Chef Linda Harrell has been working in restaurants since she was a teenager. Her years of dedication have resulted in Cibo E Beve, an Italian restaurant in Sandy Springs that draws people from all over the city to sit down and dine. Today’s FACE of Atlanta, Linda is executive chef and co-owner of her dream restaurant, where she works tenaciously to spread love through her food.
Your philosophy is “a tavola non si invecchia.” Can you explain what this means to you?
It’s directly translated into “the table is not aging,” but it means “no one grows old at the table.” It’s a philosophy I believe in — there is no age when you sit down at the table to eat, only people, conversation and food!
What feeling does your restaurant exude on a Saturday night?
It’s fun and exciting. We all become one big family. It has a trendy city vibe, but it still has a neighborhood warmth.
Which dish on your menu is a must-try?
The lobster spaghetti.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Long Island, NY. I’ve moved up and down the East Coast, but Atlanta is the farthest south I’ve lived.
When did you fall in love with cooking?
I always enjoyed cooking, even when I was young in the kitchen with my mother. I got a summer job in a restaurant as a teenager, and it’s then that I discovered my passion for the restaurant business. I’ve kept going and never looked back.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a female chef?
Not many, really. I’ve made sure that no one could question my abilities in the kitchen. I spent a lot of time learning my craft — studying, working a gazillion hours — until I got it right, and I was always very fast in the kitchen. I don’t think anyone looked at me any differently because I was female; I was too much of a badass. Ha! However, when I was 16 or 17 I told my boss that I wanted to be a chef. He laughed and said it was a man’s job, but I could be a “salad girl” if I wanted. I saw him about five or six years later at a Ray Charles concert and told him I was the chef of a French restaurant.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you love to do?
I’m not sure, because I really love what I do. But I always thought I would be good in advertising.
If you could have four people, living or dead, over for dinner, who would you invite and what would you serve?
Robert Smith (of The Cure), Jesus Christ, Faye Dunaway and Charles Bukowski. I would make lobster spaghetti, tournedos Rossini and croquembouche. For Charles, I would just make sure I had plenty of booze.
When you are home by yourself, what do you like to cook for dinner?
I try to cook healthy. I am on the Whole30 plan right now, so I am only eating fruit, meat and vegetables. It’s a great way to reset your body.
What do you love about Atlanta?
We have everything here — great culinary scene, music scene, the movie industry is becoming huge. And it’s beautiful. The first thing I noticed when I moved here was how clean and pretty it was. I have also found that Southern hospitality really exists here.
When you have a free night away from the kitchen, what do you like to do?
Hang out with my dog, Sebastian.
What are your other hobbies and passions?
Music and art.
What are you reading?
Contraband, by Charlie Vazquez.
What is the greatest advice you have been given?
Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
What are three things you cannot live without, excluding God, family and friends?
My Vitamix, my iPod and my laptop.
Thanks so much, Chef Linda! Visit Cibo E Beve’s website to make a reservation to gather around one of their tables for dinner! ciboatlanta.com
And, thank you to Cat Maxwell of Cat Max Photography for her wonderful photos!