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2018 Georgia Grown Chefs

GRA and Georgia Department of Agriculture Announce New Crop of Chefs at Taste of Georgia Event

In February, the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA), in partnership with the Georgia Department of Agriculture, announced the 2018 Georgia Grown chefs. These six chefs join the roster of 27 other Georgia Grown Executive Chefs.

Now in its seventh year, the Georgia Grown Executive Chef program seeks to promote the state’s Georgia Grown campaign and help grow awareness for both restaurateurs and consumers about which local Georgia products are available each season. It also aims to highlight and involve public school culinary education and school food nutrition by increasing opportunities for Georgia Grown products, training and recipe development.

The chefs will participate in school demos, market demos, festivals and other events at the Department of Agriculture. The group will also travel to New York City in June to showcase a Southern feast filled with locally sourced ingredients at the James Beard House.

“Each chef chosen for this prestigious program brings a different perspective and unique talents to the Georgia Grown Executive Chef class of 2018,” says GRA CEO Karen Bremer. “All six chefs possess a true passion for local, seasonal cuisine and strengthening their relationships with Georgia suppliers.”

The 2018 Georgia Grown Chefs are:

Evan Cordes | Chef and Owner | Cast Iron | Atlanta
After starting his career in restaurants as a teenager, Cordes moved from North Carolina to Georgia, he worked in the kitchens of GRA members Scott Serpas at Serpas True Food and Billy Allin (Bread & Butterfly, Proof and Cakes & Ale) before a stint as a personal chef. It was this experience that led in 2016 to the opening of Cast Iron, a low-key, cozy restaurant in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.

Chef Jason Jimenez | Executive Chef | Kitchen Six | Decatur
An Atlanta native, Jimenez attended Johnson and Wales University in Charleston, working in several restaurants there before returning back to Georgia. Here, he worked at Canoe, Local Three and Muss & Turner’s before starting a boutique private chef and catering company, Homespun, with his wife in 2012. At Kitchen Six, a 60-seat restaurant in the Oak Grove neighborhood of North Decatur, Jimenez uses highly seasonal ingredients in his rustic cuisine with a Southern touch.

Brian David Jones | Executive Chef | University Dining at Kennesaw State University | Kennesaw
A native Georgian, Jones graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta culinary arts program and has worked at local restaurants including Canoe, Watershed, The Atlanta Grill at the Ritz Carlton Downtown Atlanta and Restaurant Eugene, where he served as executive chef. In his role at KSU, he oversees a kitchen brigade who feeds more than 7,000 students, faculty and staff daily at the university’s two campuses. He collaborates with local farmers, including KSU’s own Hickory Grove Farm.

Zach Meloy | Executive Chef/Owner | Better Half | Atlanta
As a child, Meloy always made a mental note of what he’d eat each day. After attending Johnson & Wales in Denver and working with award-wining chef Frank Stitt at Bottega in Birmingham, Ala., Meloy went on to spend five years traveling, eating and studying the cuisine in Central America. He returned to Atlanta and worked in the kitchens of GRA members Gerry Klaskala and Jay Swift before launching an underground supper club, PushStart Kitchen, with his wife Cristina in 2011. After feeding more than 100 guests per week and garnering local, regional and national attention, the pair opened Better Half in Atlanta, where they continue to serve inventive seasonal food.

Christian Rodriguez | Chef and Vice President | High Road Craft Ice Cream | Atlanta
Rodriguez grew up in Hinesville as part of a tight-knit military Puerto Rican family. He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta in 2008 with honors, then worked at Five & Ten in Athens and the Grateful Tables Restaurant Group in Atlanta. He also opened the first Barcelona Wine Bar in the Southeast with the Barteca restaurant group. At High Road Ice Cream, Rodriguez oversees product development and helps manage daily operations.

Todd White | Department Chair/Instructor for Culinary Arts Program | Albany Technical College | Albany
An Albany native, White comes from a long line of farmers. After graduating from the Art Institute of Atlanta’s culinary program and training at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead, White moved to Savannah and started a 15-year career with Marriott. In 2011, he returned with his family to Albany and uses his 20 years of culinary experience to teach a new generation of students.


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