Almost Famous: 5 Southern Chefs to Watch

It used to be that the majority of America’s most talented chefs were all cooking in New York City kitchens. But today you can eat in almost any city in the country, from Pittsburgh to Orlando, Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, and find skilled, revolutionary chefs worth their salt — especially if you choose to dine in the South. With the country’s most historic (and easily most storied) cuisine and a slew of accomplished chefs pushing the envelope as they marry tradition with innovation, Southern food has never tasted so good. Here are five Southern chefs to watch.

Raleigh’s Cheetie Kumar of Garland
James Beard winner Ashley Christensen may have put Raleigh on the culinary map, but Cheetie Kumar, the guitar player for Birds of Avalon and the mastermind behind Asian hotspot Garland, is keeping the City of Oaks on every foodie’s radar. Far from passé fusion, Cheetie dishes up authentic Korean plates (don’t miss her Heritage Farms pork shoulder rice bowl with housemade kimchi pickles and daikon-collard slaw, topped with a fried egg) alongside Indian specialties (the turmeric-yogurt glazed cauliflower spiked with curry leaves, chiles and cilantro packs an incredible flavor punch), all made with local Southern ingredients. [Photo by Tierney Farrell]

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Charleston’s Jeremiah Bacon of The Macintosh
Sean Brock and Mike Lata get most of the national attention when it comes to Charleston restaurants (and for good reason), but three-time James Beard semi-finalist Jeremiah Bacon, who helms the kitchen at The Macintosh, is making diners take notice. Bacon has a knack for fusing local, in-season ingredients with avant-garde-yet-approachable techniques, resulting in one-of-a-kind dishes (did someone say grouper charcuterie seasoned with bologna spices?) that will linger on your taste buds long after your meal.

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Houston’s Luis Roger of BCN Taste & Tradition
Diners have been flocking to Houston for a taste of James Beard winner Chris Shepherd’s Southern-meets-Asian creations, and with good reason. Stay for chef Luis Roger’s exemplary haute cuisine at Houston’s hottest Spanish destination, BCN Taste & Tradition. Bona fide bites of boquerones (pickled anchovies) are served up in an intimate villa setting, alongside Barcelona classics, such as green peas sautéed with prized Ibérico ham and crispy artichokes, decadent foie gras terrine, and buttery lobster bouillabaisse.

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Atlanta’s Zach Meloy of Better Half
Though Bacchanalia and Restaurant Eugene have been on the top fine dining restaurant lists for more than a decade, they’re not exactly affordable options (though they are worth it, if you can spring for the splurge). So when you’re craving the same level of food (read: precision, finesse, creativity, passion, and quality) and want to avoid spending your monthly mortgage on dinner, head to chef Zach Meloy’s unassuming, but big on delivery Westside restaurant, Better Half. Exclusively serving prix-fixe menus (available in three-, five- and nine-course tastings, priced at $35, $55 and $75, respectively), Meloy’s food—he rarely cooks the same dish twice—is fresh and thrilling, always with a profusion of contrasting flavors, textures, and temperatures. [Photo by Rebecca Stanley]

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Nashville’s Brian Baxter of Husk
When Sean Brock brought his legendary Husk restaurant to Nashville, the city’s restaurant scene exploded with excitement. But as all multiple-location restaurants go (especially those with a celebrity chef like Brock), it’s the lesser-known, but no-less-talented kitchen crew who runs the day-to-day show. Here, chef de cuisine Brian Baxter—he’s been with Brock on-and-off since 2008 at McGrady’s—mans the stove, cranking out Southern-to-a-T plates of hominy griddle cakes with pimento cheese and chipped beef, crispy chicken skins in white BBQ sauce, and Carolina catfish and okra in a West African peanut sauce.

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Kate Parham Kordsmeier is a freelance food and travel writer for more than 100 publications, the Atlanta Expert for, and the author of Atlanta Chef’sTable: Extraordinary Recipes from the Big Peach. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Lunch Break: Meet OpenTable Employee Jack Wall

Lunch Break is back with OpenTable employee Jack Wall in Nashville, Tennessee. Jack helps restaurants with software solutions — and much more — in his role with OpenTable. He’ll never eat an albatross, his last best meal was at Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina-Upstairs, and he once dined thisclose to 1990s action star Steven Seagal. Read on for more of Jack’s dining + food tips. 

Lunchbreak-JackWallContinue Reading

Trending on OpenTable Restaurant Reviews: Burrata

[singlepic id=133 w=400 h=320 float=right]Depending on your age, the very first time you try burrata, you may experience anger. That sounds crazy, but hear me out. You see, unless you’re trying it as a child, your love-at-first-bite sentiments of delight could quickly give way to bitterness, a bitterness born of the fact that for however many years you’ve been eating quality cheese, you have *not* been eating beautiful burrata. Before you despair entirely, however, know that it is burrata season, and you’ve got ample opportunities to make up for lost time. I describe burrata as the lovechild of just-pulled mozzarella and fresh ricotta — which isn’t entirely accurate, but it gives the unchristened a general idea of what I’m getting at when my ‘Trust me!’ isn’t cutting it. More precisely, burrata is freshly pulled buffalo or cow milk curd shaped into a purse of sorts and then filled with cream and curd. There are many ways to enjoy it, from being paired with oysters to a simple presentation of crusty bread and a drizzle of quality olive oil. Burrata’s name comes from the Italian word imburrato, which means ‘buttered’ — and once you sample this rich, simple cheese, you’ll understand the connection. Find out what your fellow OpenTable diners are saying about burrata in recent restaurant reviews!

360 Bistro, Nashville, Tennessee: “Our daughter thought her dish was the best of all — Italian burrata & Alto Adige speck with zucchini ribbons, truffle oil, and Tennessee dark honey on toasted baguette.”

* A Bellagio, Campbell, California: “If you like cured meat and excellent burrata, then this is the place for you! Burrata is a must! It is so creamy.”

Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro, San Francisco, California: “Loved the arancini — savory little rice balls filled with burrata.”

Acqua Al 2, Washington, D.C.: “The special appetizer was a super fresh burrata and apricots.”

Brunello Trattoria, Culver City, California: “We started with the arugula salad with burrata cheese and hearts of palm, which was excellent.  Exactly what I was craving.”

Chez Soi, Manhattan Beach, California: “Mad props to the chef at Chez Soi! He chooses his ingredients carefully and really lets each one shine in the dishes he prepares. The smoked and grilled peach that accompanies the gorgeous burrata, for example, added a lovely twist to an already lovely plate.”

Circa 1922, Wilmington, North Carolina: “The burrata with heirloom tomatoes was outstanding — so good we both wish we had ordered two instead of sharing. The waiter’s suggestion of pairing it with a tapas plate of speck made it even more spectacular.”

Cotogna, San Francisco, California: “To a first timer, I recommend anything with burrata cheese because they do it better than anyone else.” Continue Reading

Diners Gone Wild; Trends from the NRA; Soylent Green vs. Soylent + More News

Soylent-GreenDining news from around the world and the web…

* What diners want. Emerging trends at the National Restaurant Association show, revealed. [Crain’s]

* Soylent green is people. But Soylent is a sustainable soy product that could be the key to ending world hunger. [Business Week]

* Desserts that should be deserted. One pastry chef shares five sweets she’d rather not see again. [Phoenix New Times]

* How rude! Boston restaurateurs dish on the diners they’d like to 86. [Boston GlobeContinue Reading