Georgian Room at The Cloister, Sea Island Resort // Sea Island, Ga. // www.seaisland.com
Growing up in a small town outside Frankfurt, Germany, Julian Scheibel treasured the hours he spent with his grandmother, exploring the forest and together collecting porcini and chanterelle mushrooms they’d later sell at the local market. When his grandmother asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he predictably told her, “Firefighter or astronaut,” to which she’d ask, “Why don’t you want to be a chef?”
One market day, Julian and his grandmother found themselves selling their mushrooms to chefs in their restaurant kitchens.
“These cursing chefs in their bandanas looked like pirates and it was a totally different world and I was hooked,” he said. “I told my grandma, ‘Okay, I’ll become a chef.’ And that was how I got dragged into cooking.”
He also worked for an uncle with a huge catering company where they’d feed typical German fare to 600 people at a time.
“It wasn’t what I expected, so my uncle called his friend Wolfgang Becker who just happens to own a two-star Michelin restaurant in Trier, Germany.”
Going from bratwurst and schnitzel to truffles and fois gras was exactly what he was looking for.
“Fine dining is where I fell in love,” Scheibel said.
At 16, he attended the Hotelier and Gastronomy school in Butzbach, Germany; numerous awards followed, but it was during a culinary competition where he met his future wife, Julie, from Charleston, S.C. After a long-distance romance, Julian moved to her hometown, working in an upscale restaurant at night and a taco truck by day. In 2013, at 25 years old, he got the call: chef Jonathan Jerusalmy, Sea Island’s culinary director, offered Scheibel the position of Chef de Partie of the Georgian Room, the only Forbes Five-Star restaurant in Georgia.
His wife, by the way, is one of the pastry chefs at the Lodge at Sea Island.
He admits that taking over the Georgian Room at 25 “made people a little nervous. They wondered if I could handle the pressure and protect their Five Diamond and Five-Star awards. And, I admit that at first I was a bit intense for America, but I’m passionate about what I do. I wanted to make changes right away but change sometimes has to come slowly; you have to make your guests feel comfortable.”
At the Georgian Room, Scheibel is committed to making everyone feel special.
“They come to the restaurant to celebrate, and it’s no different for meeting groups,” he said. “Expectations are higher these days for a five-star restaurant, and we want planners very involved. We want to make their life easier. Give me as much information as you can and we will blow you away with our food.”
The Georgian Room seats 88 and also offers cooking schools for groups of six to 20.
Chef Scheibel talks about some signature dishes, like waygu beef, diver scallops and the “perfect egg,” a decadent dish of creamed spinach topped with scrambled eggs, whipped with French butter, cream and other delicacies, and served in a hollowed out egg atop a bit of hay, which is then placed in an egg carton.
“We took it off the menu but put it back because it was the most requested appetizer,” Scheibel said.
They’ve also filled unique requests: “One guest, who had never been to the South, wanted to taste shrimp and grits. This is not normally what we do in the Georgian Room.
“We chefs sometimes feel like superstars, but it’s not about us, it’s about the guest,” he said.