From manmade streams to waterfalls, Brent Bruns' vision is a destination restaurant named The Shape of Water.
By Dominic-Madori Davis
State Road A1A in The Hammock could soon be home to one of the most innovative restaurants in Flagler County and beyond. The restaurant, which will be known as The Shape of Water: The Restaurant, is under construction by a former TV reality show star — Brent Bruns, of “Doomsday Castle” fame — and is set to open by late 2020.
“I want to show you something you’ve never seen before,” Bruns said of the restaurant, in a walking tour of the property.
The restaurant's name takes inspiration from the 2017 Academy Award-winning film and will offer a luxury dining experience. Bruns' architectural designs are intricate; he wants to build a restaurant as whimsical as it is elegant. Diners will be surrounded by water structures, including rivers, a cave, waterfalls and a floating mountain. So far, the rivers are formed and a faux bois bridge is complete. Other structures are not yet started or are still being formed on chicken wire. He's doing most of the construction work himself, he said.
The restaurant will have room to seat 40 people outside, all by reservation, with hopes to expand to 40 seats inside as well. There will even be an upstairs area perfect for marriage proposals, and foliage installed around the property to ensure privacy, he said.
He plans on it being a destination restaurant, drawing diners from surrounding counties.
“Everybody I talked to tells me I’m going to fail in the restaurant business,” he said. “But I think ... sometimes people make it hard on themselves.”
Bruns has a degree in aeronautical engineering, and work experience as a structural engineer. Most of his career was spent in high-end real estate, and he spent some time living in South Carolina.
From 1974 to 1996, Bruns led the largest screen printing operation in the South, printing 25,000 garments a day, he said; he also spent a few years in textile machinery. He went to Saki School to learn how to make Saki, he went to acupuncture school to learn acupuncture, and even had a stint on the cult television show “Doomsday Castle,” currently available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.
But he’s never run a restaurant.
“Every business that I started — I didn’t know anything about it either,” he said. “It’s more about passion and my feeling. You can learn it, or you can find people, but I can’t find somebody to do what’s in my head, so I go home at night and like, three or five in the morning, I’m sitting here trying to design how this thing will work structurally and do it.”
Bruns is working with artist Jennifer Butler to create some of the key architectural elements of the restaurant, including the faux bois bridges.
“When we came here, this whole place was overgrown,” she said. “We had to disassemble all of that, cut everything out, just starting from bare nothing.”
Butler is Bruns’ hairdresser and met him after he helped her design her home hair salon. He initially brought Butler on to help design the garden area, but her role quickly expanded. Now, she serves as creative director for the entire project.
“I’ve just always been interested in art and building,” she said. “Sometimes I feel like I don’t really paint, like I just lend my hands, because even I’m surprised sometimes when I’m finished.”
For Bruns, the next step will be looking for investors, and then a chef.
But right now, he is gathering his permits; making sure his sitemap is up to county code, and all his variances are in accordance with state and city regulations. That, and trying to compromise with the neighbors who are less than pleased that he is trying to build a waterfall and luxury restaurant in their backyard.
In the end, Bruns is hopeful it will all work out.
“You’re successful because of passion, [and] you’ve got to believe it,” he said. “No matter what anyone says.”