Chef outfit: @seni_chic
Creative Direction/ PR: @iameboyne @divineinfluencepr
Every so often you meet someone whose presence not only impacts their community, but impacts the world. And that someone is none other than Ebony Austin, renowned restaurateur, serial entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Ebony has dedicated her entire life to giving back to others, and from her recent milestone, she is just getting started! Ebony’s highly acclaimed grits line, Nouveau Creations by Nouveau Bar & Grill, is now available in 45 Food Lion stores throughout Georgia, with an incredible initiative to support HBCU students by contributing 100% of all proceeds to scholarships, making higher education more accessible to aspiring scholars.
Most recently, Ebony celebrated her 2 year anniversary for Nouveau Bar & Grill by shining a light on HBCUs at her yearly Stomp the Yard event with all proceeds from her grits line going to rewarding students with over 30 scholarships ranging from $500.00-$5,000.00! In addition to the numerous scholarships, Ebony also gave away comforters, air fryers, and refrigerators; to help students get acclimated with college living. For her timeless and classic beauty, and most of all her genuine heart for the betterment of others, Ebony Austin is undoubtedly Hype Hair’s illustrious Woman of the Year.
In honor of Black Restaurant Week, Hype Hair sat down with the iconic trailblazer to discuss her heart for HBCUs, the legacy and soul of Nouveau Bar & Grill, and of course, all things beauty and style.
We are super excited to feature you as an exclusive digital cover story during Atlanta’s Black Restaurant Week! Congratulations on having your best selling grits being sold in over 45 Food Lion Stores in Georgia! What’s equally as amazing is that all proceeds from your grits go to helping HBCU students go to college! You are making such an impact in the community, and in the world! What inspired you to do this?
It was all inspired by my struggle in college. I attended an HBCU–I attended Langston University in Oklahoma. But I struggled so much from the time I registered. I struggled until the end, and I think that God blessed me and put me in a position to be able to help other students not go through the same struggles that I went through. I think that’s why my grits line is so dear to my heart because actually all of the proceeds go back to HBCU students. And I think my college experience was the hardest time of my life, but yet it was the most fulfilling time of my life. I am just so grateful to be in this position to give back, and it’s so important to dedicate your life to the lives of others. Like the Bible says, ‘to whom much is given much is required.’
You’re absolutely killing the restaurant game right now, and looking flawless while doing it. So tell us about the conception of Nouveau Bar and Grill, and the staple bestsellers on your menu?
I come from customer service, and I worked as a business development manager for years. And so for me, when I went into real estate, it was a great idea. But I learned that I was missing something. I love cooking, and I love people. I realized that I was missing the two things that I cared about the most. So while I was successful in real estate, there was still a void there. And so literally, I would just pray like God, and ask Him to show me what it was. And I will come down to Atlanta for the weekend and I was like, ‘Hey, I should open up a restaurant in Atlanta, because I love Georgia.’ And it literally took me three years. It took me three years to find my location. Wow. Right. And that’s why they say ‘God bless the plan.’ It took me three years. And it’s crazy because the same realtor that I met three years prior to me opening, was the same realtor that I opened my first location with that year, and she was actually retiring. So everything was really just in alignment with God’s plan. But it really brought me back to what I love, and what I’m most passionate about. Because success is one thing, but if you’re doing something and you’re not passionate about it, then at that point, I feel like you’re not really living your best life; and your best life should be being able to help people. If you’re just doing things solely because of you, I feel like you’re losing, you’re not winning because you have to be able to help people along your journey.
What we love about you Ebony, is that you really are visionary, Nouveau Bar and Grill both locations in College Park, a personal favorite of mine and Jonesboro,are always jam packed and full of excitement. Your R&B Thursday’s always bring out some of the biggest names in the industry. We’ve seen Rick Ross there, we’veseen 2 Chainz and so many more. How do you continue to keep your restaurants so innovative and fresh?
You know what? Outside of prayer….I’m just going to be honest, I pray for my restaurant every single night. I pray for my team name by name every single night. So outside of the prayer, I just think that it’s always been about being able to create an experience. People will always remember how they were treated, right? No matter what celebrity is in the building, no matter what’s going on, what they care about most of all, is that experience and how they felt. The fact that we lit 20 candles and we released 20sparklers for someone’s grandmother’s 80th birthday, like they’ll never forget that. The beauty of it is we bring families back together. We bring coworkers in for a good time in a great environment where they can just back, relax, and unwind. So for me, it is the experience that we’re able to create for the families. I also think that I had to learn that during the pandemic that we took so much stuff for granted, something as simple as having dinner with your family. So for me that just kind of lit a fire underneath me to say ‘hey, every time a guest comes to Nouveau it should be an experience for them everytime. We make sure that we cater to our customers’ needs. But most importantly, we make sure that we give them an experience every single time.
It definitely is. Every time I have been to Nouveau, it’s kind of like its own universe once you walk in the door… Like its own complete entity, and it’s always a good time. It’s always a huge vibe.
Yes, thank you. I literally tell my team all the time that it’s important that you get to know our guests. I tell them to get to know our guests and get personal with them. When I opened up Nouveau, I said that I wanted to be like the ‘Cheers’ in the community…To be the place where everybody knew each other, and I want that type of relationship with my staff and our customers. I also feel that it’s important to have that same relationship like I do with my customers and also with the schools. And those are reasons why I made sure that Nouveau would be in partnership with the school systems in Clayton County with the surrounding school systems. We’re not only sending kids to college, but we’re still doing groundwork. Again, just having that relationship and being in a community, being in the school systems, understanding what’s going on and how we can help, is one of the reasons I got on the Board of Education to be able to help as a director to be of help so that we can help our children excel in college without the financial burden.
Atlanta is full of so many amazing restaurants, especially with that Southern flair. What do you think that makes Nouveau stand out from all the rest?
That’s really a hard question for me, because all my friends are restaurant owners. But I thinK for me, what sets us apart, in my mind, is the fact that I’m in my restaurant 24/7.So I know when something’s wrong, and I know how to coach at that moment. And I think that being able to coach my team in the moment is different and sets us apart. I think that having that one on one with my team, and being able to coach them in a moment and show them different things has helped us. Literally, the difference is I’m behind my bar, making drinks with my team, I’m in my kitchen cooking with my team, and I’m hosting that door. So I get to see where some mistakes are made and correct them, encourage them and coach them in a moment of how to do things… So yes, I think that’s what kind of sets us apart.
You are a true mover and shaker! I hear you are expanding Nouveau Bar & Grill! What can you tell us about that?
Yeah, I’m getting ready to expand and we are actually getting ready to go to Texas, which we’re finalizing this week. So we’re super excited about that! I also just started a vegan concept that will open at the end of September in Atlanta. And Nouveau will also be expanding soon to Tennessee as well. We’re visiting some locations in Tennessee now, but Dallas is definitely pretty much signed, sealed and delivered. So Nouveau Bar & Grill will officially be heading to the Dallas market location!
At Hype Hair we are all about hair, style, and beauty! You always keep it classy and fun, and might I add, we are loving your new look, that Barbie Pink on you is everything! What are some of your favorite beauty must-haves?
Well, my Nouveau Bar & Grill attire is my go-to! Outside of that I am a Louis Vuitton Queen though. I think most of my closet is Louis Vuitton! (Laughs) So between LouisVuitton and GoYard… I would say, those are my two favorites that I’ve been rocking for like a long time. But most of the time I do not leave my house without one or the other. And I definitely don’t travel without them…Those are my two must haves.
What is your favorite hairstyle and why?
I love a really, really cute blonde hairstyle…Okay, blonde with brown tones. So most of the time with my hairstyles, I have a good full lace wig on. I love with my hair long. In my recent photo shoot it took me completely out of my comfort zone. I’ve never put my hair up in a ponytail. And then the Barbie pink dress with the chef’s hat–I absolutely loved it, and it was very new to me….Thanks to Eboyne and the team, because that was fun and was such a very different look for me. I am very, very basic. You will always see me with a 26 inch, long straight full lace wig with a middle part…Sweet and simple. But this lookactually took me completely out of my comfort zone and I really loved it.
What die-hard hair products can you absolutely not live without?
I love Kaleidoscope hair products. Literally. I love it. I also love Mielle Organics, so those are definitely my top two go to products that are in my house.
OK…Ebony, now let’s get into some rapid-fire questions. Are you ready?
I am ready.Let’s do it! (Laughs)
What’s your favorite Hype Hair cover?
Definitely Ari, Kendra and Joe…Those are my favorite colors and they are fire.
What’s your favorite dish from Nouveau?
Our seafood and grits…I’m a grit lover so I love my Ultimate Cajun Seafood and Grits.
Who is your celebrity crush?
God forgive me for saying this but listen, I am a Jay-Z lover. (Laughs) Beyoncé, I love you but I love Jay-Z. (Laughs) I went to the 40/40 club when he first opened it. I’m a fan, but he’s taken. So for somebody that is not married, I will say Tyler Perry.
What was the last song you listened to?
Jay-Z ft. Beyoncé “On the Run.”
What has been the greatest highlight in your career as a restaurateur?
I have so many amazing highlights. I definitely think one of the greatest highlights for me was when we celebrated and one of the young girls who is my intern now, who lost her mom due to COVID-19. She was one of the students who sent me a video for my scholarship program and I think having a relationship with her every year and doing a scholarship dedicated to her mom’s name and honor, is it for me. So for me, I think it was meeting this young lady named Savannah and being able to be a part of her journey. I think that was one of the best. I stay in touch with her; she comes to all of Nouveau’s events. Creating memories, creating impact, I am so blessed that God allows me to be able to experience that.
Who was your favorite artist for R&B Thursday?
Ohhh, Tank! Yes, Tank was my favorite.
What is next for you?
Expanding Nouveau Bar & Grill into major cities is definitely coming next. I want Nouveau to be an experience all around the world so when people are traveling they can also experience Nouveau. So we’re in talks right now about some things and expanding into a few airports right now. I also want to continue building my real estate portfolio so that I can build communities for underprivileged and low income families which is another project that I’m working on now. I feel so blessed and I am so grateful for all that God is doing in my life right now.
Keep Up with Ebony Austin of Nouveau Bar & Grill: @nouveaubaratl @ebonyakira