Already buzzing with energy, when completed Apiary will be swarming with food services
The revitalization of west downtown has continued in the form of a versatile catering company with an innovative vision for the future. Once an industrial area lined with shuttered warehouses from days gone by, Jefferson Street has slowly but surely been transformed into a dining and entertainment district.
Following the success of other such eateries as Nick Ryan’s Saloon, Stella’s Deli, Grey Goose and Wine + Market, Apiary is the latest food venue to give the former industrial street a new tone.
The definition of the word “apiary” is a collection of hives or colonies of bees kept for their honey. It is a metaphor for the company’s ability to create a bounty of flavors by using authentic, locally grown ingredients.
“There’s a love of craftsmanship for not only us who are producing the food, but also the growers of the food we produce,” explained co-owner and chef Cooper Vaughan. “That love and dedication really does come through in the end product.”
The other collaborators involved in Apiary, which has plans to eventually expand into an event venue and gourmet restaurant, is Vaughan’s father, Derek, who co-owns the facility; head chef Tony Yalnazov; and renowned garden designer John Carloftis.
“It was an idea, and then a lot of creative people have helped it evolve,” Vaughan said of Apiary, which will also feature on-site gardens to grow its own vegetables and herbs.
Apiary’s tasting room is fitted with reclaimed wood and beams.
Apiary’s exterior features and gardens are not fully completed, but inside its main building the catering company functions like a well-oiled machine, and its carefully crafted interior shows the promise of the facility’s future potential.
“The whole project has been in the works for about a year and a half,” said Vaughan, 37, who lives in Lexington with his wife, Mandy, and twin toddler sons, Emory and Cannon.
Apiary, which has six full-time employees and several other seasonal workers, is capable of providing service for a corporate event of up to 1,000 guests, all the way down to an intimate meal for 12 in its onsite tasting room. The company customizes each menu according to its clients’ budgets and culinary needs – from lobster to traditional beef tenderloin, and everything in between.
Apiary, which plans to finish construction by January, exudes a historic aura. Some of its walls are repurposed from an old printing press and cobblestone streets, while some of its doors are reclaimed from a historic schoolhouse. A large, decorative expo table accents the facility’s main kitchen, which is chocked full of shiny, new equipment.
Once planted, Apiary’s gardens, which Vaughan calls “the orangery,” will create an agrarian experience for guests as they dine in a natural, open-air environment. Seedleaf, a non-profit group focused on “nourishing communities” through environmental and food sustainability advocacy, operates out of Apiary’s lower level and has partnered with the company to help maintain the facility’s gardens.
“(The orangery) will juxtaposition between this industrial feel and wild greenery,” Vaughan said, adding the space would also host decorative trees and fountains.
Vaughan’s vision for Apiary stems from his 18 years in the food business, which began with him attending the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in London, followed by a degree in hotel restaurant management from Transylvania University.
While working at such luxury eateries as Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., and Fossett’s Restaurant at Keswick Hall in Charlottesville, Va., Vaughan learned he had a passion for the art of service in addition to food.
Eventually, Vaughan’s culinary journey led him back to Lexington, where he assumed the role of assistant manager and event coordinator of Dupree Catering. It was there that met Yalnazov, and together they formed a vision for Apiary.
“Tony and I have a mutual respect for each other,” Vaughan said. “It’s been exciting for me to see him develop as a chef. Apiary inspires a creative energy. It’s a fun place to see and explore, and now we have the tools to push our craft.”
Yalnazov immigrated to the United States from Bulgaria in 1995 to pursue a degree in public relations from Eastern Kentucky University. His part-time job at Dupree rekindled his love for food, however, and it was there that he realized his true calling. Yalnazov now incorporates the Eastern European flavors from his mother’s Bulgarian-style cooking into many of Apiary’s dishes.
“(Vaughan) has pushed me into thinking about my roots and turning it into something special,” Yalnazov said. “I’m at such a different level now than I was five years ago. By coming here, I feel like I’ve rejuvenated myself with the way I look at food. It’s been really exciting.”
In addition to the quality of food and the unique features of its building, Vaughan takes great pride in the level of service the company provides.
“In a lot of restaurants, I think that’s forgotten – people just focus on the food; nobody pays much attention to service,” Vaughan said. “But you can never be that special place unless everything is working together.
“You have to love what you do, have regard for the lineage of your craft, and try to be the best you can be,” he added. “The minute I start to get complacent, someone else might come up behind me and show me up.”