Already a restaurateur with four Georgia dining rooms to his name, Top Chef judge, and cookbook author, Hugh Acheson is taking on a new venture. Acheson is on board as “culinary partner” at Denver-based Punch Bowl Social, a Southern-style chain with additional locations in Portland, Austin, Detroit, Cleveland, and Schaumburg, Ill. The chef is executing “a nearly complete overhaul of the food offerings” at the restaurants.
"I have admired Punch Bowl Social's dedication and commitment to a completely scratch kitchen on such a large scale,” Acheson said in a press release. “There is nothing quite like it in the country. Their original Southern-inspired menu, design aesthetic of each location, and food-forward vision provides me with a unique opportunity to help grow and define the culinary program in a way that we hope will inspire other restaurants to focus on food in a similar way."
The chain hits on the trend of offering food, drinks, and entertainment options under one roof. Each restaurant includes a variety of “old-school games” — think bowling, darts, billiards, and the like. Punch Bowl Social’s food is what one would expect from a modern Southern kitchen, with dishes such as fried hominy, black-eyed pea hummus, and a fried chicken biscuit.
The announcement of Acheson as a partner comes at a time when Punch Bowl Social is looking at further expansion. New locations are planned for Brooklyn, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Sacramento, San Diego, and Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., according to the chain’s website. All are expected to open over the course of the next year. It’s been a quick rise for the chain: The original restaurant opened in Denver in 2012.
"Hugh's style is nostalgic for me, bringing me back to my roots growing up in Mississippi,” founder Robert Thompson said. “He blends modern cooking techniques and trends with an authentic, Southern culinary platform. The partnership with Hugh brings an injection of soulfulness to our menu while providing a consistent, disciplined, and innovative approach to our culinary program. With Hugh, we have a seasoned partner who will engineer the food aspect of our business, which is the keystone to our concept's success within the 'eatertainment' category."