Q&A: Hugh Acheson
Athens’s star chef comes to Atlanta
By Candice Dyer
Hugh Acheson / Zach Wolfe
The name of Hugh Acheson’s new restaurant—his first in Atlanta—sounds retro and progressive at the same time, winking at the city’s history of preening boosterism: Empire State South.
“It’s a shortened version of ‘Empire State of the South,’ which was a down-from-the-top, Reconstruction-era nickname,” he says. “It speaks to what Atlanta can morph into, which is a powerhouse of arts, culture, and food. And it has a nicer ring than ‘Peach State.’”
Very “New South,” in other words—a gourmet, countrypolitan meat-and-three restaurant that revels in its earthy, soul-food roots, with furnishings made from reclaimed wood and a high-minded emphasis on “community.” Its opening this month on Tenth and Peachtree, likely the city’s most celebrated culinary event this year, is regarded as another sign that Atlanta’s dining scene is undergoing an overdue, corn-fed growth spurt—in the direction of its past.
“Atlanta’s food identity is just emerging from puberty into an awkward adolescence, all arms and legs,” he says, pausing over his cutting board to wave around a knife. “It has been very faddy, very desperate to look au courant, with an emphasis on the big—big spaces with lots of signage, valet parking, chefs who wouldn’t dream of venturing out of the kitchen to mingle with diners. But it seems to be scaling down a bit toward smaller, independent operators with different values. We don’t do veneer; we do hardwood.”
To read the entire interview, click here: http://www.atlantamagazine.com/august2010/hughacheson.aspx