Last Sunday I made my way to Midtown to attend a Q&A Brunch with Hugh Acheson. The event was hosted by YP and Erica Key of Eating With Erica as a part of YP’s #MakeEveryDayLocal campaign.
One of my favorite things about food blogging is the connections we get to make with the community. YP has set out to help facilitate the ongoing circle of (local/community driven) life. When people support local they’re helping business owners support their own families which allows them to continue to provide their community with whatever services they offer. The more you feed local businesses, the more the community reaps the benefits. It’s a win, win.
Empire State South (ESS) is located in Midtown, a hidden gem that is worth the climb. From the website:
Empire State South takes a modern approach to creating authentic Southern dishes, relying on the beautiful foods of this region. A community restaurant that appeals to a broad range, Empire State South is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a to-go lunch program, courtyard bocce ball and an extensive coffee bar.
I love their courtyard and bocce court. It’s so unique to the area and the game is tons of fun. ESS has successfully created an ambiance that gives off the feeling of being at a high end venue while also being completely welcoming and comfortable. In fact, this patio was rated the #3 on Thrillist’s ATL’s 26 Best Outdoor Patios in Atlanta and it’s easy to see why.
While a group of bloggers and YP contest winners sipped on mimosas and bloody mary’s, the staff at Empire State South brought out brunch. The set up was serve yourself. Plates and boards full of perfectly plated food were set up on the bar and on high top tables. It was a food bloggers dream to be honest…the presentation was absolutely stunning.
Better yet, the food itself was also impressive. We were treated to breakfast sandwiches of scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage served on delightfully fluffy biscuits. Scrambled eggs done right are the equivalent of Loch Ness monster sightings. No one will believes you when you tell them you’ve seen it, but once you see it for yourself…your life is changed forever. Head over to ESS if you want the Loch Ness monster of scrambled eggs. Promise.
Yogurt served with house made granola, home fries, shrimp and grits…it was enough to make any breakfast lover weep tears of joy.
The man of the hour Hugh Acheson joined us in the dining room while we ate. He thanked us all for being there and gave a short speech about Empire State South, the food scene in Atlanta and why he decided to partner with YP for this event.
Personally, I find the idea of “celebrity chefs” sort of weird. I have had too many experiences eating some Food Network or Bravo rejects food and going “Really? This is it?” or worse even, meeting them in person and finding that their heads were so far up in the clouds, it was as if they forgot why they started cooking to begin with.
Hugh went right ahead and stomped on my worries and fears. He was delightful, engaging, happy to be there and happy to talk to us about the things he’s passionate about. I loved his no bullshit approach when it came to addressing Atlanta and its growth in the past five years.
He made it a point to acknowledge that Atlanta has finally stopped with the weird obsession to be something its not and has become comfortable with its perception by others as the “new South.” It’s no surprise that as soon as Atlanta accepted that, what happened was an influx of amazing new local businesses and restaurants.
And for the first time ever, I heard a chef – a white male chef – a white male chef who competed on and then went on to be a judge for Top Chef – say, essentially, that misogyny and sexism in the industry is not only rampant but complete BS (I’m paraphrasing, but…you get the idea). I almost jumped out of my seat. I have conducted so many interviews and have asked this question directly to both women and men in the industry and was usually greeted with cautiously guarded answers or flat out “it’s not a problem.” The honesty was refreshing and appreciated.
When asked about social media, his answer was surprising. He is pretty active on Twitter and Instagram. Although he understands how it can assist his brand and businesses, he prefers to use it as a means of personal expression. Going to his timeline, you won’t see a barrage of RT’d links to his restaurants – you’ll see tweets that give you a glimpse into the person he is (whether you like it or not).
Last, but most definitely not least, what I loved the most was the newest initiative to bring home economics classes to schools that, you know, actually teach kids something. Instead of learning how to make mac and cheese from a box, or instant biscuits he wants this program to teach kids about fresh food, teach them how to cook meals from scratch, teach them how to read a lease, teach them how to open a bank account: life skills that will actually benefit the students in the long term.
Somewhere in the Q&A session, Hugh said something that I think is reflective of the kind of person and chef he is. It also hit me right in the gut, especially in light of my recent life decision – and it’s how I want to end today’s review:
You don’t go six feet into the ground regretting the time you spent in the kitchen with your family.
No, Hugh…you definitely don’t.
I am so very grateful to have had the opportunity to #MakeEveryDayLocal with Hugh, Erica and the folks at YP!
To learn more about *all the things* check out the following: