Chef Ronald “Ron” Hsu, part owner of the forthcoming tasting menu-focused restaurant Lazy Betty in Candler Park, is ready for his close-up on the new Netflix culinary competition, The Final Table, premiering November 20. The 10-part series sees 24 chefs from around the world working together on teams of two in a series of elimination challenges for a seat at the “Final Table” among nine master chefs. Hsu is paired with chef Shin Takagi of the two Michelin starred Zeniya in Kanazawa, Japan on the show.
Hsu, a former executive sous chef and creative director at chef Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin in New York City, says he decided to be part of the Netflix series in order to showcase Atlanta’s diverse restaurant scene.
“I think Buford Highway has shaped the city as much as places like Bacchanalia and Restaurant Eugene,” Hsu explains. “I grew up in the South working in the restaurants of my Malaysian-Chinese parents. Asian food has played such a huge role in how I approach cooking and hospitality. I thought this international cooking competition would be a great platform.”
Lazy Betty is named for the Hsu family matriarch, Betty, who grew up in Malaysia and immigrated to the United States in the 1960s. Far from lazy, she often worked long hours in the Chinese restaurants she owned with her husband George throughout metro Atlanta. The chef recalls many times visiting from New York to find his mother - now retired — fast asleep on the couch after a day of cooking, cleaning, and looking after grandchildren.
Hsu says working with Takagi on The Final Table was “awesome”, calling him not only a great chef, but a “great friend.” Hsu staged at Takagi’s restaurant seven years ago learning Kaiseki cuisine (traditional, Japanese multi-course meal.) Takagi would pick Hsu up at his hotel at 5 a.m. to head to the market for ingredients and then grab coffee to discuss and create the day’s menu. The mentor-mentee relationship between the two chefs eventually developed into a friendship. When Hsu returns to Japan, he makes it a point to always visit with Takagi.
“My approach to cooking is much different than Shin’s [Takagi] in that I like to incorporate elements of different cuisines and construct them onto a menu to give you flavors that take you across the world,” Hsu says of being paired with his mentor. “His style is rooted in much more tradition (Kaiseki,) but he incorporates splashes of modernity as well.”
While larger cities like New York and Los Angeles see their chefs and restaurants featured regularly on cooking shows, for smaller markets like Atlanta, these competitions give chefs a chance to be seen outside their culinary cocoons. It’s a round-about way of raising awareness for their restaurant or to engage with investors who might be looking to provide capital. For chefs of color in Southern cities such as Atlanta, these shows also provide an opportunity for them to demonstrate to the world there’s more to Southern food than fried chicken and barbecue.
“I think Atlanta should be considered one of the top food destinations in the country and wanted to show the world that Atliens can bring the heat in the kitchen!”
Atlanta will have to wait to find out exactly how Hsu does on The Final Table as well as what cuisine he and Takagi are tasked with cooking. Although, one snippet in the trailer finds the pair facing the judges, and Mexican is mentioned.
Lazy Betty will be located in the former Radial Cafe space on Dekalb Avenue in Candler Park and should open early next year. Hsu is partnering in the restaurant with his siblings Howard and Anita (owners of Sweet Auburn BBQ) and chef Aaron Phillips, who he met while working at Le Bernardin.
Lazy Betty, 1530 DeKalb Avenue, Atlanta. lazybettyatl.com.
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