Since Savannah, Georgia restaurant the Grey opened in 2014, it has garnered fame and accolades for chef Mashama Bailey’s interpretations of Southern cuisine. But there’s a compelling narrative that surrounds the restaurant, too — the collaboration of Bailey and New York City native John O. Morisano, who moved down to Savannah, bought a historic Greyhound bus depot, and revitalizing the art deco building to give it new purpose as the restaurant’s home.
Now, Bailey and Morisano are going deeper into that story with their first book. Over 19 chapters in Black, White, and the Grey, Bailey and Morisano take turns sharing their perspectives on events in the restaurant’s history, chronicling the evolution of their unlikely partnership in the process.
At the end of each chapter, there’s a recipe. “There is an overall theme of how the food at the end of the chapter connects you to how we’re feeling,” Bailey says. A recipe for salted honey chess pie comes at the end of a chapter that describes the growing pains that came with building up the Grey’s team over the first couple of years. “Honey is sweet and salt is salty,” Bailey says of how the pie relates to the story. “It’s a bittersweet journey because we have a lot of really good days, and some of them are hard and challenging and we have to push ourselves more out of our comfort zone.”
Even though Bailey and Morisano are years out from those start-up struggles, it’s still not easy. And it’s this — the notion that the work on the restaurant and their partnership never ends — that Bailey and Morisano hope readers take away from the book. “This is a real relationship, it’s a real partnership, it’s a friendship; it comes with challenges,” says Bailey. “You put that it a restaurant and it’s really going to come with its challenges.”
“The learning never stops,” Morisano adds. “No matter how old you are how accoladed you are, you wake up in the morning and it’s a brand new day.”
Recipe: Salted Honey Chess Pie
Chess pies are a “simple Southern dessert,” but the Grey’s pastry chef Natasha Gaskill takes the standard version and turns it into “something a bit more elegant,” Morisano writes in the recipe headnote. “When she made this salted honey version for us, we both freaked out for it.”
For the crust:
1 cup ice water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 teaspoons water, at room temperature
For the filling:
1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1⁄2 cup cream
1⁄3 cup honey
3⁄4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Maldon sea salt
In a small bowl, stir together the water and vinegar. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add half the butter and pulse 5 or 6 times. Add the other half of the butter and pulse 5 or 6 times. Dump into a large mixing bowl. Remove the large pieces of butter and return to the food processor with 1 cup of the flour mixture. Pulse until the butter pieces are pea size. Return the mixture in the food processor to the mixing bowl. Give the vinegar-water a stir and then sprinkle 1⁄4 cup of it, 1 tablespoon at a time, over the flour mixture, scraping the bowl and folding in the flour while shaking the bowl between additions. Pinch the dough; when it holds together, it’s ready. If it’s too dry, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of the vinegar-water, scraping and folding after each addition.
Lightly flour a work surface. Turn the dough out onto the surface. Split the dough into two even balls. Flatten each ball into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and for up to 2 days. You will use one disk for this pie and can freeze the other disk for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove the dough disk from the refrigerator and roll our into an 11-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick.
Fit the dough disk from the refrigerator and roll out into an 11-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Fit the dough into a 9-inch pie tin so that you have 1— percent surface contact between the dough and pan. Trim the excess pie dough, leaving a uniform 1/2-inch overhang. Then tuck this overhang under the rim of the pie tin and crimp the edges for a decorative appearance. (YouTube this if you need a visual.) Take a dinner fork and prick the pie dough everywhere. Freeze the pie tin for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Whisk together the egg and room temperature water.
Remove the pie crust from the freezer. Place a piece of parchment in the pie dough and weight it down with dry beans or pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes. Lift out the parchment, removing the weights. Brush the pie dough with the egg wash and return to the oven to bake for an additional 10 minutes, until golden brown. (If this all sounds incredibly time-consuming and difficult, call us at The Grey Market and we’ll ship you a couple of frozen pie shells.) Decrease the oven temperature to 325°F.
For the filling, combine the butter, cream, and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until the butter has melted. In a bowl, beat the eggs and then stir in the sugar, cornmeal, and kosher salt. Slowly stream in the butter-honey mixture, whisking constantly. Add the vinegar and vanilla.
Take that pain-in-the-ass-to-make pie shell and fill it. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the filling is a little jiggly in the center and the crust is golden brown. If your crust starts to get too brown on the edges, protect it with an aluminum foil wrap. Cool on a wire rack. Top with the sea salt, cut, and serve. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Reprinted with permission from Black, White, and The Grey by Mashama Bailey and John O. Morisano, copyright (c) 2021. Published by Lorena Jones Books, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.