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Hugh Acheson Names New Savannah Restaurant and More News

Hugh Acheson Names New Savannah Restaurant and More News

In today's Media Mix, an artist becomes a hot dog entrepreneur, plus how animals eat

The Daily Meal brings you the biggest news from the food world.

Hugh Acheson's New Restaurant: Rumor has that it the Southern chef's new restaurant will tentatively be called Vittoria, with seafood, pastas, and pizzas. [Eater]

How Animals Eat Their Food: We're not sure if this is all scientifically accurate, but at least it's amusing. [Mister Epic Man]

Artist to Hot Dog Purveyor: The story behind one food truck operator, from artist to art supply worker to waitress to entrepreneur. [NJ News]

Sydney Chef Stabs Customer: After a customer complained about the service, a chef allegedly stabbed said customer with a metal skewer. We're keeping mum next time. [Sydney Morning Herald]

The Recipe for Chef Hugh Acheson’s Style

A WHITE JACKET, clunky shoes, checked pants. The chef’s uniform is about as bland as an overcooked chicken breast. Most cooks are too preoccupied with flavor to consider fashion, but for Hugh Acheson, 43, owner of four restaurants in Georgia, including the Florence in Savannah and Five & Ten in Athens, dull digs wouldn’t do. In the kitchen, said Mr. Acheson, “you don’t get to define yourself much.” He still manages to do so with colorful socks.

This stealthy commitment to style has seeped through the rest of Mr. Acheson’s wardrobe as he replaced the gritty jeans and tees from his youth with tapered trousers and trim sports jackets. “When I was around 30 I started to realize that ill-fitting clothes looked a lot worse on a 30-year-old than on an 18-year-old,” he said.

As he’s spent more time outside the kitchen in the past few years as a judge on “Top Chef,” he has become one of the food world’s most stylish figures, favoring suits from Sid Mashburn and Gucci, and always squeezing in a bit of shopping when traveling. Here, Mr. Acheson’s recipe for style.

Pennywise Pomade

“In my hair, I use Murray’s in the orange tin. It’s completely affordable and it holds my very straight hair in place where I want it to.” Murray’s Pomade, $5, Duane Reade, 212-391-1105

Time-Honored Tees

“I don’t save on T-shirts. I like expensive, good, old-school Velva Sheen T-shirts that are, like, 50 bucks each. I remember seeing an ad for them in an old Gentry magazine years back. It’s one of those iconic brands that we can never lose in America. It [would be] like losing a core foodstuff.”

Top Chef’s Hugh Acheson Dishes on Fast Food, Favorite Ingredients & Guilty Pleasures

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If you don’t recognize Hugh Acheson from either around town (if you live in Athens) or Top Chef,THEN HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING UNDER A ROCK?

Jokes aside, for those of you who don’t know Hugh (I know, I know just call me Dr. Seuss), the chef is a six-time James Beard nominee for Best Chef Southeast, and Food & Wine’s 2002 winner of their Best New Chef award.

Acheson is also the owner of four Georgia-based restaurants (Athens’s 5&10, Athens’s The National, Atlanta’s Empire State South, and Savannah’s The Florence).

The current Top Chef Season 12 guest judge talked to Spoon UGA about all of his favorites and what it’s really like to be in the realm of Top Chef:

Spoon University: Favorite midnight snack?

Hugh Acheson: A simple sandwich of buttered rye bread, mustard, and ham.

SU: Favorite fast food restaurant?

HA: Popeye’s Fried Chicken.

SU: Favorite hometown restaurant? Favorite item on their menu?

HA: A Mexican grocery store down Chase Street called Los Amigos. My favorite is their Tacos al Pastor.

SU: Favorite restaurant in Athens? Favorite item on their menu?

HA: Pork Pupusas from Tlaloc.

SU: Favorite ingredient to work with?

SU: Least favorite ingredient to consume/work with?

HA: Green peppers.

SU: Favorite kitchen appliance(s)?

HA: Vitamix blenders, strainers, and tweezers are really useful.

SU: The best piece of culinary advice anyone has ever given you?

HA: “Clean as you go.”

SU: Culinary idol?

HA: There’s a chef in Birmingham who I’ve always revered. His name is Frank Stitt.

SU: One food item that you would consider your “weakness”/guilty pleasure?

HA: Carrots. They’re not really guilty but they’re definitely pleasure. I always have them on hand as a snack.

SU: One Southern staple we can find year-round in your pantry at home?

HA: Stone-Ground Grits.

SU: One culinary specialty of yours that your daughters can’t get enough of?

HA: Charred cabbage.

SU: One culinary specialty of yours that is a definite crowd-pleaser?

HA: A really good Caesar Salad.

SU: One superfood you find underrated/that you think everyone should get on board with?

SU: One superfood you find overrated?

SU: One food trend that you think needs to make a comeback?

HA: Americanized Chinese food like Lo Mein.

SU: One Top Chef (behind-the-scenes) secret you can share with us?

HA: There’s not much really. They’re all very similar to as they’re shown on TV. Tom’s a serious man, Padma’s pretty aloof, and Gale is very sweet.

SU: Something the Top Chef cast/crew snacked on while on set?

HA: There’s a lot of gummy bears being consumed.

Photo courtesy of Jason Travis

SU: If you could have a meal with anyone (dead or alive) would it be, what would you serve, and which meal would you serve it at (i.e. breakfast, lunch, dinner)?

HA: Mid-afternoon/lunch is a good time to have it with an eclectic group of humans such as Mark Twain, Tom Waits, Joe Strummer (from The Clash), and throw in a crazy weirdo like Napoleon. The menu would be casual food like oysters, caviar, and white wine.

Want more celebrity chef interviews? Check out the following:

12 Days of Christmas Recipes!

By Eat It & Like It Staff 4 December 2013 No Comments

Some people say it’s the most wonderful time of the year, until you have to cook something. Others love to prepare new and different things. Well here is your chance to do it the way area chefs do! Last year we thought we’d have some fun sharing local recipes during the holidays. We asked a number of area restaurants to share some holiday cheer with us in the form of a recipe. It could be an appetizer, an entree or a dessert. Anything that they either serve in their restaurants or maybe eat at home.

Participating so far? Driftaway Cafe, A.Lure, Hugh Acheson, Ziegler House Inn, Chocolat by Adam Turoni, and many more. It’s their way of saying thank you for your support this year and an easy way to solve that age old question “What should I bring to the office Pot Luck luncheon?”.

Look for the recipes December 6th-23rd. Right here at

Eat It & Like It Staff

Eat It and Like It launched in Savannah, Georgia with television personality Jesse Blanco as the host. His passion for food and travel has made Eat It and Like It a two-time EMMY nominated program about contemporary and traditional Southern food.

About Author

Eat It and Like It launched in Savannah, Georgia with television personality Jesse Blanco as the host. His passion for food and travel has made Eat It and Like It a two-time EMMY nominated program about contemporary and traditional Southern food.

Hugh Acheson Names New Savannah Restaurant and More News - Recipes

When I initially learned about the Savannah Food and Wine Festival, I immediately knew that I wanted to participate. One of the best ways to attend Savannah Events and Festivals like a VIP is to Volunteer to help work behind the scenes, so I registered online months ago and selected the events I knew I didn’t want miss. Since then, I’ve been anxiously awaiting for the day to finally arrive so that I can hob nob with the Foodie Famous and live my culinary dreams of becoming a Celebrity Top Chef. Last week the Stars finally aligned (literally) and the First Annual Savannah Food and Wine Festival premiered in the city’s famous Downtown Historic District, capturing the hearts (and stomachs) of locals and tourists of all ages.

The highlight of the week for me was the Chef Hugh Acheson Cooking Class held at the 700 Drayton Cooking School on Thursday, November 14th. I am a HUGE Top Chef fan and Hugh Acheson is my all-time favorite celebrity chef from the series because he has a smart mouth, a quick wit and he’s not afraid to tell you what he thinks. (Reminds me of someone ELSE I know very well, hmmmmm.) I have also grown to love his signature uni-brow, although I will never truly understand it.

I arrived early for my shiftChef Darrin and Marcia.jpg at the 700 Drayton Cooking School on with a permanent smile on my face from ear to ear. The cooking school is located inside of the Mansion on Forsyth Park so it was very convenient for me to park at our office and walk the 2 blocks to the hotel. Everyone on staff at the Mansion was very helpful and directed me to Chef Darin who is the head of the 700 Drayton Cooking School. I took a cooking challenge two years ago at the school with Chef Darin and it was a blast. The setup that they have is TOP NOTCH and attending a cooking class at 700 Drayton is unique Savannah Activity that I would recommend for your visit. It is an especially great option for for Girls’ Getaways, Bachelorette Parties, Corporate Team Building or anyone looking to have some foodie fun.

Chef Hugh appeared around noon carrying a very fashionable Mustard Book bag looking just as dashing as he does on TV. It was AWESOME to be able to have some one-on-one time with him before everyone else arrived and he was very cool to put up with all my nonsense. Hugh, (yeah, we’re on a first name basis now) has two restaurants in Athens, GA “Five and Ten” & “The National” while also making his mark on the Atlanta Culinary Scene with his restaurant “Empire State South.” The BIG NEWS for Savannah Georgia is that Hugh will be opening his first restaurant in the Hostess City named “The Florence,” in April of 2014.

The Florence will reside at #1 Victory Drive next to the newest installment of SCAD housing in the downtown district. Hugh told me that the restaurant was going to occupy all Three Floors of the old Ice Warehouse with an Italian Style Dinner Restaurant on Floor #1, a Gourmet Coffee House on Floor #2, and a Wine and Spirits Bar on the top and final floor. He will be bringing his Executive Chef, Kyle Jacovino, from his Five & Ten Restaurant in Athens to run the show. Hugh sent Kyle to Italy for a year to study and tells me that they have similar cooking styles and philosophies so he is more than confident that Kyle will do him proud.

Finally. I asked the question on all of our minds, will there ever be a Top Chef Savannah? He grinned and told me that there might be a Top Chef SOUTH on the horizon but nothing in the works just yet.. (Just remember, you heard it HERE first!)

Hugh is on tour promoting his new James Beard Award Winning Cookbook “A New Turn in the South” he selected his Frogmore Stew recipe from its pages to demonstrate to the class. He explained that Frogmore Stew is his take on the Southern Classic Low Country Boil but it is served in its own broth similar to a bouillabaisse. Chef Hugh admits to us that the dish was the result of a recipe misread out of Hoppin’ John Taylor’s First Book “Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking.” He had never cooked Low Country Boil before, (Yankee) and he didn’t realize that you were supposed to throw away the broth. As a matter of fact, he goes on to tell us that he didn’t understand WHY you would throw it out in the first place. (Hear, Hear!) Most of the ingredients for the stew are very similar to Low Country Boil Andouille Sausage, Corn, Red Potatoes, Fresh Local Shrimp and a lot of other amazing ingredients which I can’t share at this time. You will just have to buy the cook book to get the full interpretation. (Ok, Ok, you caught me! The shameless promotion />of his cook book is my way of scoring points with Hugh. Did it work?

After the initial introduction to the class, we had a short wine presentation by Treasury Wine Estates. My new friends Heath and Lisa were on hand to represent Matua Wine and went on to tell the class that Matua was the first Sauvignon Blanc to be grown in New Zealand back in 1969. Heath detailed the process of how Matua is made and gave us advice on how to pair it with our uniquely Southern Palate while Lisa poured a glass for everyone.I ran into the duo again on Saturday at the VIP Vinters Tent during the Taste of Savannah Event where I took this great shot.
Check out Treasury Wine Estates website at

Once the wine instruction was over, Hugh began telling the class about his beginnings as a chef and how his love for fresh ingredients fueled his drive />to cook professionally. He talked to us about the importance of using local ingredients and spoke passionately about how we should strive to support our local food sources. As he puts it, “We are all in this together.”

hef Hugh went on to talk about how cooking at home can bring families closer together and that we need to take the time to learn where our food is coming from instead of just cramming any old thing into our mouths. He also told several funny stories about his experiences in restaurants and kitchens with an appropriate tale about his friendly Grit debate with Savannah’s very own Paula Dean. Listening to Chef Hugh was very motivating as well as entertaining and I think that everyone walked away with a greater sense of community. Good Times!

Because the Stew had so many components, it was impossible to give everyone a taste of everything but my VIP Volunteer status allowed me to eat my little heart out after everyone left. (Nah Nah Nah) The Frogmore Stew was to DIE for and I will be cooking it very soon for my friends. I also enjoyed ample servings of all the Matua that was left over from the class!

After the class ended, marcia and jesse.jpgJesse Blanco, star of the Savannah Hit Foodie show Eat it and Like it, was on deck to interview Hugh and was nice enough to let me stay and watch the behind the scenes. After the interview, Jesse and I posed for a few photos with Hugh and we even got a great shot of the two of us together while we were at it. Make sure to catch the third season of Jesse’s show Eat it and Like
it Sunday mornings at 7:30am on WSAV-TV and you can also visit his website at where he will have a complete recap of the Savannah Food and Wine Festival Events. Thanks for the photos Jesse!

Meeting my favorite Celebrity Chef was an experience I will never forget. Hugh was very cool and really went out of his way to answer all of our questions and pose for photos, autographs etc. I would like to extend my thanks to him once again for taking the time out of his schedule to chat with me and I will be the first in line to eat at The Florence in the Spring of 2014.

PS. If you need someone to host a Quickfire on Top Chef SOUTH – I’m your girl. />

Finally, I would like to say Congratulations to Savannah’s Tourism and Leadership Council for creating and executing such a magnificent First Annual Savannah Food and Wine Festival. Most of the events at the were sold out before the week even began and the festival boasted record breaking numbers for a first time showing. Thank you to all of the Volunteers, Presenters, Chefs, Restaurants, Venues and anyone else I am leaving out for the truly fantastic job. Events such as these are the reason that I love to live in this amazing city and I look forward to watching it grow and working even more shifts next year.

/>Now, I will close with the wise words of my good friend Hugh Acheson “Eat Well and Be Swell.”

Southern Chef Hugh Acheson releases new cookbook

By Eat It & Like It Staff 29 October 2020 No Comments

The Florence may have closed its doors in Savannah a while ago, but that doesn’t mean Celebrity Chef Hugh Acheson‘s cooking in your own home.

Hugh just released a book called “How to Cook” that offers 100 easily-crafted recipes.

Even if you’ve never cooked a dish in your life, Hugh lays out 25 basic building blocks that will guide you through each recipe. Just because they are simple doesn’t mean they won’t wow your friends and family.

This cookbook follows in the same vein as the others he’s released over the years. The point is to look at food preparation and kitchen tools in a different way. His hope continues to be that people will realize how fun and easy cooking can be.

Hugh said he designed it to give to his kids when they eventually move out, so that also makes it a good graduation gift.

Eat It & Like It Staff

Eat It and Like It launched in Savannah, Georgia with television personality Jesse Blanco as the host. His passion for food and travel has made Eat It and Like It a two-time EMMY nominated program about contemporary and traditional Southern food.

About Author

Eat It and Like It launched in Savannah, Georgia with television personality Jesse Blanco as the host. His passion for food and travel has made Eat It and Like It a two-time EMMY nominated program about contemporary and traditional Southern food.

Peek inside By George, Hugh Acheson’s new downtown restaurant

Photograph by Martha Williams

Two-time James Beard Award-winning chef Hugh Acheson (of Empire State South and the National and 5 & 10 in Athens) is opening a restaurant in the newly renovated Candler Hotel downtown. Serving French-inspired classic cuisine, By George will open in late October with cocktails by beverage director Kellie Thorn and an extensive French wine list compiled by sommelier Steven Grubbs.

The 3,000-square-foot restaurant is named after the original architects of the circa 1906 building, George E. Murphy and George Stewart. Acheson says he was inspired by the history and architecture of the building, which was influenced by former Atlanta mayor Asa Griggs Candler.

Photograph by Martha Williams

“You can’t overlook the beauty of architecture in the Candler building: the amount of imported marble, the monolithic beauty with the sculptures, the interior brass bank of elevators,” he says. “If it is a flatiron building, we are at the apex.”

Photograph by Martha Williams

Acheson reveals why he chose this location, as well as what to expect on the menu, below.

There are not a lot of local fine dining restaurants downtown. Do you think we’ll see more chefs opening in the area?
I think there are more than we think. There’s a vibrancy to downtown that’s blooming right now. Before, [downtown was seen as just] a lot of business, but Georgia State is a hugely successful college. We’re appealing to their law schools. With the success of Mercedes-Benz [Stadium], it’s intriguing to see what they’ve done with downtown.

People said the same thing when we opened Empire State South, but it’s in the middle of the city. We took over [what were once] meeting rooms and made it a very successful location. I think downtown is about to have a big boom.

Potato dauphinoise at By George

Photograph by Martha Williams

Your previous hotel restaurant at the Battery, Achie’s, closed last year after just 10 months. What changes will you make for By George?
Not everything we do is a success. We roll the dice. We put our hearts into it. Sometimes it doesn’t attract the number of people we need to stay in business. I should have [focused on] areas where the history is real. The style of food [at Achie’s,] was not good for people who wanted a burger and fries.

The idea of a hotel restaurant has changed exorbitantly in the last 20 years. A lot of them are operated independently now. I look at Empire State South the same way as I would a hotel restaurant. Its open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and located under a 27-story office building.

Steak Diane with potatoes at By George

Photograph by Martha Williams

What’s on the menu?
It’s decidedly French. It’s not revisionist—not mussels and frites. We have parslied ham set in gelatin as a starter. There’s Lyonnaise tortes, escargot on toast, veal sweetbreads, roasted chicken, and French-inspired Steak Diane. The options will be ‘lunchified’ for [the midday meal].

Will you serve brunch?
Not brunch, but breakfast. Croissants, a soft-boiled egg with toast points and caviar and parsley salad, lox tartine with hard-boiled egg and capers, a daily quiche, and a French-style omelet with local lettuce salad. We’re also doing an Intelligentsia coffee program.

The Candler Cocktail at By George

Photograph by Martha Williams

Tell me about beverage program.
Kellie Thorn is designing a whole new program focused on cognacs and armagnacs. Steven Grubbs created a program focused on French wine. We’ll have about 20 wines by the glass and over 100 by the bottle.

What will the space look and feel like?
It’s meant to be a place of respite. It’s the natural look. We put down some beautiful carpeting because marble can make [dining] on the loud side. There’s a 30-foot wooden communal table and three styles of stunning plush banquettes, wooden at the base. Think of an Art Deco-meets-Gilded Age-type look. There’s cool orange and white wallpaper. The bar faces the windows. Credenzas will feature the wine. There’s high ceilings. I believe it seats 102 people.

Photograph by Martha Williams

Photograph by Martha Williams

How much time will you spend in the restaurant?
I’ll be there a lot. We have an amazing executive chef, Ian Quinn (previously of C. Ellet‘s). We’ll be there to make sure it’s happening like we want it to.

Changing gears a bit, how are your cookbooks coming along?
Sous Vide: Better Home, Better Kitchen is set for an October 15th release. I’m also working on one called 24 Blocks. It’s a book you’d send a kid to college with. It shows 24 techniques to cook your way to a good meal every day. The second section is recipes. It should come out in 2021.

What’s next for you?
My oldest is applying for colleges. She wants to be a doctor. My youngest is dancing a lot of ballet. I’m watching kids grow.

And professionally?
I’m working on a project at Sandestin [resort in Florida] in a new boutique hotel in the resort complex. No name yet. It’ll be a fun, coastal fish place.

View the dinner menu below (subject to change)

Fruits de Mar
selection of Southern oysters MKT
blue crab, celeriac remoulade $12
Sapelo Island clams, apple, celery, almond $12
langoustine, lemon, olive oil, chiles $42

vichyssoise with chives and rye croutons $10
chicory lettuce, crisped sesame bread, shallot-thyme vinaigrette $12
frisee, poached egg, bacon, croutons $14
steak tartare, crispy leek, cornichon, dijon $12
jambon persillé, gribiche $14
terrine of foie gras and chicken liver, muscadine $19
tourte au canard lyonnaisse, bitter greens $16
escargot on toast, garlic butter $16
veal sweetbreads, caraflex cabbage, buerre noisette $18
catfish quenelle, sauce nantua $28

celeriac a cheval, black truffle, frites $28
Georgia trout, sunchoke, sauce meunière $32
calf’s liver, pomme puree, sweet onion, mustard jus $32
pot-au-feu, horseradish, curly parsley $38
poulet roti, turnip, jus $32
steak Diane, frites $30

spaghetti squash, thyme, comte $6
Belgian endive $6
salsify, smoked oyster $8

pomme dauphine with gribiche $8
stewed lentil $5
leeks aux grenobloise $6

tete de moine, persimmon, pecan $12
chocolate Torte, white chocolate, vanilla flour de sel $10
pot de crème, salted caramel, shortbread cookie $10
apple Tarte Tatin, Vanilla Ice Cream $10
hazelnut Paris Brest $10
selection of ice cream and sorbet $4 per scoop

SAVANNAH: The Florence (Hugh Acheson)?

While I know nothing about Hugh Acheson, I did notice that he is a Beard nominee, and that he has a fairly new
Italian-inspired restaurant away from the tourist area in Savannah.

We will be in Savannah for two nights next month I have already booked The Grey, but find little on The Florence apart from Yelp and Trip Advisor, where the reports are all over the map. I do not put much stock in either of those sites, so wonder if anyone from CH can offer an opinion about this place. We are from NYC, so have many excellent Italian places within easy reach.

Would it be "worth" spending one dinner here and if not, where else? Maybe two nights at The Grey?

Would prefer to walk or take taxi rather than drive ourselves but will have our own car and can use if great food is at the end of the drive. (The Wyld Dock Bar??) I did read about B's Cracklin' BBQ but we will be heading for Eastern NC, so BBQ is not of paramount interest, unless it is really superb.

Chef Hugh Acheson’s 4th of July Grilled Steak

Take a trip down to Georgia, ask around about Southern fine dining, and it won’t be long before you hear the name Hugh Acheson. The chef operates four restaurants, plus a coffee shop, in Athens, Atlanta and Savannah, where he’s been pushing the boundaries of what qualifies as “Southern cuisine” for nearly two decades. His willingness to experiment and his training in French techniques come through on his menus as well as in his cookbooks, A New Turn in the South and Pick a Pickle. His newest book, The Chef and the Slow Cooker, hits bookshelves in October.

We turned to the innovative Acheson for a fresh take on the traditional Independence Day cookout, and he came through with his signature flair and international scope in these recipes for Grilled Tri-Tip Steak with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce and a Mediterranean Fattoush Salad. We picked 14 easy-drinking red wines from California, France and Italy rated 90 points or higher to pair with this festive Fourth of July feast.

Acheson says this recipe’s success starts with selecting a good cut. “Tri-tip is a portion of the lower sirloin of the cow and is a beautiful piece of steak that never gets the attention it deserves,” he says. “You can get really high-quality tri-tip at a fairly reasonable price.” Working over a grill in Georgia in the middle of summer is no mean feat, so the chef turns to a restorative side dish that originated in Lebanon and Syria: Fattoush salad is a mixture of toasted or fried pita with fresh vegetables and herbs including cucumber, sweet bell pepper and parsley. A creamy yogurt-tahini serves as a sauce for the steak. Together, the combination of flavors provide an ideal cooling complement on a hot summer day.

A gas grill is perfectly fine for this recipe, but Acheson is partial to charcoal. “Make sure to burn the coals down really well, until they are ash-colored,” he advises. Good-quality natural charcoal is the way to go it’s a bit pricier, but burns well and is chemical-free.

Use a meat thermometer to determine when the steak is done to your liking. Acheson takes the cut off the grill at 120° F for medium-rare. Keep in mind that the meat will continue to cook and the internal temperature can increase up to 5° after it’s removed.

“Salt is your friend,” Acheson adds. “Season at the beginning and season after carving.” He also stresses letting the meat rest in a loose tent of aluminum foil for roughly 10 minutes after grilling.

The fattoush salad adds a bright counterpoint of crisp, crunchy vegetables and pita chips seasoned with cumin, sumac, shallot and chives.

Wine director Steve Grubbs oversees the wine list at two of Acheson’s restaurants, Five & Ten and Empire State South. For the pairing, he recommends looking for a red with soft tannins that give the wine that “casual drinkability that matches the easy, backyard feel of the dish.” He suggests trying Argiolas winery, from Sardinia. “Their Perdera bottling is mostly a local grape called Monica that has a fair bit of red fruit and wild savoriness,” he says. “For a more elevated pairing, see if you can find the red bottling by Chateau Musar in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan, it drinks like a St.-Estèphe with some ancient and mysterious pedigree.” Who could argue with that?

Grilled Tri-Tip Steak

For the Grilled Tri-Tip Steak:

  • 1 1/2 pounds tri-tip steak, trimmed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

To make the Grilled Tri-Tip Steak:

1. If frozen, thaw the tri-tip overnight in the refrigerator. While the grill is warming up, season the tri-tip with salt and olive oil. Set aside.

2. When the grill reaches around 450° F, place the seasoned steak on the grill and let it cook for about 3 minutes. Turn it 90 degrees for cross-hatched grill marks, and cook 3 more minutes. Flip the steak and repeat. Steak is medium-rare when internal temperature reaches 120° F.

3. Place steak on a platter, lightly tented with foil, and allow meat to rest for 10 minutes (If not serving immediately, steak may be placed back on the grill to reheat.) Place the meat on a cutting board and slice against the grain to desired thickness (Acheson recommends thin slices). Season and serve with the yogurt-tahini sauce and fattoush salad. Serves 6.

Yogurt-Tahini Sauce

For the Yogurt-Tahini Sauce:

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt

To make the Yogurt-Tahini Sauce:

1. Combine ingredients in a medium-size mixing bowl. Whisk until well-combined and serve as a sauce for the tri-tip.

Fattoush Salad

For the Pita Crisps (to be integrated into the Fattoush Salad):

2. Separate and tear pita bread into small, bite-sized pieces. In a mixing bowl, toss pita bread with olive oil and a pinch of salt.

3. Spread out pieces of pita on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced (half-inch cubes)
  • 1 teaspoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup radishes, sliced
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, seeded, diced (quarter-inch cubes)
  • 1 poblano chile, seeded, diced (quarter-inch cubes)
  • 3/4 pound of cherry or plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, torn
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 2 tablespoon chives, finely minced
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

To make the Fattoush Salad:

1. While the pita crisps are cooking, place cucumber in a medium-size mixing bowl. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Add radish, bell pepper, chile, tomatoes and mint. In a separate bowl, mix garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, red-wine vinegar, cumin, turmeric, sumac, shallots and chives, and pour into the first bowl. Add salt to taste (generally no more than 1/2 teaspoon).

2. With a spoon, gently toss the salad until well-dressed. Season with ground pepper to taste. The fattoush salad can be made up to 1 hour in advance of eating. When ready to serve, add pita crisps and gently toss until well-mixed.

14 Recommended Easy-Drinking Red Wines

Note: This list showcases outstanding red wines from recent Wine Spectator tastings. For more selections rated in the past year, see's Wine Ratings Search.

FRANK FAMILY Petite Sirah Napa Valley 2013
Juicy, with generous blackberry and plum flavors that crescendo into a harmonious mix of vanilla, espresso, cinnamon and cigar box notes. Aromatic and intense on the finish, with firm tannins in the background. Drink now through 2026. 1,000 cases made.

NEYERS Left Bank Red Napa Valley 2014
This puts zesty raspberry and wild berry notes at the forefront for immediate appeal and then keeps the foot on the pedal, with flavors gaining velocity and picking up tannic muscle. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Drink now through 2028. 1,500 cases made.

CAROL SHELTON Karma Reserve Sonoma County 2014
Dark and brooding, with black cherry and bittersweet chocolate aromas and plump flavors of orange zest, black licorice and smoky cracked pepper. Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane and Viognier. Drink now through 2027. 1,513 cases made.

CHATEAU D’AIGUILHE Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2014
This has an ample core of lively plum, blackberry and anise notes that is silky in feel, but has heft and persistence. The finish pulls in a singed apple wood note, but the purity of fruit wins out easily overall. Drink now through 2024. 3,000 cases imported.

GREEN & RED Zinfandel Napa Valley Chiles Mill Vineyard 2014
Precise and well-built, with briary dark berry aromas and a lively core of acidity and tannins framed by notes of black cherry, licorice and peppered herb. Drink now through 2024. 1,274 cases made.

TERRA VALENTINE Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2014
Pure and rich, with density, a firm tannic backbone and tiers of blackberry, wild berry, currant and black licorice flavors. This veers toward the dry side, but ends with cedary oak grip and a kick of fruit. Drink now through 2028. 2,880 cases made.

VIVERA Etna Martinella 2012
This harmonious, medium-bodied red layers fine-grained tannins with a rich note of smoky mineral and flavors of pureed cherry, grilled herb and star anise. Vibrant, presenting a firm, focused finish. Drink now through 2022. 100 cases imported.

CANTINE DI ORGOSOLO Cannonau di Sardegna Urùlu 2013
This harmonious red layers fine-grained tannins with a subtle notes of dried cherry and smoky mineral, accented by an aromatic notes of dried marjoram, ground anise and espresso that linger on the lightly juicy finish. Drink now through 2021. 350 cases imported.

Delightfully ripe, with an inviting core of plum and blackberry preserves, picking up an anise edge on the finish. A solid alder spine runs throughout, adding length and definition. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot. Drink now through 2020. 2,600 cases imported.

CHATEAU LAROQUE St.-Emilion 2014
This sports a brambly streak amid the bright raspberry and boysenberry compote flavors. Fresh star anise and black tea details enhance the finish. Approachable now, but there's no rush. Drink now through 2026. 11,250 cases made.

PASSOPISCIARO Etna Passorosso 2014
Mouthwatering and medium-bodied, with expressive plum, pomegranate, spice box and dried marjoram flavors. There's grip here, but the tannins are plush and well-knit. A subtle streak of smoke lingers on the finish. Drink now through 2021. 1,150 cases imported.

PLANETA Nerello Mascalese Sicilia Eruzione 1614 2014
A well-meshed, medium-bodied red, with chewy tannins and savory hints of bay leaf and tarry smoke playing off the spiced plum, crushed raspberry and orange zest notes. Offers a lasting, minerally finish. Drink now through 2024. 500 cases imported.

RUTHERFORD HILL Barrel Select Napa Valley 2013
Supple and elegantly complex, with red currant and rose petal aromas and well-structured flavors of plum, mocha and orange zest. Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Drink now through 2026. 4,016 cases made.

SAN SIMEON Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles Estate Reserve 2013
Refreshing and vibrant, this is marked by juicy plum, blackberry and wild berry flavors, with a soft touch of light oak, herb and cedar. For all the flavor complexity, this also wins points for balance and finesse. Drink now through 2024. 3,000 cases made.

Mashama Bailey’s Home Cooking

Savannah has never been at the red-hot center of the culinary universe, but with serious chops, plenty of moxie, and one of the country’s hottest new restaurants, Chef Bailey is changing that—and proving that sometimes you actually can go home again

The steam is sheet-thick behind the grill where Chef Mashama Bailey is cooking for what she calls the Yard, a low-key picnic-style luncheon she and her business partner, Johno Morisano, host every Saturday in the outdoor space flanking their splashy, year-old Savannah restaurant, the Grey. The Yard is open to the public and serves whatever Bailey feels inspired to prepare for seven dollars flat.

“It’s community outreach,” Morisano, also grill-side, explains, running a damp towel over his forehead before tossing it back across one shoulder. “We never make money from it. People can be intimidated by the restaurant, so we do a version of the menu that is more approachable.”

Today “approachable” means Italian sausages coiled like garden hoses, wriggling and spitting over an open flame. Beside them, halved tomatoes char, their skin puckering to a deep sweetness. Also, vegetables. (And because this is the South, a full bar, for those with more cash to spend.)

Damp with sweat, Bailey, who is forty-one, minds the food and the scene as she gulps ice water from a plastic container. She’s dressed in a navy T-shirt and a white apron, her hair pulled tight and tucked under a baseball cap that reads GEORGIA ORGANICS. She flips the meat, then ducks into the restaurant, emerging moments later carrying three more containers of ice water, which she hand delivers to Morisano and various staffers.

Morisano drinks eagerly, nodding in Bailey’s direction.

“She does everything,” he says with a measure of awe. “She doesn’t even have a proper sous-chef yet. Who knows what she’ll be able to accomplish once she can concentrate on just being in charge.”

Later in the day as lunch winds down, Bailey explains that being in charge is not something that comes naturally to her.

“I like being in the background,” she says, cocking her head slightly. “Cooking is the way I stand out. My whole life, it’s been a way to get positive feedback without being, like, ‘Heyyyyy!’”

Recruited by Morisano from New York’s fabled Prune restaurant, Bailey has been awash in praise since she relocated from Queens to her former hometown of Savannah and set about ushering the Grey into a place of culinary prominence before its first birthday.

Bailey and her business partner, Johno Morisano.

“There is sophistication here,” Morisano insists of a town hitherto disregarded by gastronomes. “The people I know living in Savannah are clamoring for this type of food. Why can’t we compete with New York and Atlanta? There is no reason we can’t be a part of that bigger conversation.” That said, when the celebrated restaurateur Hugh Acheson recently opened the Florence (his own foray into elevated Savannah dining), “I let out a sigh of relief,” Morisano admits. “It was like, yes! I’m not insane.”

Unequivocally heralded as one of the best new restaurants in America—possibly even the best—the Grey is the rare darling that doesn’t disappoint, managing to radiate a lived-in excellence that takes most eateries years to achieve.

Some of this is owed to the location. Situated in a gloriously renovated 1938 Greyhound bus station, the Grey came with history attached. Much was good—the sexy deco architecture, the unusual but surprisingly commodious footprint, the charming stylistic particulars of bygone travel no one much bothers with anymore. But there was also the enervating baggage of the building’s Southern past, the terminal constructed with separate waiting rooms and lavatories for African American and white travelers. In a profession where women at the top are few, and women of color in the same position rarer still, Bailey’s dominance and elevation of modern fine dining from a restaurant housed in a formerly segregated bus depot is not just a staggering juxtaposition of past and future, but also a testament to a woman (modest or not) with brass to spare.

And so it is with her food. Just as she and Morisano have taken a utilitarian space that was never intended to be spectacular or captivating and made it both, Bailey has reached for ingredients and dishes that begin in the Southern vernacular—pulled pork, collards, boudin—and burnished them into something even better.

Bailey’s take on Country Captain.

Dumplings are steamed with brothy clams. Pork sizzles in a skillet with an egg nestled amid the tissue-tender meat. Sweetened fried rolls leavened with potato perch on the side like heaven’s doughnut holes. As a palate cleanser, Bailey serves “Thrills,” a nod to the Daffin Park neighborhood of her childhood, where locals would freeze sugar and juice in paper cups as a treat to cool off the kids. Bailey’s pops are derived from muscadine, and yet the effect mirrors the original. They remain fun, nostalgic, a tether of memory yanking at the heart and tongue.

Such is Bailey’s signature. She delivers surprise in the everyday, a note of difference that wakes people up. She takes what’s familiar and transforms it into something seductive, like seeing your spouse with a flattering new haircut, reminding you why you fell in love in the first place.

“I have all this training,” she says of her style. “Mostly French, and then all these influences, Spanish, Italian. Plus I have my mother, my grandmothers, and that’s the food I crave. Vinegary cucumber salad with white onion and a ton of black pepper, fried chicken, Brunswick stew. The food I grew up on. Right now, my food is being shaped by being in Savannah. When I first got here, I was like, I wonder if I can cook with the Spanish moss? I wonder what’s here that people aren’t tapping into?”

Bailey isn’t a fan of categories or boxes or being put into them. She prefers to respond to where she is, geographically, psychologically, emotionally.

“Coming down here to do the Grey, people kept asking, ‘What sort of restaurant is it going to be?’ And I was, uhhhh…blank. I didn’t know the answer. It was almost a little embarrassing for Johno. So I would say, ‘It’s Southern, European, French, this, that’—all these words. I’d say everything. But really, it’s just good.”

It is the morning after the yard picnic, and Bailey is ordering an almond milk smoothie at the café near her rental apartment off of Forsyth Park when she confesses she was certain she’d blown her initial audition for Morisano.

“He and his wife, Carol, came to Prune and sat at the bar. I sent them a variety of dishes, sweetbreads, branzino, but the two plates I did especially for them, they hated. One was a crab leg in a bowl, and they were not into it.”

Morisano gave Bailey another shot and scheduled a tasting dinner at his house for select family and guests. Bailey asked her brother to join for moral support and encouraged him to bring a friend. He invited a vegan.

“I was like, what? Really?” Bailey recalls, laughing. She was already nervous, but she tweaked her menu, “put it all out there on the plate,” and after a service of pan-seared trout, collard greens, pickled shrimp, chicken liver mousse, pimento cheese, chicken schnitzel with white barbecue sauce, and many, many other dishes, Morisano was convinced. Mostly.

“He gave me an A-minus,” Bailey recalls, raising her eyebrows. “And I asked, ‘Well, do I have the job?’ And he said right then and there, ‘It isn’t a job, it’s a partnership.’ Which is when it got scary. This wasn’t something I could just walk away from. It was a real proposal, a real future.”

In some ways, moving back south was the “big hurdle” for Bailey. She adored New York, and the cultural freedoms it provided. She’d also been living with her paternal grandmother, acting as her caretaker and conduit to the larger world. “When I decided to move, she was the hardest person to tell.”

Ironically, it was her grandmother who’d introduced Bailey, as a girl, to new ways of thinking about eating. Margaret Bailey had been born in Forsyth, Georgia, and moved to Queens. Bailey’s great-grandmother found work in Manhattan as a maid for the Honeymooners actor Art Carney and his family, a position that exposed her to “wealth and fine food,” Bailey says. “My grandmother became a nurse and a caretaker who worked for rich families too,” she continues. “And so she always had this elitism about food. It was a sign of success to her. It gave her great pleasure to have the best ingredients she could afford.”

Bailey recalls her grandmother executing complicated recipes from Joy of Cooking. Margaret also took Bailey on her first visit to the legendary deli Zabar’s. “I had to be twelve at the time.” The day was sunny and hot, the streets reeking of baked asphalt and spent cigarettes. Her grandmother snagged a parking spot right in front of the shop, and as they exited the car and pushed through the doors, Bailey remembers feeling gobsmacked by the sight of food hanging from the ceilings, the scent of yeast, the metallic bite of pickles and fermented fish that settled on her tongue like a snowflake.

“It was no Piggly Wiggly,” she says, laughing. “I’d never been exposed to anything like it. And the food was expensive.” But her grandmother bought it anyway, and they lugged the bags home, where they sat around the table eating bagels and cream cheese and seafood salad and lamb chops, and Bailey, not realizing it then, felt the stirrings of what would become her life’s work.

“If I had stayed in Georgia, I wouldn’t be the chef I am,” she observes. “My grandmother’s influence was so critical. She broadened my horizons even about spending money on food. She taught me food was worth it.”

Bailey’s palate expanded even further after she attended Sullivan County Community College in Upstate New York. The student body was heavily international, and everyone shared housing, where you needed to cook for yourself. “That’s when I really started experimenting. I always cooked for my brother and sister, but it was cheese steaks or pizza on an English muffin. When I came home from college, all of a sudden I was making roti and curry chicken. I was cooking. And I remember my mother tried a dish and said, ‘You know what? You’re really good. You should go into this business.’ And I immediately shook my head and said, ‘No way, it’s too much work. Who wants to do that?’”

Following college, Bailey pursued a career in social services, but her infatuation with food persisted. “A big part of me wants to please people, to make them feel good,” she says. “That aspect of cooking always appealed to my personality.”

After a series of social-work jobs, she bit the spatula and applied for culinary school. She excelled there and in the positions that followed, none more so than the one at Prune. “My grandmother thought working at Prune was crazy,” says Bailey, who regularly logged shifts that saw her getting home after 2:30 a.m. “But the second I walked into that space, I knew it was where I needed to be.”

She had followed the career of Prune’s James Beard Award–winning chef, Gabrielle Hamilton, like a beacon, a model of what was possible, and more to the point, of the “type of chef I wanted to be.” Bailey admired how Hamilton could cook on the fly and from the heart. She seemed fearless in a way that Bailey herself hadn’t dared try. “Gabrielle was the first female chef I worked for. It was the first restaurant that felt like a real community. The energy, the environment, it’s where I grew into wanting to be a chef.”

Hamilton sees it differently. “I would never presume to have mentored Mashama,” she explains. “She wasn’t a little duckling I needed to feed with an eyedropper. The only thing I have over her is that I’m older and have been doing this for longer.” Still, Hamilton acknowledges that “working for four years at a kitchen with a lady at the helm surely had an effect on her.”

Bailey agrees. “Before then, I was doing what other people told me to do. I wasn’t creative. I was copycatting a bit. I was following the rules. Gabrielle pushed me. She said, ‘Cook the food you want to eat.’”

To discover just what that was, Bailey took a solitary road trip through the South before the Grey opened. She longed to breathe in the air, to

watch the walls of kudzu tick past her open car windows, to reacquaint herself with the rhythms and reason of a place she used to call home. She traveled to Charlotte, Asheville, Knoxville, Jackson, New Orleans, Atlanta, and all points in between, eating in every town, reintroducing her mouth to the flavors of her youth, the sorghum and the salt, the bacon fat and the buttermilk, the vinegar and the blithely blistering sauces.

“I was alone, figuring it out,” she says of the journey. And then, on May 6, 2014, armed with inspiration and context, Bailey pulled into Savannah on what felt like “the hottest day in the world,” and began her new life.

At first the town, one of reflexive culinary (and other) recalcitrance, refused to embrace Bailey with open arms. “There was huge resistance,” she admits. “I wanted to use local people to source my product. I didn’t want to just call some giant company. I had to dig and dig and dig. I wanted to do a pig head, but nobody would sell them to me. I wanted to do eel braised with cabbage and tomatoes and onions and a little spice, but no one was really doing eel here. It was a reality check. I had no support. I’d moved to a state where I knew no one. I was all alone on this island.”

After six weeks of getting nowhere, Bailey recalibrated her approach to suit her new surroundings. “I had to do face time with everybody. I had to be ‘introduced.’ It was such an Old South way of doing business. I had to reassure people, ‘I’m a safe bet, you’ll like me, my money is good, I’m consistent, you can deliver me chickens every week, I’m not going to not be here one day.’” Bailey shrugs. “It was just ‘the way.’”

She was up for the work. She felt the potential in Savannah and was further fueled by deep-seated childhood memories. In the years she’d been absent, she had never forgotten the trees, how come summer the canopy could close out the sky. Or the wet heat and the cicadas it spawned, whose riotous tymbal song vibrated the air of every square. Or her old family house, a modest Craftsman with a generous screened porch and a towering magnolia that shed its waxy leaves in the backyard where she and her two younger siblings would play, crunching them like parchment beneath their feet. Bailey remembered all of that and more—the drums of the local high school marching band practicing nearby, the unlined faces of her parents, David and Catherine, still young then themselves, the essential, cradling comfort of Southern food.

For Bailey, Savannah is where she remembers being a child, not yet formed or purposeful, just a lovely girl alive in a world of marvels. Back then, Savannah imprinted itself on her. And now it was her turn to imprint on Savannah.

“My other grandmother down south in Waynesboro, my mom’s mom, Geneva West, she would make dinner early and the house would smell like food all day,” Bailey reminisces. “She had nine kids and they were dirt poor, but she was a hell of a cook. She could put a stick in a pot and it would be delicious.”

When Geneva passed away, mourners at her funeral told stories about how she made everything from scratch, how you could always find something sweet at her house. A pie on the table. A cake on top of the fridge. Her culinary generosity had become her legacy, a path that speaks to Bailey for myriad reasons.

The Grey lights up the night.

Bailey has already been approached, she says, about expanding her nascent brand. But she has thus far demurred. Like her current hometown, she wants to take things slow. “I’m still the new kid on the block in so many ways,” she says, smiling. “Right now I just want everything to be wonderful at the Grey.”

It is there—in that context, with her cuisine—where Bailey believes herself strong enough to upend how things were in favor of how things could and should be. History cannot be rewritten. But Bailey knows the value of a righting footnote. “I want people to come to the restaurant and feel comforted,” she says. “That’s what it’s all about. Leaving with a full belly and that feeling of home.”

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