here was very attractive for me as a chef because we are growing our own produce and using it at the Rice House,” Lebas said.
Lebas said he welcomes the chance to work with local vendors and encouraged local farmers and vegetable growers to contact him through the main switchboard number at Barnsley, 770-773-7480.
“I would like to go see them and see their farm operations so we can be familiar with what they do and then go from there,” Lebas said. Being from France, Lebas said that virtually everything is organic.
“We always try to go organic as much as possible,” he said.
The Beer Garden is focused on smoked meats after implementing new smoker technologies. Lebas has about 35 staff members under his leadership, and the three restaurants have different teams that are focused on their specific menus.
Barnsley Director of Marketing Shelby Kolb said that in addition to the restaurants, the Barnsley culinary team handles a full range of catering responsibilities — from weddings to special events in the Georgian Hall.
Both Kolb and Lebas said the restaurants are open to the public.
“There is that perception that you have to be a guest to enjoy dinner at the Rice House or Woodlands Grill or even to spend the afternoon at the Beer Garden, but that is definitely not the case. We are definitely open to our local visitors and community and we’d like to see more of them,” Kolb said.
The improvements to the culinary program come roughly a year after two major construction projects, the Georgian Hall — a special events building — and the Inn — a 50-plus unit hotel-like facility — were completed.
What’s next on the agenda for Friederich?
“We are constantly looking five steps ahead, and mapping out additional ways we can provide guests with the best experience possible,” Friederich said. “For the coming year, we have plans to refresh Rice House, the 19th century farmhouse restaurant, and a few tentative plans to add new experiences to the Golf Performance Center.”
This year, visitors may notice an increase in the number of special events, including a seasonal wine-and-food pairing series.
The holidays will also be accented with additional programming and family-friendly activities, like glow-in-the-dark golf and crafting sessions.
“With all this exciting expansion and growth, our team is always seeking enthusiastic new staff members to join our award-winning team and become a part of our next chapter,” Friederich said.