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Archive for March, 2016

24th Annual High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

March 30- April 2, 2016, Atlanta, GA. For more information, visit Crush on a Wine


The Ritz-Carlton Welcomes New Assistant Director of Food and Beverage

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

New F&B Teammate Relocates to Atlanta from Kazakhstan

The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta announced the appointment of Diego Gentili as Assistant Director of Food and Beverage of the hotel. Relocating to Atlanta from Kazakhstan, Gentili brings a dynamic world view and accomplished background across the globe to the luxury downtown Atlanta hotel.

Gentili has worked with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company since 2012. Prior to joining The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta team, he served as Senior Food & Beverage Manager overseeing banquets and in-room dining operations at The Ritz-Carlton, Kazakhstan. Previously, he opened The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi as the property’s Bar and Beverage Manager and operated as the pre-opening Food and Beverage trainer for The Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo. Gentili began his hospitality career as a kitchen intern at The Ritz-Carlton, Hotel Arts Barcelona, Spain and food and beverage service intern at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota.

Diego attended Les Roches School of Hotel Management in Switzerland, where he obtained an Associate Degree of Business Administration in Food & Beverage Operations and a Bachelor Degree of Business Administration in International Hotel Management in Finance.


ACF Atlanta Chefs Association’s Annual Golf Tournament

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

March 29, 2016, Ansley Golf Club-Settindown, Roswell, GA. For more information, visit ACF Atlanta Chefs Association


Bacon Festival

Monday, March 28th, 2016

March 28, 2016, Little 5 Points, Atlanta, GA. For more information, visit Baconfest


Taste of Forsyth

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

March 26, 2016, Cumming Fairgrounds, Cumming, GA. For more information, visit Taste of Forsyth


Wahlburgers Announces Five New Franchise Groups & Planned Openings

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

WahlburgersWahlburgers, the burger restaurant founded by Chef Paul Wahlberg with brothers Mark and Donnie, has announced franchise deals with five new franchise groups to open over 30 stores in several major metro markets in Georgia, Massachusetts, California, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and South Carolina. The greater Atlanta metro area and Savannah will be home to six restaurants.

Since its 2011 debut in Hingham, Massachusetts, Wahlburgers has expanded steadily. To date, 12 area development deals, including two airports, are in place, committing franchise groups to a total of 118 Wahlburgers over the next several years.

“We’ve created this family business with a mission to welcome families and friends from around the world to a place where they can break bread, enjoy some great food and lots of laughs,” said Mark Wahlberg.




GRA Announces 2016 New Board of Directors Members

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

The Georgia Restaurant Association welcomes 8 new additions to the 2016 Board of Directors. The new board members are:

Ryan Pernice, owner and operator of Table  Main and Osteria Mattone,  has more than 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry and was also a 2015 GRACE Awards finalist in the Restaurateur of the Year – Small Independent category.

Jeremy Chambers, owner of Jim N’ Nicks Bar-B-Q. Chambers  started out as a kitchen manager and worked his way up, giving him years of experience in the restaurant industry.

Daniel Barash leads the innovation of products across multiple channels including food service, CPG and licensing at Focus Brands, Inc. and worked his way up to Vice President of Culinary Innovation.

Matt Hansen, Chief Operating Officer at KBP Foods, is responsible for the operational and financial integration of KBP”s acquired markets and was a 2015 GRACE Awards finalist in the Restaurateur of the Year Franchisee category.

Jay Bandy, President of Goliath Consulting Group, assists the GRA by providing supplies for members on strategic planning, operations, restaurant development and more.

Scott Bishop, President of TriMark Century Concepts, contributes educational content on the GRA website and offers restaurant design services among other things.

Ellen Hartman, President and CEO of Hartman Public Relations, has more than 30 years of expereince in building strategic communications and specializes in restaurant and franchising public relations and crisis management.

Kevin Jones, founder of the Jones Restaurant Consulting Group, is also one of the GRA’s preferred ServSafe instructors and holds courses for those looking to get certified. He brings experience from working at the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness in the Environmental Health Services division.


“Each individual on the board brings great expertise and knowledge to our organization. We are thankful for their commitment both to the GRA and the inustry and look forward to working with them to strengthen the restaurant industry in Georgia,” says Karen Bremer, CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

The Board of Directors, made up of industry operators and their interests. Members of the board will attend quarterly meetings and will actively participate in committees in the areas of education, marketing, government affairs, and more. They will likely partake in several GRA functions throughout the year including the Restaurant Kick off Classic on April 25, the GRA Golf Tournament on June 14, the Chairman’s Reception on September 19, and the GRACE Awards Gala on November 13.


The Giving Kitchen Initiative

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016
Stephanie Galer

Stephanie Galer

The Giving Kitchen’s mission is to provide emergency assistance grants to members of Atlanta’s restaurant community facing unanticipated hardship. The Giving Kitchen was awarded Industry Partner of the Year in the 2015 GRACE Awards.

As unique as its mission, The Giving Kitchen’s origin is a compelling testimony of the caring, generous nature of Atlanta’s restaurant community. The initiative was inspired by the outpouring of support generated when Atlanta chef Ryan Hidinger – well known in the industry for his work at restaurants such as Bacchanalia, Floataway Café, Muss & Turner’s and the Staplehouse supper club – was diagnosed with late stage cancer in 2012. As a result, The Giving Kitchen was formed as a 501(c)(3) to fill the need for a crisis grant program in the restaurant community – and as a way to do for others what the community came together to do for Ryan Hidinger and his wife, Jen.

To help ensure its own sustainability, The Giving Kitchen has a unique hybrid structure as a nonprofit with a for-profit subsidiary. The for-profit subsidiary is Staplehouse – a casual fine-dining restaurant located in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. All of Staplehouse’s net profits are channeled back to its nonprofit parent as an ongoing stream of support.

Executive Director Stephanie Galer says that The Giving Kitchen was founded on the very principles that exist in every restaurant – helping and serving others.

“Our role in the industry is to help and serve by providing a proverbial ‘safety net’ to restaurant workers in crisis,” she says. “Through a grant application process, The Giving Kitchen provides emergency assistance to restaurant workers facing unanticipated hardships such as illness, injury, natural disaster or death of an immediate family member. We prevent workers from slipping into situations of financial crisis from which they cannot recover. The Giving Kitchen stabilizes work turnover, keeps some workers from having to rely on government services and unifies the entire industry around a common cause.”

Since its inception in 2013, The Giving Kitchen has had a strong relationship with the Georgia Restaurant Association. The GRA has lent its support to the nonprofit through sharing of research and demographic information, introducing The Giving Kitchen staff to key contacts in the industry and providing opportunities for them to present educational materials at multiple forums.

The Giving Kitchen has a track record of proven success as well as strong potential for growth and has established a viable model for supporting the workers in one of the most crucial industries in the state. The Giving Kitchen has brought together competitors, customers, vendors and workers from all types of restaurants and all walks of life to unify around a simple yet fundamental need. The simplicity and authenticity of the organization is a revelation for others both inside and outside of the industry.



Changing With the Tides

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Georgia seafood angles toward fresh caught and sustainable options to match consumer demand

By Alexander Gagnon

rpatrick_RI_4thswift-2Georgia’s culinary scene has transformed drastically over the last few years. Like elsewhere across the country, the farm-to-table movement has taken off, encouraging more people to learn how and where their food comes from.

It’s only natural that they’ll want to know where their seafood comes from, too. So as more restaurants choose to source fresh seafood to meet consumer demand, knowing how the fish you put on your menu was caught and where it came from is especially important, as the well-being of the ocean, the long-term vitality of the fish species and the livelihood of local fishermen all depend on the choices you make.

But how do you know what you are putting on your menu is truly fresh and sustainably caught? Luckily, there are a number of chefs and distributors who are responsibly sourcing their seasonal seafood products to bring deep sea flavors to the surface.

Catching the FlavorThe Noble Fin

The obvious first step when sourcing the freshest seafood begins in the ocean with dedicated, hardworking fisherman who brave the waters in search of the highest quality products. These fisherman work hand-in-hand with well-known Georgia-based distributors to keep menus stocked with fresh seafood on a daily basis.

“Fresh seafood” is an extremely loose term that leaves a lot to interpretation. A high-quality product is not only freshly caught, but it must be shipped and stored responsibly to not compromise the delicate flavor of the meat.

The way in which fish are caught can affect the tenderness and quality of the product. Many traditional fisherman use a long-line technique that leaves hooked fish on the line for hours or days on end. During that timeframe, the restrained fish is fighting the hook and trying to get free. The fish’s muscles are strained during the fighting process, and this releases lactic acid into the muscles of the fish, creating an inferior flavor profile for a once decadent meat.

“Not all fresh fish are the same,” says Jay Swift, GRA board member and executive chef of 4th & Swift in Atlanta and Noble Fin, which is slated to open in Peachtree Corners this spring. “It’s not all about how long the fish has been out of the water, but how it was treated on the boat. Was the fish put in a live well? Was it immediately thrown in ice, or was it placed carefully? Does the boat have an ice machine? All of these factors play an important role in the resulting flavor.”

“It is the little things you do when you store a fish that make a difference,” says Jeb Aldrich, chef de cuisine of 4th & Swift and Noble Fin. “You don’t want fish to be stored laying on its side. This applies pressure to the filets and bruises the meat. Fish should be stored in the same position as they would swim.”

Some fisherman use live wells instead of the preferred method of icing the fish immediately. They hold the fish in a compact onboard tank, overcrowded with other fish in often inferior water quality for days at a time. All of these factors play an important role when determining the flavor and condition of the fish itself, which makes high-quality seafood distribution extremely tedious and highly regulated.

“The way it is fished, the way it is stored on the boat, the way it is received at the dock, the way that it is transported to the market – there are a lot of opportunities for bad things to happen,” Swift says. “Anything you can do to shorten that distance from the hook to the restaurant is going to be less detrimental for the fish.”

Nick Carpenter Reeling In Relationships

Georgia-based seafood distribution companies use Georgia’s strategic location between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico to provide chefs with fresh, locally caught products. Local chefs work directly with an assigned distribution representative, who works tirelessly to fulfill the high standards of Georgia’s demanding and competitive market. These representatives take some of the load off of a chef ’s plate and have to be familiar with their client’s menu, clientele and flow of business.

Distribution representatives are often the determining factor when it comes down to what varieties of fresh seafood are being sold at different restaurants. These representatives are often in charge of selecting and ordering the right amount of products based on their client’s flow of business to prevent financial and physical waste.

Nick Carpenter, executive chef and general manager of Atlantic Seafood Company in Alpharetta, has used the same distributor for more than four years and has had the same representative since the beginning. “My rep knows the high standards of my restaurant, and if he has something new for me he doesn’t even mention it until he has done the research and seen the product in person,” he says. “He knows not to waste my time.”

Sharking the Competition Native Seafood

The rise of chef-driven restaurants seeking the freshest wild-caught seafood has captured the attention of many entrepreneurs, who are taking a different approach to the increase in supply and demand. These independent contractors are seizing this opportunity to make a profit by driving from coastal regions with their own selection of unprocessed, wild-caught seafood and knocking on the doors of kitchens across the state.

Timmy Stubbs is the sole owner and operator of Native Seafood, a company he founded in 2015 in his hometown of Brunswick. Timmy is a third-generation commercial fisherman; his grandfather was the Harbormaster of Brunswick, and he followed in his family’s footsteps out of high school. He says the fishing culture has changed over the years, which is partly why he decided to start his own independent operation.

“I was working on a contracted shrimping boat in the late ’90,” says Stubbs, “They gave us a supply of boxed powder and directed us to put it on the shrimp after they were caught to help preserve the freshness of the product. We did not know what the powder was made of, but it would burn our nostrils, give us headaches and make it difficult for us to breathe. I knew that consumers were seeking out fresh shrimp and had no idea about this process. To me, fresh means an untampered product, which is not always the case.”

In part because of these preservation methods, Stubbs left the shrimping industry for more than 10 years. It was not until 2011 that he began driving his truck loaded with coolers of freshly caught, head-on Georgia White Shrimp to Atlanta.

“There was some trial and error involved early on, but the response was overwhelming.” says Stubbs. “I only buy the highest quality shrimp, and it has to be frozen immediately on the boat after it is caught. With my shrimping experience and connections, I know exactly which boats to buy from and which ones to avoid.”

Stubbs drives his truck once a week from Brunswick loaded with more than 1,000 pounds of shrimp and delivers to more than 50 restaurants in the Atlanta area.

The increase in popularity of the seafood restaurant – and a renewed dedication to sustainable seafood – is not due solely to the local chefs creating imaginative dishes. Rather, it’s a statewide dedication from distribution companies and their representatives and entrepreneurs. And ultimately, the drive comes from consumer demand.

Flavor FlexibilityAtlantic Seafood Company

Atlantic Seafood Company, which has been independently owned and operated in Alpharetta for more than 10 years, specializes in seasonal market fish. On any given day, diners can find mountain trout, swordfish or atlantic salmon on the menu, and they can choose to have the fish grilled, blackened or cooked à la meunière. The freedom that this provides guests ensures that even those with dietary restrictions will have a satisfying dining experience.

“All of our market fish are popular,” Carpenter says, adding that as the clientele has shifted over the years, guest-menu customization is rapidly becoming important for the center of the plate.

“Lately I’ve had a lot of guests that come in with different dietary restrictions, so we had to make sure to offer them something delicious,” says Carpenter. “I want everyone to be able to come eat at my restaurant.”

As the country shifts toward healthier eating habits, the deep-fried seafood of yesterday is slowly transitioning out of restaurants and is being replaced with healthier options.

While Atlantic Seafood Co. does offer some fried seafood on its menu, for example, the options are reduced to fried shrimp and sea scallops, located beneath dozens of items like pecan-crusted mahi mahi, green chili grouper and spicy shellfish linguine.

“I always try to keep the menu changing. Other seafood restaurants around here are corporately owned and have to stick to their crab cakes and po’boys,” he says. “I like to do something different. We’re trying new things for this area, and we want people to come experience it with us.”

That something different includes one of his latest dishes, Orange-Miso African Prawns, which combines Asian and Southern culture. Lemon-braised rainbow chard sits on top of a crispy shiitake potato cake in a shallow pool of roasted pork belly dashi broth, then is topped with two large African Prawns that are flown in daily.

“I cook with the seasons,” says Carpenter. “I had to take halibut off the menu because it was out of season. It was a popular dish and I could probably still get it, but I decided to replace it with the prawns. The response has been fantastic.”

Highlighting the Half-ShellThe Noble Fin

Both locally sourced and sustainable seafood are top trends for 2016, according to the National Restaurant Association. As part of that trend, oysters are surfacing on menus all across the state.

Carpenter’s menu at the Atlantic Seafood Company showcases oysters from around the country, all arriving fresh and unfrozen. The most popular of his oyster options is “Nick’s Famous Char-Grilled Oysters,” which are shucked fresh and grilled with a cayenne-bacon-butter-chive sauce, topped with parmesan cheese and garnished with rock salt and a lemon wedge.

“I use Chesapeake for my char-grilled oysters. They are clean, big and beautiful,” says Carpenter. “Every oyster has different flavor profiles. The Chesapeake provides a thick enough shell to grill and not lose the crisp natural flavor.”

Noble Fin’s debut menu will consist of a constant rotation of East and West Coast oysters, each delicately prepared to complement the oyster and not overpower the natural flavor.

“We will offer a lot of different flavors with our oysters,” Swift says.“We’ll make our own tartar and cocktail sauces for the more traditional guest, yet offer something different such as garnishes like Jeb’s cucumber granita. We will also have fried oysters, simply because I love them.”

Granita is an Italian-inspired shaved ice that can be crafted with almost any juice or puree. The adaptability of the oyster is unique, and the ability to combine a traditional Italian dessert with the briny flavor of the barnacle is the type of creativity we’re going to see from Georgia chefs a lot more in the coming year.

Like Chefs Swift, Aldrich and Carpenter, it’s time to cut loose the traditional views of seafood and experience the modern taste of freshness with flavors showcasing Georgia’s thriving seafood industry.




Taste of Athens

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

March 20, 2016, Atrium at The Classic Center, Athens, GA. For more information, visit Taste of Athens

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