Some of the city’s top tastemakers are gearing up for the 2016 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, taking place Thursday, June 2, through Sunday, June 5, in the heart of Midtown. We had the pleasure of speaking with six top chefs presenting at the festival: Steven Satterfield (Miller Union), Linton Hopkins (Restaurant Eugene, Holeman and Finch Public House, H&F Bottle Shop, H&F Burger, Hop’s Chicken, Linton’s in the Garden), Duane Nutter (One Flew South), Kevin Gillespie (Gunshow), Gerry Klaskala (Aria, Canoe, Atlas) and Justin Amick (The Painted Pin) about everything from their involvement in the event to why Atlanta sets the stage for top-notch Southern cuisine.
“This year we go deeper into traditions,” says Dominique Love, AFWF co-founder. And our Atlanta chefs are helping to make the magic happen. Read below to find out why these six chefs are changing the city’s culinary game.
StyleBlueprint: How did you get involved with the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, and why is it important for you to be a part of its sixth year?
Steven Satterfield: I’ve been involved with the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival and have served on the Founders Advisory Council from the time the festival was formed. I see Miller Union as a leader in the dining scene in Atlanta and we are always trying to stay involved with the community. The festival continues to grow every year, and it is exciting to watch the progress.
Linton Hopkins: Dominique Love sat with my wife, Gina, and me on our back patio at home and discussed her idea of having a food and wine event in Atlanta. We shared input about what we thought, how we would support and we said, “Absolutely, we’d love to be a part of making that into a reality.” We’re proud to be considered founders. Every year is important, and each year is an opportunity to show that we are building longevity and roots in order to establish this idea of Atlanta as a real destination for food.
Duane Nutter: I was doing a cooking demonstration at The Cook’s Warehouse and Dominique Love asked me if I wanted to be a part of something that will be special for the city. It is important for me to be a part of the festival simply because of where our restaurant is located. Not many people in Atlanta have ever dined at One Flew South.
Kevin Gillespie: Dominique Love came into Woodfire Grill and asked me to participate. I feel that with any food festival, you must have a strong showing from the home crowd.
Gerry Klaskala: I was initially invited to be a founding chef. I thought it was quite an honor and privilege to be part of that group and establish Atlanta as a culinary destination [as] we know it today. I’m proud of the Southeast’s diverse culinary heritage, especially Atlanta’s, and want to carry forward the mission of promoting it.
Justin Amick: I was approached by the founders to join the advisory group in the festival’s second year. I’m honored to be part of the growth, progress and evolution each new year brings.
SB: How long have you worked here in Atlanta, and what keeps you here?
SS: I’ve lived in Atlanta for 29 years and have always felt that this city welcomes new ideas and supports people that build community. The more you give, the more you get back.
LH: I worked in catering and at pizza joints in high school and during my college years at Emory prior to opening Restaurant Eugene in 2002, and I catered independently while building the restaurant and ultimately opening Holeman and Finch Public House in 2004. I worked at Mellow Mushroom in Little Five Points back in the day and even delivered Domino’s Pizza – the Buckhead route!
DN: I’ve worked in Atlanta a little over 14 years. I moved here in late 1994 to work with a chef I saw on TV when I was in high school; his name was Darryl Evans. He was the first African-American I saw cooking the way I wanted to cook.
KG: I’ve worked in many other cities, and I believe that Atlanta has the perfect mix of an educated populous, strong economy and a burgeoning food scene.
GK: I’ve worked here since 1976. I’m drawn to Atlanta’s location and climate. Its diversity and strong culinary background provide limitless opportunities for many people and should be celebrated.
JA: I’m a rare, true Atlanta native, born and raised, that grew up in the family restaurant business. My roots are here in the capital of the South. This is my home, and I want to help contribute to making Atlanta the best city it can be.
SB: How does Atlanta differentiate itself from other culinary destinations?
SS: Atlanta is a warm and friendly city that is still discovering itself. There is innovation and varying points of view in cooking. Atlanta is very focused on seasonality, in part from the strong farmers market scene here.
LH: What you’re seeing that’s different is the uniqueness of our chefs and our own personal stories, in addition to our supply chain that’s on par with anywhere in the world, frankly. We see this across the South and add a distinctive spin by highlighting farms and artisans. What’s happening in Atlanta is cutting edge, relationship-driven cuisine.
DN: It’s a melting pot of cultures from around the world. You can visit any farmers market and be transported to a new food culture.
KG: Our food culture is derived from so many influences. It is far from the stereotype some have.
GK: It’s the deep repertoire of Southern dishes. New Orleans is recognizable because of its Creole and Cajun influences. If you take the bayou out of the Southern equation, Atlanta represents the other 98 percent of the South — excluding Texas. Atlanta is an amalgamation of everything but the bayou. Biscuits, sawmill gravy — that’s the South. Atlanta is one of the major players in the South. You see Nashville, Memphis and Birmingham rising and becoming influential and important, but because of its sheer size and location, Atlanta is the center of it all.
JA: Atlanta is one of the most underrated restaurant markets in the country. Atlanta has a knack for delivering high-quality cuisine of every kind, in addition to our iconic regional fare in high-energy, beautiful settings. Atlanta is the true home for Southern hospitality and overdelivers on quality and value.
SB: What’s the world’s most challenging ingredient to cook with and why?
SS: I have to go with artichokes. They are incredibly labor intensive with a lot of waste and very little yield. I always say that whomever discovered that artichokes were edible must have been really effing hungry.
LH: Not as challenging to cook with as it is to cook and then sell to people, is whole animal cookery. Holeman and Finch Public House was created around the discussion of the whole animal, and it’s our responsibility to cook all of it.
DN: It would have to be that time I had to clean sea cucumbers. They were just so slimy.
KG: Durian, because it smells and tastes awful.
GK: Possum, and there’s plenty of them around here! But you have to get past its appearance and the thought of, “Why would I want to cook it?!”
JA: Eggs. You would think it would be the simplest ingredient, but they can be served so many ways at so many temperatures and styles that it is difficult to meet the expectation of so many personal preferences.
SB: What is your signature dish?
SS: It would be the farm egg baked in celery cream. We lightly cook celery, onion, shallot, thyme, parsley, bay and peppercorn in a saucepan then add cream and bring to a simmer. We let it steep for 30 minutes then strain out the solids, resulting in a savory, celery-infused cream. Then we bake an egg in 2 ounces of this cream in a shallow bowl until the egg white is set, but the yolk is still runny. It’s served with grilled bread.
LH: The vegetable plate at Restaurant Eugene. Restaurant Eugene is important because of its relationship to the city of Atlanta, the state of Georgia and why fine dining matters. The vegetable plate is at the core of Restaurant Eugene. To us, it’s about connectivity to guests, and there is a different way to approach this through a continuing, new story of the tradition of how Restaurant Eugene serves its community, with a constant parade of amazing professionals and relationships with farms and artisans. That’s the magic of this vegetable plate — it changes every night, but it’s still, at its core, the same thing. It’s vital, honest, connected and creative. It, to me, is built to define the now cuisine of Atlanta.
DN: Thyme-roasted pork belly, which comes with a black-eyed pea and arugula salad, parsnip puree and blackberry-onion marmalade.
KG: Warm banana pudding. I didn’t really set out to make this my signature dish, but the guests at Gunshow made it that way. It is the one item that never comes off the menu there. It’s also a family recipe, so it’s very near and dear to my heart. It’s special because we use a very old-fashioned way of making it. Ours is served hot, which is not common for banana pudding. And our recipe predates vanilla wafers, so it’s made with cake. My great-great-grandmother always cooked her bananas before making the pudding so we do that, too — it makes it sweeter and creamier. And then the meringue on top makes it special, too.
GK: I’m not sure that’s for me to decide. I’ve created so many dishes over the years at different restaurants, and would want other people to say what those signature dishes are. I may be known for refined comfort food. I try to make food as comfortable as possible when I put together a dish, and I like my food to really talk with lots of flavor.
JA: Our signature dish is our famous waffle dogs. They are petite beef franks covered in malted Georgia waffle batter served with a sweet soy aioli.
SB: What are the challenges when cooking for a throng of festivalgoers versus in your own kitchen for customers?
SS: Batching up to large amounts doesn’t always add up, and the way in which you execute may be a sort of backward approach, especially in a tasting tent situation. I just always try to think of everything that could go wrong, then do everything in my power to steer clear of those mishaps.
LH: Professional kitchens are designed for one thing — executing the food for the guest that isn’t more than 50 feet away. Remote destination cooking requires an understanding of what is doable off-site, and writing a menu for that. What’s difficult with event cooking is you don’t often have the ability to utilize your own kitchen tools and techniques, such as high-heat, fast cooking versus slow braising and frying. A tabletop fryer always seems to break down in the middle of the event making it challenging to execute perfectly. That’s why we set up a kitchen on-site at certain events to execute with our own griddles — so we are cooking to order.
DN: The toughest part about cooking for festivalgoers versus in my own kitchen would have to be when it rains. Rain never affects me when in the trenches of our line.
KG: Any time you are cooking for the masses there is limited time, manpower and equipment to get the food out.
GK: It’s always challenging to cook for so many people. It seems like a little gets lost in the mollification of a dish. Being able to have that total control of all the sensory elements seems to get lost the greater the amount you prepare. In the restaurant, you have more control over the sensory elements you’re trying to present — taste, smell, texture and appearance.
JA: Simplicity, preparation and execution.
SB: What do you foresee for the future of Atlanta’s food scene? How will you help to shape and cultivate it?
SS: The food scene here is evolving rapidly. I think we will see more niche restaurants that focus on doing one or two things really well or that focus on a particular food style, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.
LH: I just want to help participate, support and create more opportunities for young chefs to get in this business and build their own dreams. I see Atlanta growing more than what’s inside 285; I see vibrant food scenes developing outside the Perimeter, and I see every neighborhood inside the loop developing its own destination group of restaurants, whether it’s Decatur to the Old Fourth Ward or the Westside — it’s happening everywhere. There is still a lot of opportunity for young restaurateurs to be groundbreaking and further develop these neighborhoods, pushing the boundaries of where you can and can’t open a restaurant.
DN: In the last five years or so, Atlanta has really started to come into its own by highlighting its own diversity and still being true to its Southern roots. The best way I know how I can help shape and cultivate the food culture is just by being myself, a 6-foot, 6-inch guy born in Morgan City, LA, who moved to Seattle at 8 years old before moving back down South to Atlanta.
KG: I’d love to see Atlanta grow into a world food destination instead of just a regional one. I’d like to make sure that we continue to remember that we don’t have to compare ourselves to others and just focus on what we do and what’s unique. We don’t have to make dishes that are historically accurate to the region. We can make them our own.
GK: The future in Atlanta is going to continue to get more exciting. The talent that’s bubbling up is more talented than ever. With the diversification of the city, I’m excited to see what all this great talent will do with a variety of options at their disposal. My role will be to keep a steady hand at the wheel. My door is always open to chefs, sous chefs, line cooks and wayward culinary souls in need of an empathetic ear and a hot cup of coffee.
JA: Atlanta continues to stay on the pulse of the food and beverage industry. Fine dining and white tablecloths are almost nonexistent in this city. I think the trend will continue on fast casual offerings that overdeliver on value and quality. I will keep my focus on creating truly unique entertainment destinations that combine great food, beverages, gaming, hospitality and entertainment for the Atlanta community to enjoy. My newest venture, The Painted Duck, will open in West Midtown Atlanta in the first quarter of next year.
“Everybody will see something for the first time,” says Elizabeth Feichter, AFWF co-founder. With some blow-your-mind additions, like a Pop-up Vineyard and the chance to see a whole cow on the grill, this heavenly happening will now have its tasting tents in the Greensward Promenade area of Piedmont Park.
Snag your tickets to what promises to be the foodie event of the year (nearly 10,000 people attended in 2015)! And as you fill up on wonderful new flavor combinations, learn how to make some fabulous delicacies and see award-winning chefs throughout the weekend, make sure you document all the fun and share it with us on Instagram at @StyleBlueprintAtlanta!