Executive Chef Chris Holloway has long been a musician. He’s played the bass and guitar for years, signed several record deals and was once even featured in an MTV music video.

And it was through music that Holloway met his current business partner, Sam Clowney, who also operates on-campus eateries such as Bella Union in McClendon Tower and La Dolce Vita in the French Science Center. As of August, Holloway runs the kitchen of the Faculty Commons, known at night as Plate & Pitchfork.

“The first time he cooked at my house, I was blown away,” said Clowney, adding that Holloway has helped make the sandwiches that are featured in his coffee shops.

Before arriving at Duke, Holloway worked as a buyer for A Southern Season, a gourmet market and speciality foods store in Chapel Hill. During his stint at the restaurant, he ran catering and prepared food including dips and spreads.

Holloway has no formal culinary training, instead learning his craft on the job alongside renowned chefs like Michel Richard of the award-winning restaurant Citronelle in Washington, D.C. He worked as a chef for 22 years before joining A Southern Season and was chosen for his “extraordinary resume” and “long history of working at the finest restaurants,” said Director of Dining Services Jim Wulforst.

In his new role Holloway will be back in the kitchen—and he’s excited to be back.

“I’m getting to cook a lot more. It’s great to conceive your own dishes,” he said. “I think what I missed [at A Southern Season] was the adrenaline rush of doing a dinner service.”

So far, Holloway said he is very impressed with his employees, particularly with the students hired. The wait staff consists exclusively of students, he said.

“With the attitude, confidence and personality they all have, they win our customers over,” he said. “Our dining experience is equivalent to any restaurant in town.”

The menu features French classics and spins on some all-time favorites. One of the starters includes wings au vin, a red wine reduction of the classic appetizer. There are also a variety of main course options, including cornmeal-crusted catfish that—next to a cold salad—provides a range of textures and flavors, Holloway said.

Although the buffet at the Faculty Commons is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for faculty only, dinner is open to both students and faculty from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Holloway has several ideas for improving the decor at the Faculty Commons. He is considering making subtle changes to the dining room such as adding drapes to cover the ends of the walls in order to create a more elegant space. Holloway also wants to conceal the buffet during dinner hours to make the setting more formal.

He is also considering adding a raw bar during dinner, featuring all-you-can-eat oysters and seafood as well as a chef’s table for parties of 10 in front of the fireplace, which he thinks will be a popular option during the winter.

Wulforst said that Duke Dining has received favorable reviews of the restaurant in the past week. The space has served nearly 100 dinners on Wednesday and Thursday nights, he added.

Despite a few glitches in its first two weeks of operation, the eatery has managed to keep its customers happy, Holloway said, adding that he hopes people will continue to appreciate the great food and service at the Commons.

“All of us here are about service and attitude. We want people to be happy, and we enjoy making them happy,” he said.