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Archive for October, 2011

Shalom Y’all Jewish Food Festival

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

October 30, 2011 in Savannah, Georgia.  For more information, visit


14th Southern Foodways Symposium

Friday, October 28th, 2011

October 28-30, 2011 in Oxford, Mississippi.  For more information, visit Southern Foodways.


Ensuring Success Long After The Consultant Leaves

Monday, October 17th, 2011

By Bob Amick, owner and founder of Concentrics RestaurantsBob Amick

It’s been years since my youngest child went off to college, but my wife and I have never felt like true empty nesters. For me, restaurant consulting is a lot like raising children. My partner Todd Rushing and I treat each new store like a newborn child. We take the necessary steps to make sure that each store is prepared to live a long and healthy life, even after we’re gone.

Much like parents who want nothing more than to see their children thrive, I’ll do everything in my power to help my clients find success. In order for a restaurant to do well, clients need a clear vision, a sense of ownership, and most importantly, a passion for this industry.

I’ve noticed that the biggest mistake restaurants make is thinking that the place will run itself.  If a culture of strong leadership isn’t there, the client is much better off hiring someone to lead for them.

The first thing I do when meeting a new client is to sit down and take some time to really get to know the client’s vision. It’s important that they express their vision with confidence, and I have to understand the proposed market in order to share my ideas.

Markets vary greatly, and the client’s vision must meet the consumer’s needs. When a client’s vision isn’t realistic, we don’t hesitate to tell them. My partner and I don’t do projects just to do them. We must believe in the client and their vision. I know it may seem a little harsh at times, but the client has to be grounded. It’s very important that we’re all on the same page.

I wouldn’t say we have a “winning” formula for consulting, but I will say that if there is a will to make something work, it will show through in everything that the restaurant does. I believe there’s only one way to make a restaurant successful, and that’s to do everything the right and best way.

We don’t cut corners. We demand quality food. Most importantly, a concept must be well executed in a comfortable environment. A good environment is key to a restaurant’s success.

What folks need to understand is that though we do everything possible to help ensure the success of our clients, opening a restaurant is one of the business world’s biggest gambles. The success of a restaurant is never a sure thing. It takes constant tweaking and pushing. Clients have to continually look at what works and what doesn’t and adjust to what consumers need. Fluidity is very important.

Of course, it isn’t easy to keep up with a changing market. All businesses have lives, and restaurants tend to have shorter lives. Most restaurants don’t make it to five years. The staff gets tired, and the place loses spark. It comes back to vision, ownership and passion. You’ve got to have all of those 365 days a year, every year.

Restaurants that survive tend to be the really good ones that make the necessary adjustments and just get better and better. To a degree, they manage out of fear. The constant changes to the market keep them on their toes, and they will always continue to grow. My hope is that when a restaurant steps out on its own for the first time, the staff remembers everything that we’ve taught them prior to the opening and uses all of that information to their advantage.

I pride myself on the fact that we take the time to build relationships with new stores. Todd and I work hard to establish a tremendous amount of trust and mutual respect with clients, and I think that we see the best results when they feel more like partners.

Lastly, when working with clients, I’m always reminded of an important lesson learned in grade school: treat others the way you wish to be treated.

Bob Amick has three decades of experience in the Atlanta restaurant business. After launching his career in 1974 with Peasant Restaurants, Amick started Concentrics Restaurants in 2002. Today, the restaurant group owns and operates seven properties in Atlanta, including TWO urban licks, TAP and PARISH: Foods & Goods, as well as one restaurant in Winter Park, Fla. Learn more about Concentrics Restaurants at


Chef Keira Moritz

Monday, October 17th, 2011

A Southern Chef Comes Home

By Christy Simo

Chef Keira MoritzGeorgia’s big cities may seem to be the hubs of cuisine, but a slew of chefs are opening high-end, fine dining restaurants in smaller towns across the state. Keira Moritz, most recently of Pacci’s in Atlanta, recently moved back to her hometown of Valdosta to open a new restaurant. In September, Steel Magnolias was slated to open in the historic downtown area of Valdosta. Chef Moritz has put her heart and soul into the restaurant, purchasing the building and designing the interior herself. We talked about her new concept, her cooking philosophy and her love of lavender in this month’s Q&A.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a chef.
I was born and raised here in Valdosta. It’s been a decade since I’ve been back. I went through my first college career, then I ended up not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. So I took a job waiting tables at a dude ranch in Wyoming. One day the breakfast cook didn’t show up, and I was like, well, I might not be able to cook anything, but I can cook eggs. So I just cooked breakfast for 150 people. It was a buffet. You just go for it. They were coming one way or the other, and nobody wanted to call the ranch manager. So I ended up behind the grill. They ended up giving me his job and his great cabin. And from there, I jumped to a couple different dude ranches and decided I had found what I really wanted to do, and I should go to culinary school.  I went to Johnson-Wales Charleston followed by Johnston Wales Denver.

What is behind your decision to move back to Valdosta?
The restaurant in Atlanta, Pacci, the property itself was sold. Pacci was a really successful restaurant. I actually looked at the building I bought [in Valdosta] five years ago when it first went up for sale, and I couldn’t afford it then. It was kind of a pipe dream. Then when I was home, I happened to look and it happened to still be for sale five years later. They had rented it out but they still wanted to move the property. I put down a low-ball offer, and dang if he didn’t take it.

In the past 10 years, I’ve moved every 14 to 24 months. For 10 years. And it’s been loads of fun doing that. All the major cities I’ve done. I’ve loved it. But I guess when an opportunity arises, at least for me, to do my own on my own, and renovate it the way I want it, you don’t pass that up.

Steel Magnolias is in downtown Valdosta. We’ve got about 80 seats on the first level, banquet space for 100 on the second. It happened to be a pitched roof. Both of the buildings on either side have no windows on them, and they’re both one story higher than my building, so we’ve put in a rooftop bar. The first rooftop bar in Valdosta.

How would you describe your cooking style?
It’s changed. I landed in an Italian concept right off the bat, and that’s where I pretty much stayed. With this restaurant, I guess I’m doing my own concept. It’s Urban Southern. We’ve got pimento cheese, mac and cheese and grilled cheese. So my style would be comfortable ingredients, easily recognizable and non-confusing.

A lot of downtowns across Georgia are seeing more fine-dining options.
Yea. We have a great downtown area, and it’s beginning to pick up in the downtown. I think in the next five years, this downtown area is just going to completely change. I’m excited to have something to do with that.

What would you say inspires you as a chef?
I like to eat. I think that’s my inspiration. If I found out I had a gluten allergy or Celiac Disease, I don’t know what I would do.

What’s the best advice or tip you’ve ever received?
If you do what’s right, it will never let you down.

What would be your dream splurge if you could have anything in your kitchen or restaurant?
Could I have another hood vent and a bigger kitchen? I’d say size. I believe in functionality. I don’t need too much; I just need everything I have to be functional and get the job done. I’m very simplistic.

What’s the one item you must have in your kitchen?
It’s simple. I really have to have a grill. If I don’t have a grill, it really changes everything on my menu.

What’s the one thing you would ban from your kitchen if you could?
We don’t have radios. We’re there to do business. If you’re focusing on who’s playing in the background, then you’re not focusing on the food in front of you.

So with the new restaurant, will you be working with local farmers down in South Georgia?
Yep. We’ve got some people doing some great venison sausage, we’ve got Sweet Grass Dairy doing all of their items a town over. We’ve got a grass-fed beef company in Madison, Fla., about 45 minutes away. We’ve got a pork place headed out toward Thomasville. So we have a lot of local producers. And we have a lot of unrecognized local producers. I’ve come home to my parent’s house, and my dad is sitting there with venison summer sausage that is made out of venison that he killed. You can’t get much more local. And these people, you drive up their driveway, and they’ve got it all set up. It is some of the most amazing product I’ve ever seen or tasted.

What would you say is your favorite ingredient?
Lavender. That’s my favorite ingredient right now. I make a lavender brown sugar rosemary syrup. It’s so simple, and you don’t know what it is when you put it in your mouth. I’ve never had anyone put their finger on it, because it’s unexpected, and I like the unexpected. It’s a sweet savory note, which I love so much. I’ve got a glazed pork belly served over creamy polenta with the lavender brown sugar syrup. And then I’ve turned that around and done it on my brunch menu – a big hunk of pork belly with the glaze on it with two poached eggs and cheese grits.

What about your least favorite ingredient?
I hate fish fumet. I hate it. Lobster stock — hate it. I use lobster stock, but I don’t really use fish fumet much. I think it comes from having it spilled all over me once, and then I had to walk around the entire day smelling like it. It might slightly make me gag. Every time I’m around it.

What is your favorite restaurant outside the ones you’ve worked at?
There’s a restaurant in Oakland, California called Pizzaiola. I used to live a block from it. I got used to walking over to it and sitting at the bar to have dinner by myself or meeting friends there, and I think they do a fantastic job. The menu changes daily.

In Atlanta, 4th and Swift does a great job. JCT does a great job, and then the one place after my own heart is La Tavola, because they are a small set up and they do what they do well, and it’s consistent. I really appreciate consistent.

What is your favorite thing about the restaurant industry itself?
The amount of love people put into it. If you’re in this business, you’re in it for a reason. If you don’t love it, you shouldn’t be in it. And those who do love it put a lot into it. It’s a lot of work, and you gotta love it. So for people to have that kind of love is pretty impressive.

What is the most challenging part of being a chef in the restaurant industry?
Finding that balance. At my last restaurant, I truly achieved balance. And right off the bat at this restaurant I’ve been really focused on making sure I aim for that balance from the beginning.

How has it been different working at somebody else’s restaurant as a chef vs. owning your own restaurant now?
You know, I’m fully invested. Maybe that’s how it’s different. I’ve worked really hard and did it for so many other people. To be able to give everything that you got to get in the door and be able to do your own, that’s the love that restaurateurs have, right there. Because we could work for other people all our lives, but there’s still that one thing that says, nope, I’m working so that one day I can have my own. Then to be able to do a renovation on a place is insane — insanely fabulous. To see it come along and it be everything you’ve thought about from Day 1 with you saying you wanted to have your own. If you look at that restaurant and you look at me, you will know me. And that’s what’s done me so well in the past is that I’ve had that relationship with not only my guests, but my staff and my team.

What is your philosophy as a chef managing people?
Every place I’ve ever left, I’ve left behind a really great team, and I’ve always hated to leave the team that I have behind. That’s a really tough one, but every time I get to a new place, for some reason I build another great team.

I expect people to work hard. I expect them to enjoy coming to work. And for that I create that environment where we work hard, we take care of each other. We do what’s right. They make decisions on their own, because they’re allowed to make decisions on their own, based on the simple philosophy that I will support you if you do the right thing. I think that goes a long way with people.

Even the hiring process — I have not put a single ad out. Everybody that I’ve hired thus far has been word of mouth. Everybody has different things going on in their lives, and they all have questions about what about this for me, and what about that for me. And I say, you know what? We’re going to take care of that. Everybody here is going to be working hard. You’re going to get to do what you need to do for yourself and your family, and you’re going to be able to do it because so and so is going to do this for you, and you’re going to return the favor when it’s time to return the favor.

It’s funny, because one restaurant I worked for in San Francisco, that team was all family, family, family. And I worked at another restaurant where it was business, business, business. And then my last one really combined both. And it was a really great harmony. So it has to be a great combination of people who are willing to do within those four walls for each other, and care about each other, and work hard and enjoy working with each other. It’s mutual respect.

If you weren’t in the restaurant industry, what do you think you’d be doing?
I would be an architect or designer. I can put it together in my head and can see it. And I’ve had a great time designing this restaurant. I don’t have a designer. It’s me putting it together, and it’s going to be a really pretty place. If I could do that for a living, that could be my next life, for sure.

If you could decide your last meal, what would it be?
Fried chicken. I would probably have some fried chicken, mashed potatoes and peas. And cherry pie for dessert.


Chef Micah Willix Opens Latitude

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Chef Micah Willix announced a November open date for his new restaurant concept, Latitude, to be located in Phipps Plaza in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood.  Willix was most recently the executive chef at Ecco, a Fifth Group restaurant.

Latitude will offer a flavor-driven menu with a wine selection of over 60 bottles selected to pair with Willix’s offerings. Anticipated menu items include dishes such as spot prawn ceviche, toasted coriander, lime and Spanish chorizo; spicy pork sausage, roasted cherries and chicory; braised squid, ink, lemon, ginger and Thai basil grilled bitter greens, soft-poached egg, roasted green garlic and tarragon; and pan-roasted blade steak with smoked potato and horseradish.

“This will definitely be a change from what I’ve been cooking for the past five years,” said Willix of the new concept. “Latitude will be an opportunity for me to explore more options of different cuisines and cultures, but I still want to cook and create dishes that are simple and close to the source – grassroots.”

Willix is working with industry veterans and partners Kenny Perlman, formerly of Seasons 52 and Houston’s, and Emily Streib Marcil, formerly of Capital Grille and currently of Second Growth LLC.

The restaurant was designed by Brian Watford and includes a large 30-seat patio with a large water feature and urban garden design.


Blais and Mills Open HD1

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Richard Blais, HD1’s menu consultant and Barry Mills, the restaurant owner opened the new gourmet hot dog restaurant in Atlanta’s Poncey-Highland neighborhood.  Blais has led many Atlanta kitchens and the winner of BRAVO’S season eight “Top Chef All-Stars.”

Jared Lee Pyles heads HD1’s kitchen for daily operation. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta, Pyles has worked alongside Mike Isabella and Richard Blais at Atlanta restaurants Kyma, Home and Woodfire Grill. Pyles also was among the opening team at the first FLIP burger boutique.

HD1 dishes include: fennel sausage with San Marzano ketchup, fontina and grilled radicchio; Merguez lamb sausage with red currant compote and minted cucumber salad; or the classic hot dog with sauerkraut and HD mustard. Beyond the hot dog, HD! offers other options, including: brisket chili with cool ranch oyster crackers and waffled fries with ma-ploy sauce to hand-churned soft serve ice cream including bourbon and brown sugar. HD1’s full bar cocktail has an emphasis on craft bourbon and rum libations, along with beer-by-the-can.

The design firm ai3 is the team behind the design concept and architecture of HD1. Designed as a modern beer garden, the focus of attention in the dining room is a row of communal tables with bench seating.


Southern Art and Bourbon Bar Opens with Familiar Names on Team

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Executive chef Anthony Gray will helm the kitchen of the Southern-inspired restaurant, accompanied by pastry chef Meredith Miller, head mixologist and bar manager Brian Stanger and general manager Alain Zemmour.  Both Stranger and Zemmour have worked in Atlanta hospitality scene for several years.

Stanger joins Southern Art and Bourbon Bar from his most recent position as manager and mixologist of Atlanta’s Top Flr, where his “bloody stanger” mix awarded him a placement on Creative Loafing’s 100 Things to Eat in Atlanta Before You Die list. Stanger also served as the bar manager and mixologist at Abattoir for two years, during which he was named Mixologist of The Year 2010 by Creative Loafing. During his time in Atlanta, Stanger also worked at Shaun’s and Beleza, where he first concentrated on perfecting his mixology skills.

General manager Alain Zemmour joins Southern Art from his most recent position as general manager at 10 Degrees South. Prior to spending two years at the acclaimed restaurant, he spent time at The St. Regis Atlanta and The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead. Zemmour’s familiarity with and knowledge of the Atlanta hospitality community also includes experience catering with Prestige Gourmet Catering and owning L’Assiette French Bistro.

Southern Art and Bourbon Bar Opened on October 12.


Revalo Named New Pastry Chef at Murphy’s

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Geri Revalo recently took over as the pastry chef at Murphy’s restaurant in Virginia Highlands. Revalo previously worked at the Capital City Club in Downtown Atlanta, where she presided over the dessert program for four years. Geri graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta with a degree in Culinary Arts and concentrations in Baking and Pastry.

Geri’s new additions to the Fall Menu include: Roasted Banana Bread Pudding with dulce de leche ice cream; Sweet Potato Pecan Pie with fall spiced fruit compote; and Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee topped with a caramelized sugar crust and a gingerbread cookie.


Curtis and Hashim Join International Franchise Association’s Board

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Two Atlantans have been newly elected to the International Franchise Association (IFA) Board of Directors: Carlton L. Curtis, vice president of Industry Affairs, Foodservice and Hospitality, Coca-Cola North America; and Aziz Hashim, president & CEO, National Restaurant Development Holdings.

The IFA is the oldest and largest organization representing franchising worldwide. The association protects, enhances and promotes franchising through government relations, media relations and educational programs.

Curtis joined The Coca-Cola Company in 1972 in public relations, where he served in a variety of positions including vice president of Corporate Communications and Corporate Public Relations. He was appointed vice president and director of Worldwide Educational Marketing in 1994. In 1997, he was appointed vice president and executive assistant to the President of Coca-Cola USA, and in 2000, he was elected vice president and executive assistant to the president of The Coca-Cola Company. He was appointed to his current position in September 2003. Curtis currently serves as chairman of the board of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and serves on the executive committee of the National Restaurant Association.   He is a member of the Hall of Fame of the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DIRONA).

Hashim is a leading multi-state, multi-brand and most recently, multi-national franchisee.  He is the president and CEO of NRD Holdings, LLC (NRD), a U.S. company and Dandle, Inc., a Canadian pet-supply company.  Aziz founded NRD in 1996 with one QSR location and has grown the company to over 60 restaurants representing multiple brands including,Popeyes, Domino’s Pizza, and Checkers/Rally’s Drive-In Restaurants, Inc.  He expanded his franchise portfolio in 2010


ACF Monthly Meeting – Phoenix 10th Annual Chefs Gathering

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

October 3, 2011 at Phoenix Produce. For more information, visit ACF Atlanta.

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