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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Are you already a fan of these up-and-coming chefs? Let us know here or on FacebookG+InstagramPinterest, or Twitter

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.

August Restaurant Weeks: Dine for Less!

PBRWThe dog days of summer may not be here, but the savings days are! Restaurant weeks are happening now, and whether you’re on the road, or staying close to home, you won’t want to miss your chance to enjoy steals on meals this month.

* Alexandria Restaurant Week offers $35 three-course dinners for one or $35 dinners for two, August 15-24. Book now.

* Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week features $15, $25, and $35 prix-fixe menus, August 9-17. Book now.

* Baltimore Restaurant Week has something for everyone with $15 lunches and $20 and $30 dinners through August 10. Book now.

* Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week is serving up $35 dinners, August 11-17. Book now.

* Dallas-Fort Worth Restaurant Week begins next week. Get ready for $25 lunches and  $35 or $45 dinners, August 11-31. Book now.

* Denver Restaurant Week is just around the corner. Reserve for $30 gourmet dinners, August 23-29. Book now.

* Houston Restaurant Weeks have begun. Feast on $20 lunches, $25 brunches, and $35 + $45 dinners through September 1. Book now.

* Hudson Restaurant Week is happening now. Don’t miss $13 and up lunches and $25 and up dinners through August 8. Book now.

* Miami Spice is heating up. Get in on $23 lunches and $39 dinners through September 30. Book now.

* New York City Restaurant Week is on! Celebrate with three-course $25 lunches and $38 dinners through August 15. Book now.

* Coolinary New Orleans has rolled into the Big Easy. Let the good times roll with two- or three-course lunches for $20 or less and three-course dinners for $35 or less through August 31. Book now.

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On Our Plate: Restaurant Weeks in Dallas, Tampa Bay, Raleigh + Vegas; Food Shaming + More

orlandoHappenings on and around OpenTable…

* We’re tuning in to the newest season of Top Chef. Find out which restaurants the newest batch of cheftestants hails from.

* Has anyone ever food-shamed you for how you like a particular dish? Shame on them!

* New York City Restaurant Week continues. Three-course $25 lunches and $38 dinners through August 16.

* Pittsburgh Restaurant Week have arrived! Don’t miss steals on meals in the Steel City through August 18.

* Dallas-Fort Worth Restaurant Week continues. Book $25 lunches and $35 or $45 dinners through August 18.

* Costa Mesa Restaurant Week starts tomorrow. Reserve today for up to 40% off on gourmet meals at Costa Mesa’s best eateries, August 16-23.

* Dine Tampa Bay begins tomorrow, too. Enjoy special three-course $25, $35, and $45 dinners through August 30.

* Baltimore County Restaurant Week heats up! Get charmed by $15.13-$30.13 lunches and $15.13-$35.13 dinners through August 25.

* Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week is on like Tron. Take advantage of $35 dinners for one or two through August 25.

* Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week reservations are open. Book now for $20 or $30 three-course dinners, and $10 beer or wine pairings at select locations, August 19-25.

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On Our Plate: Summer Restaurant Weeks Begin in Palm Springs, San Francisco, Portland + More

Coral-Gables-RWIt’s the most wonderful time of the year: summer restaurant week season has begun. For the next four months, most major metro areas across the U.S. will be hosting culinary celebrations of their cities, from Atlanta to San Diego and everything in between. First up, whet your appetite for steals on meals in these cities. And, remember to book your tables early as the hottest spots fill up fast!

* Palm Springs Desert Resort Restaurant Week reservations are live. Reserve to enjoy special $26 or $38 dinners, May 31-June 16.

* Dine About Town San Francisco is almost here. Book now for $18.95 two-course lunches and $36.95 three-course dinners, June 1-15.

* Portland Restaurant Month starts soon. Make a reservation for three-course gourmet meals for just $29, June 1-30.

* Triangle Restaurant Week kicks off in Chapel Hill-Durham-Raleigh area. Don’t miss $15 lunches and $20 and $30 dinners, June 3-9.

* Coral Gables Restaurant Week is two weeks away. Take advantage of special $17-$29 lunches and $17-$49 dinners, June 10-30.