Chef Craig Richards departed Ford Fry’s Italian and seafood restaurant St. Cecilia in Buckhead on Friday to lead the kitchen at restaurateur Billy Streck’s sports pub Hampton + Hudson in Inman Park. Richards is entering into what he and Streck are calling a “culinary partnership”. The partnership includes the likely possibility of a restaurant for Richards in the future, along with a few other undisclosed projects. Chef Damon Wise (former culinary director for chef Linton Hopkins’ restaurant group) is replacing Richards at St. Cecilia.
Don’t expect the menu to change much over the next six weeks at Hampton + Hudson. Richards plans to tweak a few dishes and dial in the burger before he makes any sweeping changes to the food. The pastas for which he was known at St. Cecilia won’t be on the menu, but could be part of the plans he and Streck have for a future project. Richards says, however, he is not involved in Nina and Rafi’s — the restaurant Streck is working on with Anthony Spina (O4W Pizza) at SPX Alley on the Eastside Trail in the Old Fourth Ward.
Richards moved to Atlanta in 2005 for a job at Fifth Group’s Italian restaurant La Tavola in Virginia-Highland. He left La Tavola for Ecco in 2011 — Fifth Group’s European-style restaurant in Midtown. In 2014, Fry tapped Richards to help open St. Cecilia and became its executive chef later that year following the departure of chef Brian Horn for JCT Kitchen and Bar. Richards worked in restaurants throughout Italy and with Lidia Bastianich (Italian celebrity chef, restaurateur) prior to his move to Atlanta. Pasta is his specialty.
“I was very fortunate Ford let me do the food I always wanted to cook. Leaving St. Cecilia was a very hard decision to make; especially as a chef, when you’re putting so much physical and creative energy into your food,” Richards tells Eater Atlanta. “We developed a lot of great cooks and sous chefs there. But, it was just time for a change. I’m excited.”
Richards declined to be more specific about the other projects he and Streck are planning, but says they’re working on a “couple of different types of concepts.” Rumors are circulating from within the Atlanta restaurant industry that Streck is toying with the idea of opening a more fine dining-type restaurant; bringing Richards on at Hampton + Hudson could signal this move.
“Coming to Hampton + Hudson is going to free me up to work on other projects with Billy,” says Richards. “I’m also a big soccer fan and have always wanted to do or be a part of a soccer pub with great food. This move is just the beginning.”
Streck also owns Cypress Street Pint & Plate in Midtown.