James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson, the man behind Empire State South and Athens' Five & Ten, The National, and Cinco y Diez, is soon expanding to Savannah. His highly anticipated restaurant, The Florence, will offer Italian cuisine with Southern ingredients, and now it has some signage. Acheson expects to launch in the coming days.
Eater National's Amy McKeever recently caught up with Acheson at the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, where he offered a few Atlanta-related tidbits:
On pickles and his pickle cookbooklet:
We definitely have a pickle problem at Empire State South, where we make way too many pickles. We're still finding pickled ramps from two years ago. I don't know how the health department feels about that. But a problem, no.
On Southern cooking:
Trying to bring back things that are quickly being forgotten in the world of Southern food is really important. Everybody says things like, oh, I remember canning with my grandmother. The problem is you don't remember canning with your mother. Because she didn't can with you. The era where we lost touch with food just eclipsed everything.
On his forthcoming cookbook:
The book sort of answers the question, "What the fuck do I do with kohlrabi?" That's actually not the working title. It's called The Broad Fork, as a working title. And it's just aimed at getting people to understand what's in their CSA box, what's at the farmers' market, and how to use it. Each ingredient has four recipes, two simpler and two more in-depth. So if it's leeks, or asparagus, everything's got four things. There are some foraged elements, too, but not too much. I'm a little worried we're going to forage the earth into nothingness very soon. Lichen. Do you like lichen? What's not to lichen?
On his fifth restaurant The Florence, opening soon in Savannah:
It's a phenomenally beautiful restaurant. I'm really proud of it, the build-out's really good, and now comes the most difficult part of any concept: not designing and building it, but actually putting content into it every day. But we have a great team down there. And the idea is relatively simple at its core, it's just to show the similarity and ethos between Southern food and Italian food. They're both remarkably simple reactions to their growing environments. A lot of extruded pastas and hand-rolled pastas. There's a pizza oven, but it's not a pizzeria.
On not opening more restaurants in Atlanta:
Because it's not where I live. I love Atlanta, and I spend half of my time there, and it's a wonderful, growing city. Empire is a bit of a beast of a restaurant; it's breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and it's seven days a week. So it draws most of our attention when we're there. We have a very strong team there, and great people who we'll elevate to other roles and potentially do other stuff with. It's just not on our radar right now. I wouldn't say Atlanta is saturated with food right now, in the style that we do, but it's getting there.
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