At the tender age of 22, John Williams is on the fast track in Atlanta’s restaurant scene.
Unlike most chefs, Williams fell into the business after accepting a job offer from the owner of a local music venue right before he graduated from high school.
“I was taking a food science class and really liked it,” recalls the Atlanta native. “When the owner asked if I could come to work there, I said ‘sure – why not?’”
Ever the quick study, Williams soaked up every bit of knowledge he could – from food basics to handling and ordering.
“He opened a lot of doors for me,” Williams says fondly. “When he went to West Egg, he urged them to hire me and I found out I was really good at this!”
Within a year, John had climbed the popular Westside café’s kitchen ladder and at one point ran the whole establishment. He was 19.
Williams’ career has been full speed ahead ever since. Named to Zagat’s 30-Under-30 before he had even turned 20, he added to his list of credits with the co-creation of Oddbird, the Westside pop-up that features his take on Nashville hot chicken – served with his favorite dish, mac and cheese.
He then moved to sister restaurant The General Muir, owned by James Beard-nominated chef Todd Ginsberg with partners Jennifer and Brad Johnson, to be a sous chef. There, Williams delved into his creative side, learning to “mix food flavors together to make something beautiful.” Adds Williams, “Todd is so passionate about that style of food that it was easy for me to pick up on it. He’s has been my biggest influence so far.”
In his newest role as Chef de Cuisine at Fred’s Meat & Bread and Middle Eastern- inspired Yalla – both at the Krog Street Market and owned by the same team – Williams still gets to try new things.
“I enjoy taking different products I’ve never worked with and making something delicious. I’ve never worked with as much eggplant as I have at Yalla,” he laughs.
“I like a lot of change, and this move was great for me,” he says. “I never thought I would be where I am right now. It’s a sign that I’m doing something I should be doing.” –NW