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Southern Foodways – Consuming the South

Monday, July 11th, 2011

By Christy Simo

Southern food. It’s a complex term, weighted down by centuries of upheaval and discord, influenced by diverse cultures and lifted up by cookouts and family meals.  It’s fried chicken and greens, grits and barbeque. And bacon. Lots of bacon.

Over the past several years, there’s been a renewed focus on Southern food, be it from culinary critics, TV shows, or people visiting who want to experience a taste of the South. But Southern food is not a trend. It’s always been here, entwined between the pine trees and mountains, flowing through the streams and along the sandy coast of Georgia.

“The South has the most storied and eloquent history of food in this country,” says Kevin Gillespie, executive chef at Woodfire Grill in Atlanta. “I think it’s because we have a longer lineage and a longer history than most of the other regions in this country can claim.”

“I think the South, as far as food goes, is one of the more influential parts of our country,” says Todd Ginsberg, chef and co-owner of Bocado in Atlanta. “The South has a plethora of indigenous ingredients and a back story. The South has an abundance of dishes that means something to the United States.”

But what does it mean to be Southern? What does it mean to cook Southern? And do you have to be Southern to cook Southern?

“Southern food has begun to embrace a lot of characteristics about it that lie underneath the surface—the fact that it isn’t always an incredibly heavy cuisine style, and it isn’t always about deep-frying things,” Gillespie says. “For a long time, when people said Southern, that’s what they wanted, and that’s what they were looking for. And inevitably chefs in the South—I’m sure often times to their dismay—made those things because they felt like it was their only option.”

Today’s southern food continues to evolve, recognizing new influences while rediscovering old traditions and ways of cooking.

“I don’t think the concept has changed; the perception of southern food has changed,” says John T. Edge, executive director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi. “I think that a new generation of chefs have helped a new generation of consumers see value in the food of our collective forbearers.”

“People have taken the charge and have decided that we’re going to cook the things that we want to regardless,” Gillespie says. “And people are trying things and experiencing traditions that they didn’t know about before, so it’s given Southern chefs an opportunity to dig a little deeper into what our food traditions really are.”

“Southern cooking had a bad rap for a long time,” Edge adds. “Some of it was deserved, but not all of it. But I think now we as a region take pride in our food in the same way that we take pride in other cultural creations that come from the South, like architecture, like music, like all forms of art.”

What Southern Food Is
The south is a mix of people and foods, and it’s always been that way. Native American, Western European and African cultures have all played a part in the Southern food we eat today.

When people came to Georgia, they often tried to cook the foods they were used to back in their homeland, but adapted them, using the different foods available and cultivated in the south. It was a way of preserving something that reminded them of home when they found themselves in an unfamiliar environment.

As people migrated elsewhere, they took their cooking techniques with them, melding them with whatever types of food and cooking styles were in their new place to live. In that way, food migrates and melds together as well. This is what we call foodways.

Foodways encompass not just what’s served on the plate, but the ideas and behaviors related to its preparation, serving and consumption. The physical, social, cultural, economic and spiritual activities that surround a plate of food could be different from one region to the next, even if it is basically the same dish. Not only that, but how you procure the food, prep and preserve it, then present the food is central to a culture and often has heavy symbolic meaning.

Although there is not one particular food that all Georgians eat in common or that we only eat or drink, there are two pillars of Southern food that are usually incorporated in some way: pork and corn.

“There are some exceptions—pork and corn are less dominant along the Gulf Atlantic coast—but the bedrock of our food culture is pork and corn,” Edge says.

Native Americans taught European settlers how to grow and cook corn, and Spanish explores brought pigs with them in the 1500s, introducing pork to the region for the first time. West Africans brought some of their traditional foods with them as well, such as eggplant, collard greens and okra, starting in the 1600s.

Eating With the Seasons
By its definition, Southern food is seasonal. The South has an agrarian history, and people ate what was available, when it was available, whether it was fresh tomatoes and okra, black-eyed peas or peaches. When the food was in season, it was on the table.

“It was certainly one where meat showed up constantly or meat products at least, like lard, ham bones or smoked pork. But it was driven by vegetables more than anything, because it was about what you had available to you, what you could take out of your own garden, and what you could best use to feed your family,” Gillespie says. “It wasn’t fancy, but it was truly driven by availability and economics.”

That thought process dovetails into the current local foods movement, where chefs buy local produce and procure local products through nearby farmers and merchants.

“If you’re going to cook southern, you’re going to want to use Southern goods. That mantra of buying local and eating local, it sounds like something that was handed down from on high from Berkley, California, but that’s not the case,” Edge says. “To eat local is something that many grew up doing and something that your grandparents did.”

“Cooking southern is this understanding that Southern food is about truly being seasonal and truly representing your region—almost your sub-region—by embracing the ingredients that are grown around you and having that sort of utilitarian purpose to the way that you handle them,” Gillespie says. “Southern food has always been one that is about flavor over fashion. It’s about a cuisine that is extremely satisfying before anything else.”

“People want to bring in local produce [into their kitchens]. And what do you have in the wintertime in Georgia? I’ve had collards on the menu all winter, I’ve had chard, greens and root vegetables,” Ginsberg says.  “So if you’re trying to stay local and you’re trying to stay true to the principle of cooking locally, obviously you’re going to try [to cook the local cuisine]. If you’re buying the grits from a local mill, you’re going to put it on your menu.”

“It’s all local,” says Jamie Cadden, head chef of Blackwater Grill, a Cajun-Coastal Southern restaurant in St. Simons. “I have a seafood purveyor here from St. Simons and I also have a purveyor in Jacksonville, Florida. This is a shrimping community, so we get all the Georgia White shrimp we can handle down here.”

But Southern cuisine is more than the food and where it came from. It’s about hospitality and how the food makes you feel. It’s pleasure and solace on a plate.

“Southern cooking means it’s comfort food,” Cadden says. “The collard greens, the macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, things like that. It’s a lot of bacon. It’s a comforting type of food. Everybody comes in and says ‘Man these are just like my mom’s collard greens.” It takes you back to the family Sunday dinners.”

A New Type of Southern
As new groups of people come to the south, the concept of Southern cooking continues to shift and expand.

“The idea that you have to be Southern, to be born in this place, to be an interpreter of this place, is short sighted,” Edge says. “There was a time when the South was a very provincial place, and you were either from here or you weren’t. That time’s past.

“For the longest time, even though we think of the south as influenced by West Africa and Western Europe, there have always been new ethnicities coming to the south,” Edge says. “You get these honest fusions of food from multiple cultures. That’s beautiful stuff. And it’s not an insult to Southern food. Culture evolves … and you see changes in the south, by way of new immigration, by way of new ideas.”

“Like anything, people put their own play on it, their own creative forces behind it,” Ginsberg adds.

“People come to the South to look for something honest, something real, to look for the unvarnished America,” Edge says. “They think that this is the homeland of perfect barbeque and exemplary fried chicken. They think they’re going to look for honest American foods prepared with care and prepared with a kind of respect for the past. But I would argue that in doing that, they’re missing what’s going on here in terms of new ethnicity. Some of the best crawfish I’ve had in a long time was cooked by a Vietnamese family in a crawfish shack on Buford Highway.”

“The southern food culture is one that is definitely a melting pot of all the people who have passed in and out of the South,” Gillespie adds. “The South has been incredibly accepting of people’s food cultures and has absorbed them into their own and made them a part of something that already had so many variations.

“We’re creating something new while being inspired by the traditions of the past,” he says, adding that restaurants like his “embrace the new generation of people who are going to have to carry forward our traditions of the south. [Our generation is] going to be the ones to tell the story of Southern food. So I believe that hopefully this is a new chapter in the life of Southern food.”

Will Travel For Food
Traveling to eat somewhere new is big business, and millions of Americans come to Georgia every year to try something Southern. A recent study by the Travel Industry Association in partnership with the Gourmet and the International Culinary Tourism Association says 27 million travelers in the United States engage in culinary or wine-related activities while traveling, and Georgia is listed as one of the top 15 destinations in the country.

These travelers are younger, more affluent and better educated than non-culinary travelers. And they’re not just eating out.

They take cooking classes and visit farmers markets, gourmet food shops and food festivals. They go on winery tours, drive wine trails and attend local wine festivals.
They also spend more money than the ordinary traveler. On average, food travelers spend $1,194 per trip, with more than one-third of that budget going toward food-related activities.

“People [used to] travel and they would go see museums and grand fine homes with columns along the front,” says John T. Edge, executive director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi. “Sure they may want something pretty good to eat between those Doric columns and museum shops, but that was it.”

Now, Edge says, “People travel to eat. Then they detour to go to the museum or look at the house with the big Doric columns.

“For many people, entre to a culture comes by way of food. If you go to a museum, you are seeing a staged semi-lacquer of a region and how it should be represented,” he says. “If you sit down in a barbeque joint in South Georgia, you are in that culture, you are of that culture, and that is the best kind of cultural tourism. It doesn’t rely upon the mediators. You’re living it. You’re in it. And that’s how people want to travel.”

Perhaps that’s why travel-food hybrid shows have leapt in popularity over the past few years and people are creating trips around visiting restaurants featured on TV. Last year, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives visited Blackwater Grill in St. Simons, showcasing the restaurant’s Boudin Fritters, low-country boil and Grouper Daufuski. The show aired in June 2010, and Blackwater Grill is still seeing people come to the restaurant as a result.

“As soon as that show aired, people were lining up and our sales for those three dishes skyrocketed,” says Jamie Cadden, head chef of Blackwater Grill. “Every time it reruns again, we get another surge of people coming to the island to eat where he ate and to eat those dishes.

“People heading on their way to Florida, they’ll just detour here,” he adds. “Right now our business is really good, and we get people in here every week saying ‘We saw you on TV, we’d like to make reservations.’”

“I find more and more, that people plan their trips around what they’re going to eat,” says Kevin Gillespie, executive chef at Woodfire Grill in Atlanta. “Food tourism has become something that is really huge. They’re not always necessarily looking for fine dining. They’re just looking for places that are really going to have really great food.”


Chef Jonn Nishiyama, Cherokee Town and Country Club

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Chef Jonn Nishiyama of Atlanta was recognized as the 2010 Chapter Chef of the Year during the ACF Greater Atlanta Chapter’s President’s Gala and Awards Dinner. Chef Nishiyama also received the 2010 Southeast Region Chef of the Year award during the 2010 ACF Southeast Regional Conference held at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel, Birmingham AL.

Currently Nishiyama works as garde manger chef at Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta, under Chef Kevin Walker, CMC. The Chef of the Year award recognizes an outstanding culinarian who works and cooks in a full-service dining facility. This person demonstrates the highest standard of culinary skills, advances the cuisine of America and gives back to the profession through the development of students and apprentices.

Prior to joining the staff at Cherokee Town and Country Club, Nishiyama worked as executive chef at Marietta Country Club, Keenesaw, Ga. and as executive chef at Druid Hills Golf Club, Atlanta, among other restaurants in Georgia and Hawaii. Nishiyama earned an associate degree in foodservice and a certificate in culinary arts from Kapi’olani Community College, Honolulu, in 1986, and an associate degree in culinary arts from The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y., in 1993. He has earned numerous awards throughout his career, including more than 10 gold and silver medals in culinary competitions. He is a member of ACF Greater Atlanta Chapter Inc.


Liz Cipro Named A Legendary Event’s Executive Chef

Monday, June 13th, 2011

A Legendary Event announced the appointment of Liz Cipro as Executive Chef.  As Executive Chef, Cipro will oversee all aspects of A Legendary Event’s culinary department including menu design, daily kitchen operations, food preparation, and purchasing.

Cipro began her career with A Legendary Event in 2001 with experience in both restaurants and catering kitchens and was quickly promoted to Sous Chef.  Eventually, she moved into the position of Catering Sales and was promoted to Director of Catering Sales.

Cipro is a member of Les Dames D’Escoffier International and has been a member of the Atlanta Chapter of NACE since 2004.

Tony Conway, CEO and Founder of A Legendary Event said, “We are extremely honored to name Liz Cipro as Executive Chef of A Legendary Event.   She will oversee our entire culinary team and continues to be an outstanding addition to our company as we strive to provide our clients with a legendary experience.  Liz is extremely well respected in the industry and we’re delighted to have her leadership.”

Formed in 1997, A Legendary Event has grown into a multi-million dollar full-service event enterprise, handling more than 2,500 events a year.


Sustainable Shopping Tips for Chefs

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Contributed by Georgia Organics

Shopping for organically grown foods can be as confusing for chefs and restaurant owners as it is for anybody else. The different legal terms and jargon that companies use to market their foods can make it seem like their products are sustainable and humane, but it takes a detective to really figure out whether the food is what the farms say it is.

Georgia Organics put together this handy list to help you be as educated a shopper as possible. Note: some of these terms are regulated, and some are just plain bull.

“Natural” for non-meat products (FDA): In 1989, the FDA issued a definition for “natural,” stating that it meant “nothing artificial or synthetic has been included in or added to a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food.”

“Natural” for meat products (USDA FSIS)
: Can’t contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient. In addition, the product could only be minimally processed (FSIS, 2006). Under this ruling, the definition of minimally processed includes: a) Traditional processes used to make food edible or to preserve it or make it safe for human consumption, or b) Physical processes that do not fundamentally alter the raw product and/or that only separate a whole, intact food into component parts, e.g., grinding meat, separating eggs into albumen and yolk, and pressing fruits to produce juices.

“Naturally Raised” (USDA AMS): “Naturally raised” on livestock and meat derived from livestock would mean that “(1) no growth promotants (hormones) were administered to the animals; (2) no antibiotics (other than ionophores used to prevent parasitism) were administered to the animal; and (3) no animal by-products were fed to the animals” (Agricultural Marketing Service, 2009).

Free-Range Eggs: There are no legal standards in “free-range” egg production. Typically, free-range hens are uncaged inside barns or warehouses and have some degree of outdoor access, but there are no requirements for the amount, duration or quality of outdoor access. Since they are not caged, they can engage in many natural behaviors such as nesting and foraging. There are no restrictions regarding what the birds can be fed. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted. There is no third-party auditing.

Free-Range Chicken: The USDA allows for any chicken raised with access to the outdoors to be labeled “free-range.” Nowhere does it state that the chickens have to actually go outdoors; “access” is the only legal binding verbiage of that rule. They may still be raised in the same overpopulated poultry house-type production and be labeled “free-range.” Certified organic chickens may also be raised like this.

Cage-Free: As the term implies, hens laying eggs labeled as “cage-free” are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, but they generally do not have access to the outdoors. They can engage in many of their natural behaviors such as walking, nesting and spreading their wings. Beak cutting is permitted. There is no third-party auditing.

Knowing these terms will help you navigate through product purchasing and help you decide what’s worth paying extra for, and what’s worth avoiding.

5 Tips for your first trip to the Farmers Market

More and more chefs these days are going straight to the source to get their produce, meats, breads, and herbs. Farmers markets are one of the easiest ways to assess the quality of several farms in one morning. Here’re some tips for first-timers.

1) Get there early. Check the farmers market website to see what time the market opens. Good farmers have very devoted fans and may sell out of food.

2) Ask questions. Get to know your farmer, and don’t hesitate to ask about his or her farming methods, tips for cooking or chemicals they may or may not use.

3) Look for certified organic or certified sustainable farmers. Certification means the farmers use natural methods to avoid chemicals that could harm your health and the environment. Learn more about what organic means here, and why organic foods are better for you here.

4) Bring your own reusable bags. Most farmers markets don’t have grocery bags. Don’t forget the chilled bags for your meats.

5) Check out what’s in season. Consult with a harvest calendar to see what’s in season, and then plan your menu accordingly. (Check out for our version.) But don’t be afraid to try new things. Farmers are helping to keep heirloom varieties around, most of which aren’t sold at a typical grocery store anymore, so they may look weird at first glance. Don’t be scared of purple carrots!


Tabasco Recipe Competition Worth $10,000 Prize

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Chefs across the United States are challenged to rise to a new recipe competition showcasing the popular street food trend sweeping the foodservice industry.  For a chance to win a cash prize, contestants must submit their entries by July 18, 2011 online at or by mail.

The “street foods” themed contest invites professional chefs, sous chefs and lead line cooks at restaurants and non-commercial foodservice establishments, as well as chefs-in-training, to create an original entrée recipe inspired by some of the world’s most popular ethnic cuisines found in street foods today — like Latin American, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean.  Qualifying entries must be easy to prepare in a foodservice kitchen, incorporate easily sourced ingredients, and include one or more of the following three flavors from the TABASCO Family of Flavors®:  Original TABASCO® brand Pepper Sauce, TABASCO® brand Green Jalapeño Pepper Sauce, and TABASCO® brand Chipotle Pepper Sauce.

The contest awards a $10,000 grand prize to the professional chef with the winning recipe; one culinary student will be awarded $2,500 for the winning recipe in the contest’s student category. In addition to winning cash and merchandise prizes, the professional and student category winners will be featured along with their winning recipes on  Paul McIlhenny, President and CEO of McIlhenny Company, maker of TABASCO® brand Pepper Sauce, and top New Orleans chefs will comprise the judging panel and select the professional and student winners on September 14, 2011.

For more information, contest rules and the contest entry form are available at or by calling 1-888-HOT-DASH.


Chef Doug Turbush’s New Venture: Seed Kitchen & Bar

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Doug Turbush, formerly Executive Chef with Bluepointe restaurant in Atlanta, will be opening a new restaurant in East Cobb named Seed Kitchen & Bar.  Turbush will be the owner/operator and executive chef. The tentative opening is this summer.

Seed Kitchen & Bar will feature a casual dining environment. The menu will reflect the chef’s culinary experience and global travels, highlighting a passion for bold and flavorful foods and a commitment to sustainability.

“I envision Seed as a place where families and friends will meet to enjoy modern comfort food, unpretentious service, a sleek setting and excellent value. Sourcing locally has been core to my approach to food since I began cooking. I want to create a fun neighborhood restaurant with a well-priced menu and a progressive wine program,” says Turbush.

To implement his vision for Seed, Turbush is collaborating with Ai3 of Atlanta, an Atlanta-based architectural firm specializing in retail and restaurant design. With planned seating for 135 patrons, Seed Kitchen & Bar will also have a bar, lounge and additional seating on the adjoining patio.

Chef Turbush’s culinary background includes a culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of American (CIA) in New York and a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality & Tourism from the University of Wisconsin. His restaurant career began at age 15 at a steakhouse in Wisconsin, after graduating he moved to Minneapolis based Goodfellow’s restaurant before heading to Bangkok, Thailand to explore the exotic flavors and techniques of Southeast Asia.

In 1999, Turbush joined the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group as chef tournant at Nava under Chef Kevin Rathbun and for the opening of Bluepointe, where he worked under the direction of Chef Ian Winslade. In 2001, Turbush was promoted to Executive Chef at Nava. He went on to take the helm at Bluepointe where he has been Executive Chef for the past six years.


ACF Southeast Regional Conference

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

It was great networking, learning and fun at the ACF Southeast Regional Conference.  Pictures by Leonardo Ruscitto.

Casino Night fun with Michael Deihl, Cheryl Glass, and Tom McAdams

Casino Night fun with Michael Deihl, Cheryl Glass, and Tom McAdams

Kevin Rathbun presents at one of the seminars.

Kevin Rathbun presents at one of the seminars.

Joe Truex presents at ACF SE Regional Conference

Joe Truex presents at ACF SE Regional Conference

In the kitchen

Students at work

Students at work

Rafih Benjelloun stirs it up for the crowd

Chef Tom Naito , owner of Tomo demonstrates, sushi preparation.

Chef Tom Naito , owner of Tomo demonstrates, sushi preparation.

Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene

Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene

Chefs Ron Horgan, Rafih Benjelloun and do you know who?

Chefs Ron Horgan, Rafih Benjelloun and do you know who?

Chris Coan of Gas South, Karen Bremer of the GRA, and Michael Ty of ACF National

Chris Coan of Gas South, Karen Bremer of the GRA, and Michael Ty of ACF National

The Halperns crew at the trade show

The Halperns crew at the trade show


ACF Atlanta and Southeast Awards

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

American Culinary Federation’s Greater Atlanta Chapter hosted two major events recently, the 2011 President’s Gala and the Southeast Regional Conference. (To view pictures from the Southeast Regional Conference, click here).

The President’s Gala was held at the Druid Hills Golf Course in early February and featured an awards presentation.  Listed below are the award winners.

Chef of the Year – Jonn Nishiyama
Pastry Chef of the Year – Natasha Capper, CEPC
Educator of the Year – John Kanadu, CGMC CEC CCE
Student Chef of the Year – Daniel Gorman
Humanitarian of the Year – Rusty Sigmon, CSC
Vendor of the Year – Schwan’s Food Service
Presidential Award of the Year – John Szymanski, CEC CFSP

Later in the month, the Greater Atlanta chapter hosted the Southeast Regional Conference at the Hilton Atlanta. The weekend-long event included educational seminars, cooking demonstrations by several noteworthy Atlanta chefs, a Casino Night and dinner at the Cherokee Town and Country Club.  Award recipients during the event are listed below.

ACF Southeast Region Chef of the Year Award Winner
Keith Armstrong, executive chef, Greenwich Country Club, Greenwich, Conn

ACF Southeast Region Pastry Chef of the Year Award Winner

Kyongran “Alex” Hwang, assistant pastry chef, Cherokee Town and Country Club

ACF Southeast Region Chef Educator of the Year Winner

Michael Carmel, CEC, CCE, department head, Culinary Institute of Charleston, Trident Technical College, Charleston, S.C.

ACF Southeast Region Student Chef of the Year Award Winner
Keith Schwock, line cook, Cherokee Town and Country Club, Atlanta

ACF Southeast Region Chef Professionalism Award Winner
Russell Scott, CMC, WGMC, executive chef, Isleworth Golf & Country Club, Windermere, Fla.

ACF Southeast Region Hermann G. Rusch Chef’s Achievement Award Winner
Costa Magoulas, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC, dean, School of Hospitality and Culinary Management, Daytona State College, Daytona Beach, Fla.

ACF Southeast Region Student Team Regional Championship Winner

ACF Western North Carolina Culinary Association; Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Asheville, N.C.; Charles deVries, CEPC, coach

ACF Southeast Region Baron H. Galand Culinary Knowledge Bowl Winner
Culinary Institute of Savannah at Savannah Technical College, Savannah, Ga.; Jocelyn Brantley, Cassandra M. Gillmore, Claudia C. Harper, Joshua A. Lopez, Angela N. Real and coach Valarie Barnes

ACF Southeast Region Chapter of the Year
ACF Central Florida Chapter, Orlando, Fla.

ACF Southeast Region President’s Medallions
Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CW4) Russell Campbell, CEC, chief for the Advanced Food Service Training Division, U.S. Army, Fort Lee, Va.
Keith Gardiner, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC, chef-instructor, Guilford Technical Community College, Jamestown, N.C.
Patricia Lucardie, chapter administrator, ACF Tampa Bay Culinary Association, Inc., Tampa; ACF Tampa Bay Culinary Association, Inc.
Michael Osborne, CEC, general manager/executive chef, Manchester Coffee County Conference Center, Manchester, Tenn.

Cutting Edge Awards

Clyde “Jay” Christmas, executive chef, Hope Valley Country Club, Durham, N.C.
Delores “Dee” Lennox, executive chef/owner/vice president, Lennox Catering, Sunrise, Fla.
Garrett Sanborn, CEC, CCE, Ed.D., chef-instructor, Oldham County Board of Education, Bucknor, N.Y.

Joseph Amendola Outstanding Member Award

Bryan Frick, CEC, AAC, corporate executive chef, Nestlé Professional, Orlando, Fla.

Paella, Please!
Christopher McCook, CEC, AAC, executive chef, Athens Country Club, Athens, Ga.


David Sturgis Named Muss & Turner’s Chef de Cuisine

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Muss & Turner’s announced that David Sturgis has taken over the role of Chef de Cuisine for the Smyrna-based restaurant.

Sturgis opened the restaurant as the original Chef de Cuisine. In a statement released February 8, the restaurant’s sixth anniversary, owner Ryan Turner welcomed Sturgis back to his old stomping ground and noted that: “David’s commitment to making people happy with food is unmatched. He will be cultivating relationships with vendors and farmers to bring guests all the highest quality, freshest, authentic and most unique culinary experience possible. He is one of the most gifted cooks we know and if you have not had his food, get excited.”

After culinary school at Art Institute of Atlanta, Sturgis became friends with Todd Mussman and Ryan Turner while working at Fifth Group Restaurants. When Mussman and Turner left that operation to open M&T’s, Sturgis went along with them. In late 2006, he left Atlanta to become Executive Chef at Farm 255 in Athens. Most recently, he spent two months at Local Three helping Chef Chris Hall.

With a background in pastry, having studied under Gary Scarborough (now pastry chef at Local Three), Sturgis admits that he thinks about food and its presentation a little bit differently than other chefs might. “I’m very ingredient focused and I think I look at things backwards sometimes. It’s almost sarcastic from time to time, but I have to say I don’t think anyone really cooks like I do.”

So far, the response to Sturgis’s return to M&Ts has been very positive. Regular patrons remember and welcome him back and are genuinely happy that he has returned. Chef Ryan Hidinger remains in the kitchen in the mornings at M&Ts as a Sous Chef, while Mussman is spending time at both Local Three and M&Ts particularly focusing on his charcuterie program.


2011 ACF Southeast Regional Conference

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

The 2011 Southeast Regional Conference, hosted by ACF Greater Atlanta Chapter, Inc., is taking place at the Hilton Atlanta, February 18–21. Chefs, students and foodservice professionals from around the Southeast will gather for a weekend of education, competitions, networking and entertainment.

Educational sessions will showcase international cuisines of Greece, Japan, Italy, Germany and Morocco. In addition to international cuisine, this year’s educational offerings also highlight the important role of nutrition, with seminars on grains, fiber and gluten intolerance, sodium and balancing protein. There also will be sessions on beer-and-cheese pairing, coffee, pastry arts, composing flavors and plating techniques.

During one of the sessions, Chef Kevin Rathbun of Rathbun’s, Krog bar and Rathbun’s Steak, will discuss menuing techniques for each of his distinct establishments, including small plates, large menu variety, global thinking and meeting mass appeal.

There are evening events planned, as well. The ACF Greater Atlanta Chapter is offering Casino Night on Saturday, February 19.

For a complete list of events during the Southeast Regional Conference and registration information, go to ACF Southeast Regional Conference.

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