James Beard Winners and the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

May 10, 2012 | By | Comments (0)

We’re just pleased as punch to be able to spotlight these James Beard Foundation Award winners both for their recent achievement and for their continued involvement in our sizzling Southern food scene. We caught up with Hugh Acheson and Linton Hopkins, who tied for Best Chef: Southeast at this past Monday's awards to talk about the honor and their parts in this weekend’s Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. (Find tickets to the event here.) 

Photo: Courtesy of the James Beard Foundation

Hugh Acheson
Five and Ten
Athens, GA

What would you cook for James Beard to celebrate your recent award?
It's Spring, so I’d do crisp Shad Roe with capers, chilis, and anchovies over wilted greens with local grits.

What cocktail did you toast with after winning?
Perrier Jouet Champagne.

What's next for you?
A new cookbook! It's called Eat Well. It's a vegi-centric book about taking advantage of local produce.

Join Hugh for the Shepherd to the Chef lamb dinner this Friday night at his restaurant, Empire State South (with visiting chefs Ryan Smith, Tyler Brown, Ashley Christensen, Drew Robinson, Bryan Voltaggio, and Brew Master, Mike Gallagher). Or, catch his chat about community involvement with food on Sunday at 11:30am, followed by a book signing.

Linton Hopkins
Restaurant Eugene
Atlanta, GA

What would you cook for James Beard to celebrate your recent award?
I would start with my grandfather Eugene’s beaten biscuits and a whole country ham, cooked in pickled peach nectar, and sliced so thin it only had one side. I was speaking recently with Nancy Newsom (of Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Country Ham), [who said that] James Beard essentially started their mail order business with his support. He celebrated good food. Along with that, I would definitely have some summer fresh peas in a big fresh bowl of succotash with corn and lima beans, maybe some shrimp in a pilaf, and some great greens. It’d just be a meal celebrating the bounty of the American South, which is how like to cook. It’s the food of real people with stories.

What cocktail did you toast with after winning?
Champange right off the bat. Then I toasted John T. Edge with this amazing cocktail,  that was like a Sazerac, but was made with rum and bitter orange. It was phenomenal. The top food, wine, and beverage professionals around the South know how to throw themselves a party.

What's next for you?
We have a couple of things on the horizon. The H & F Bread Co. (our bakery) just moved into a 14,000 square foot space about a month ago. We sell to 105 restaurants. Fresh bread baked, served every day has been our real mission—no preservatives and no junk, just real products that you can pronounce. Big is not bad. Fast food is not bad. The corruption has been in what we’ve done to those ingredients. We can make lots, if we just make it good. 

Another goal is that we want Eugene to be recognized for best service. Service drives our industry. Good service makes the food better—it’s a stamp on the ethic of the restaurant. Also, Holeman & Finch Public House got on the long list for the bar program, and I’d love to see that team get recognized. Our pastry chef should be recognized for what he does in that dept. He’s one of our nation’s best.

Our award on Monday night was not an individual award, but a team one. I’ve been carrying the medal around in my pocket and letting everyone hold it. This was a shared award.

Catch Linton on Saturday afternoon, as he teaches a class on Country Hams, along with Alon Shaya of Domenica in New Orleans and Allan Benton of Benton's Country Hams. Then, on Sunday night, don’t miss the The Parting Bite: A Chorus of Greens. At this year's final festival event, held at Bacchanalia, Linton teams up with Anne Quatrano and 20 other Southern chefs for a meal and performance of Leaves of Green—“The Collard Green Opera,” by Price Walden (named a "Hero of the New South" in Southern Living's March issue).



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