March 4, 2013 10:06:20 AM
It is an overcast Thursday afternoon, but there are still a few people sitting outside Bin 612 on the fenced-in patio that separates the restaurant from University Drive.
Just a couple of blocks from the campus of Mississippi State, the patrons were mainly in their 20s.
Around back, a couple of kitchen employees are taking a smoke break, laughing and talking as they relax before returning to their duties.
Shouting from the kitchen interrupts their conversation: It is Paul Brasfield, one of Bin 612's two general managers.
"Yeah, I guess it's a good thing we don't have any damn tickets," says one of the workers, his sarcasm evident over the sound of Brasfield's booming voice.
After looking at each other for a second, the cooks smother their cigarettes and trek back inside.
Maybe now is not such a good time to talk to Brasfield. He seems worked up.
But five minutes later he emerges from the kitchen, sporting a blue denim chef's coat, a black ball cap and a broad grin.
He could not be more polite.
"Sorry, man, we got hit with a couple of orders," Brasfield says. "Didn't mean to keep you waiting so long."
The 29-year-old is hardly intimidating, or at least a lot less intimidating than his earlier eruption would suggest. More often, he is a laid-back, soft-spoken guy. His youthful appearance bears no residue of the stress involved in managing a restaurant six days a week.
Brasfield has been working with Ty Thames since 2003, when the Starkville restaurateur and chef opened Bin 612.
Since then, Thames has opened up several bars and restaurants in town, and Brasfield has had a hand in almost all of them at one point or another. But if he had a home restaurant, it would be "the Bin."
Brasfield actually started with the Bin before it opened, helping with some of the interior construction and prep work to get a building designed as an office ready to accommodate a restaurant and bar.
"This place was not meant to be a restaurant," he says. "We were just plugging in high energy, expensive kitchen equipment into the walls and hoping it works."
After helping to literally build the tiny 6x20-foot kitchen that Brasfield and a line of other cooks would work in, his presence there helped cement the Bin's place in Starkville.
Three years ago, Thames gave Brasfield the general manager post at the Bin, and for a little more than two of those years, it was all on Brasfield's shoulders -- front of house, back of house, servers, bartenders, paperwork. It all fell to Brasfield.
The Bin's success over that time, and some opportune real estate moves that made available an extra room next door, led to an expansion. Along with the expansion came a new menu, and another general manager, Andy Thornton. Thornton now handles the bar and all front of the house duties, while Brasfield heads up the kitchen and back-of-house employees.
Brasfield and Thames worked together on the revised menu. For many of the items, Brasfield was the idea man, and Thames, a highly touted chef, added the fine details.
"I had things in my head that I had really dreamed about doing, stuff I got halfway there with," Brasfield remembers. "Ty cleaned up all those ideas and made them whole."
Brasfield brought the idea of salmon sliders to the table; Thames added pesto cream cheese and a focaccia crostini. Just like that, a menu item was perfected.
The tiny closet kitchen Brasfield started out of was gutted completely and relocated to the other side of the restaurant, making use of the newly acquired room and giving cooks more than three feet to move around.
It has been almost a year since the Bin got its growing room, but until recently Brasfield says he is not really sure he saw an increase in sales from previous years.
Like many restaurants in Starkville, football season is always a big money-maker -- a really big money-maker. But for the Bin, before the expansion, football season had to be big enough to sustain them through the winter, because with most of its seating outside, sales drop dramatically when it gets cold.
"January is usually our worst month, without a doubt," Brasfield says.
But this January, the Bin saw close to a 75 percent increase in sales from last year. What has Brasfield really excited though, is that the increase is across-the-board, from the bar to the kitchen.
Brasfield's time, attention and obvious passion for good food is still playing an integral role in Bin 612's success. Perhaps more importantly, the success has helped solidify its foundation. Brasfield's easy-going vibe seems to have rubbed off on the place.
Don't be fooled, though. He still runs a tight ship.
Just ask his employees.