Welcome to Industry Talks, where Eater shines the spotlight on Atlanta chefs, bartenders, sommeliers, and restaurant owners to provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their restaurant world.
Chef Maximilian Hines has been working in restaurants on and off since he was in high school. He dabbled in other careers, but always found himself coming back to restaurants. The D.C. area native says he eventually realized his true passion lay in food.
Following culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu, Hines went on to work for a number of well-known chefs, including Patrick O’Connell (The Inn at Little Washington), Richard Blais when the chef still owned restaurants in Atlanta, and for Sean Brock at restaurants in both Atlanta and Chicago. There were stints at other Atlanta restaurant, too, like Food 101, Villains, B’s Cracklin BBQ, and Bon Ton. Atlanta became home for Hines and his growing family, and the city where he says he became laser-focused on his career as a chef.
Now leading the kitchen as the executive chef at the Lawrence in Midtown, Hines draws inspiration from his past work under chefs like O’Connell and Brock, while also experimenting with his own flavors and ingredients to create dishes such as goat cheese ravioli stuffed with charred okra, hearts of palm, and tomatoes, fried pig’s ears spiced with Thai chilies and Chinese mustard sauce, and crispy duck confit over spaetzle in tomato broth.
One dish Hines is especially proud of from his latest menu at the Lawrence is the grilled snapper collar with nuoc cham sauce sprinkled with peanuts and freshly sliced jalapenos sitting atop a bed of sushi rice.
“To me, it’s like eating something light and summery — grilled and charred — everything I think about in warmer weather and being outside,” Hines says of the dish on the spring menu.
Even off the restaurant clock, folks can find Hines cooking as part of a collaborative group of Atlanta chefs called Stolen Goods. The pop-up is meant to lift up minority chefs in Atlanta, particularly Black chefs. It’s seen Justin Dixon, Claudia Martinez, Bryan Furman, and Melanie Dionne among the chefs who’ve brought their culinary talents to the table for Stolen Goods. The chefs collective recently completed the first in a series of Sunday Suppers dedicated to the food and legacy of chef Edna Lewis, which took place at the Lawrence in February. Hines says a follow-up dinner is already in the works, and probably where they take the Sunday Supper show on the road to Asheville.
The next Stolen Goods pop-up in Atlanta — SG Chophouse — takes place April 4 in the taproom at SweetWater Brewing Company. No tickets are necessary, Hines says, just “show up and get fed.”
The responses below have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Who inspires you as a chef?
Patrick O’Connell comes to mind first, especially when I find myself not being disciplined. Also, Edna Lewis because she’s a big part of where I’m at with my cooking, she looked back to the past in her recipes to move food forward. Just going through her cookbooks, the way she writes, you can feel her food and the energy she put into creating it. I’m a huge fan of Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park). He wasn’t afraid to take one of the world’s best restaurants and go pretty much vegan.
Favorite off-the-clock meal to cook at home.
Most recently, it was twice-cooked pork because it’s a simple dish and an easy dish that comes together with rice. That’s one of my favorite things. I also made a nice pot of gumbo for family meal and took some home. Just having the time to make roux and focus on a one-pot dish is nice.
Favorite restaurant or pop-up right now in Atlanta.
For pop-ups, it’s Mighty Hans and Jimmie’s Jerk Chicken. Favorite restaurants are Lyla Lila. Craig [Richards] has been a mentor to me. Ticonderoga Club just kills it every time. Also Scotley Innis and his restaurant the Continent. But, if I had to pick one favorite, it’s Spring. I’ve had times where I’ve eaten through the entire menu and gone back to reorder dishes. It’s just so well executed.
Favorite restaurant for a meal while traveling?
What are your future plans as a chef or in restaurants?
In the short term, to keep pushing the pop-up [Stolen Goods] forward. There’s great ideas coming out of it and dope chefs involved. I want to eventually own my own restaurant or invest in something. I’d be nice to wake up one day and be like, I’m doing this for my business and my family.
What would you like to see change or see more of on the Atlanta dining scene?
More, and better, work-life balance and livable wages at restaurants. It’s moving in the right direction, but we’re not there yet. I also think, while we have a great chef community, it tends to be very bro-y. There needs to be more inclusiveness, including for women chefs. I also feel like, in terms of Black chefs in Atlanta, we still get pigeonholed sometimes and are expected to cook soul food. I know so many talented chefs here who are doing great things with different types of cuisines.
Most underrated chef or chef to watch in Atlanta.
Robert Butts from Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours. He’s an assassin and is just so focused. His food, his drive. If you haven’t heard his name by now, you should know it, because you’re definitely going to hear it very soon.