Butcher & Bee’s Nashville chef warms up with Charleston classes

Chef Happy from the Butcher & Bee made Maassa using eggplant. (Brad Nettles/Staff) 5/4/15

Butcher & Bee isn’t opening its Nashville location until September, but Charlestonians this summer can get a taste of what’s planned for the new restaurant.

Happy Hatab has started recipe testing in Butcher & Bee’s flagship kitchen: His experiments will soon surface in The Daily’s takeaway case and on menus for themed classes he’s teaching over the course of the summer. A few of the dishes in development, such as hummus with ful, are likely to become permanent fixtures at Butcher & Bee, he says.

“I’m basically here to give a lot of influence to the staff, and to put a lot more Middle Eastern flair on the menu after I leave,” Hatab says. “I’m just a great reference point for them to be around.”

Hatab grew up in New Jersey, but spent childhood summers at his relatives’ restaurant in Alexandria, Egypt. He previously served as executive chef at Barcelona Wine Bar in Atlanta, after working at the restaurant’s Connecticut location. At Barcelona, he introduced dishes including a lamb burger with beet-pickled turnips; spanakopita with spiced yogurt and roasted cauliflower with sumac and quince jam.

“I think some of the best food in the world is food made right,” he says. “I like really, really strong flavors.”

But one of the things Hatab likes best is eggplant, the subject of his first cooking class, scheduled for May 20. The $45 class starts at 6:30 p.m.; samples and wine pairings are included in the ticket price. Future classes, priced at $55, are scheduled for June 3 (fish technique); June 17 (grilling) and July 1 (paella).

One of Hatab’s eggplant recipes was recently featured in The Post and Courier’s food section.

“There’s an Egyptian saying,” he says. “’If your wife doesn’t know how to cook eggplant a hundred million ways, she shouldn’t be your wife.’ So I’m taking the burden off them. The dinner is going to be awesome.”

For reservations, e-mail nfreire@butcherandbee.com.