From palate to palette, restaurateur/artist Lance Brandenburg works hard at his dual passions of making oil paintings inspired by the European masters and presenting showy cuisine from the same continent. As he explains, “Plate presentation has to be as eye-appealing and of interest to the person as does art on a wall. We want our dishes” — including paella and filet mignon in whiskey-butter bordelaise sauce — “to be as photogenic as a painting.”
His father made pastel portraits of Lance and his three brothers and two sisters when they were young. And he didn’t mind critiquing his kids’ own early attempts at artmaking. When Lance showed his dad the faces he drew, “he would help me correct my proportions and find the best way to set up [the features] — with the nose first, then the eyes, followed by the mouth. He was my inspiration to keep trying, and would always help me.”
Brandenburg went on to attend Hiram College in Ohio, where he took as many art classes as he could fit in. “I didn’t graduate, but I learned how to study and work hard in school for the first time in my life. That was a huge accomplishment for me.”
While art has continued to be an integral part of his life, the restaurant business became his vocation. He worked for high-end restaurants in Ohio and Florida before opening his own sports bar, Out of Bounds, in Fort Pierce, a business he ran for the next 30 years.
After operating a few more restaurants in both states, he eventually launched Brandy’s on Main in Hendersonville, where his visual art, says Brandenburg, “has gotten greater appreciation than any other place I have lived.”
The compliment is made greater by the abundance of talent in the area, he adds. “I’m always amazed and humbled by the reception my artwork gets from guests.”
Unlike other makers, he doesn’t seek gallery representation; in fact, he’s not even that fond of making a sale. The paintings, he says, “are hard to let go of because of the memories [attached to them].”
If you want to see his oil canvases — some of them, including a portrait of Prince, have more than 500 hours invested in them — you have to stop by the restaurant. His works capture a wide spectrum of subjects, from replicas of Rembrandt’s “The Syndics of the Clothmakers Guild,” Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” and Toulouse-Lautrec’s “At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance” — pieces he undertook to hone his skills — to portraits of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and other original works.
Cindy Amias, a long-time business partner and the chef at Brandy’s on Main, recently made Brandenburg a book of his paintings. In her dedication, she wrote, in part, “You’re the creator of your own world — you’re the designer of your own work.”
Brandenburg says he still feels challenged to pursue more difficult pieces. “I keep living for future projects unknown.”
Lance Brandenburg, Brandy’s on Main, 111 South Main St., Hendersonville. To learn more, call 828-513-1240 or visit brandysonmain.net.