Photo Credit: Emily B. Hall
Empire State South (Atlanta, GA)
5&10 (Athens, GA)
The Florence (Savannah, GA)
The National (Athens, GA)
Awards: Food & Wine’s Best New Chef (2002), the Atlanta Journal Constitution Restaurant of the Year (2007), a five time (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) James Beard nominee, James Beard winner (2012) for Best Chef Southeast & Best Cookbook in American Cooking (2012) Hugh Acheson wears many hats. You know, the figurative kind. Originally from Canada, Hugh is changing the way we think about Southern food. We aren't talking about biscuits and gravy, we're talking about seasonal produce, pickles and jams, and local eating that are ready for their well-deserved spotlight as Southern traditions. As if having 4 restaurants spread across Georgia isn't enough to keep a chef busy, Hugh has been appearing at demos and events throughout the nation, writing and promoting his new cookbook, revamping home-ec classes, judging "Top Chef", all while managing to be at home to make home cooked meals for his family. With so much respect for Chef Acheson, we were honored to be able to catch up with him last week:
As a chef and father, what food-related beliefs are most important to you? I believe in making food great with as many local ingredients as possible. I believe in giving restaurant workers respect for craft and paying them a good living wage. I believe in advancing ideas in food but truly respecting and learning the foodways that got us here.
Right! Learning the foodways that got us here is fundamental to our product development here at Allgood Provisions.
Before moving to Georgia, what did you think of Southern food? I was a little guilty of falling into the common misinterpretation. But that quickly changed.
I think the outside perspective of Southern food is a little skewed. It is viewed as being tasty but not healthy, something that really defines more the foods of new convenience than the true idea of Southern food. Southern food is redolent with vegetables and fruits and is a constant reaction to the garden. It is a beautifully balanced meal when you look beyond that fried chicken and biscuit and see the tomatoes, the greens, the succotash, pirloo and pickles.
Mmm, speaking of Southern food... What in-season foods, ingredients, or techniques have you been loving lately?
Whole wood grilled eggplants.
Tomatoes a billion ways.
Sautéed sweet potato greens.
Charred summer squashes.
Tomatoes a billion ways, yes please!
Where would you like to see the future of food consumption in 2 years?
I hope eating everywhere takes a healthy turn to cooking from scratch again with people ably supporting their local producers and encouraging seasonal eating.
Right, it's time to get more people back to the kitchen. With the help of your new cookbook, The Broad Fork, people can easily navigate their produce isles, farmers markets, and CSA boxes to create delicious flavors that tell the story of a time and place.
Thank you so much for speaking with us today, Hugh!