Following in his father’s footsteps, John Metz expands his empire with the opening of The Woodall.
John C. Metz grew up working in Pennsylvania restaurants owned and operated by his father, also John Metz. But he didn’t want to rely on nepotism alone, so he studied at the Culinary Institute of America, staged in Michelin starred restaurants in Switzerland and cooked in New York’s finest kitchens, including Daniel.
In 1996, he founded Sterling Culinary Management in Atlanta, operating corporate cafes around the city. That same year, he and Thomas DiGiorgio opened Hi Life Kitchen & Cocktails in Norcross. It instilled a fire in him that he couldn’t quench. He drew attention from around the city with the fresh sushi and seafood at Aqua Blue in 2001, and today, Metz is CEO, executive chef and cofounder of 20 Marlow’s Tavern locations in Florida and Georgia.
“I love working. I work all the time,” he says. “I’m always thinking about how we can make [the restaurants] better.”
In February, Metz launched an upscale, modern, globally inspired restaurant on the Westside called The Woodall. Serving seafood, steaks and sandwiches, The Woodall is a throwback to Metz’s Hi Life days with rich textures, plush seating and a welcoming patio. The name pays homage to the location with Woodall Creek running alongside the development that houses the eatery.
But Metz hasn’t forgotten where he came from. “My dad has been a great adviser and influence in my life. We talk every other day. In his career, he’s lived through it all,” he says.
We spoke to him about his work, his hobbies and his father’s influence.
What’s your day-to-day role in The Woodall, Marlow’s and Sterling Culinary Management?
I run the overall company and drive quality in the culinary and beverage programs. As my better half says, I’m usually in my car in between our restaurants. I like to spend my time working with culinary and management teams, talking about what drives us. Our focus is on guests; that’s my passion. I’ve been at The Woodall almost every day since it opened, supporting the team, getting to know the guests, seeing what they’re ordering, what the problems are and finding solutions for them.
How does your “better half” fit into your busy schedule?
We’ve been together a long time, and having managed restaurants like Canoe and Aria, Roberta [Nemo] understands my hours. She also (unofficially) helps with the wine program and assists with training— whatever is needed.
How has your dad influenced your career?
He’s a very driven individual and instilled a strong work ethic in me. I watched what he did with people management. He started from scratch and built a nice business. I wanted to be able to do that myself. I like being in our restaurants and learning from all the people we work with. To me, it’s not work.
What do you do for fun?
Going out to eat is my favorite thing to do. I like looking for the cool, local spots that I wouldn’t have heard about if I hadn’t asked someone about their favorite local joint, like unique, hole-inthe- wall pizza places in Pennsylvania with great pasta. I arrange trips to be part of what’s happening in the food scene wherever I go. My friends know I am probably going to order every appetizer on the menu, and we are going to share it all. We order drinks and taste them all, that way we get to experience as much as we can. I also like to waterski and snow ski. I have a ski boat on Lake Keowee in South Carolina and get up there as much as I can.
2260 Marietta Blvd. N.W.
PHOTO: Joann Vitelli
Foodie Tastemaker Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Contributing Editor at Atlanta Magazine. Restaurant Aficionado and Mother of Two.