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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

An open letter to Atlanta chefs

quillDear Atlanta chefs,

I write this letter with respect and admiration and, in some instances, love for all the hard work you do. But I have to deliver a tough message, and it is this: You need to up your game.

Four months ago I started dining out again as a restaurant critic for this newspaper after a five-year hiatus. I haven’t hit every major restaurant yet but have been to enough to witness a real change from my last go-round at this job. The standards aren’t what they used to be.

The economy hasn’t been nice to the restaurant community. In particular, the decimation of the top tier — the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, Seeger’s, Joel — means fewer young chefs get the kind of exacting, old-school European training they need to run their own kitchens.

This May, thousands of visitors are going to descend on our city for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, and they will be eager to see the vibrant, exciting contemporary Southern cooking that we’re known for. Let’s show it to them. But first, consider these 10 requests — pleas, really — that will make Atlanta a better place to chow down.

1. Please work on your execution: Set high standards, train your cooks well, and if you don’t yet trust them to execute the food as well as you do, don’t leave the kitchen. I can’t tell you how many good restaurants have served me limp salad greens, pan-fried fish without crisp skin, steaks without sear and seasoning that is all over the place.

2. Dazzle us with your finesse: People go out to restaurants to eat the kinds of dishes they can’t make at home. We want to marvel at how you cut that amazingly tender braised short rib into such a perfect square or how you coaxed that infinitely velvety texture from a parsnip.

3. Think about our health: When I look to the stars, it appears the heavenly body that brought us this Age of Meat is in retrograde. People are starting — gingerly — to speak of vegetables and sensible eating again. But the “gluttony-is-good” ethos just won’t go away. Pork fat and bacon are delicious — even more so in moderation. I hate that feeling of going home clutching my stomach, even after leaving half the food on my plate.

4. Show some wit: Each dish should be a story well told, even if it’s one that has been told many times before. Maybe you are making a beet and goat cheese salad, or macaroni and cheese. Instead of cutting the beets into wedges, you might sliver them into carpaccio rounds. And with so many La Brea truffle oil pit versions of mac and cheese around town, wouldn’t it be fun to envision one that is surpassingly light and delicate?

5. Don’t be afraid of sauce: I don’t miss the days of sticky and overly salty reduction sauces with meat and wading pools of butter with fish. But I do long for dishes with a small pool of sauce bridging the flavors of protein and garnish — those bites of food that register on the palate as three-part harmony. These days I see many dishes that are damp and greasy with butter, but none have that one perfect spoonful of beurre blanc that clings to a perfectly warmed plate and resonates with the flavors of shallot and wine.

6. Be casual in the right way: I’ve eaten a lot of simple down-home food from gorgeous plates in design meccas of urban rusticity in this city. Now I’d like to eat an amazing plate of thoughtful food in a crappy little room with mismatched chairs and plates. Don’t set the stage for casual; just be casual and cook like there’s no tomorrow.

7. Work toward the new fusion: Atlanta is one of the country’s best cities for new immigrant cooking. Our mainstream restaurants need to better reflect the reality of today’s multiethnic South. Have you heard of the Indian vegetable called drumstick? It can be as delicious as artichokes. Have you tried mashing boniato sweet potatoes, which are as white as clouds? Have you ever tried a sprig of fresh fenugreek at the DeKalb Farmers Market? Might you consider trying local goat for a winter special? If you like to go to Korean joints on Buford Highway, do you ever think about how to incorporate those flavors (chile, garlic, sugar, fermented vegetables) to a smart, wine-friendly dining sensibility?

8. Make one thing really well: This whole food truck mania is not about the pleasures of diesel fumes and plastic forks. It’s about young cooks who make brilliant pizza, or serious ice cream, or bizarrely original tacos. Every chef needs a signature dish that is all hers or his, a lure to the restaurant, a mouthful of nothing-else-like-it that diners dream of days later.

9. Surprise us: I recently went to a restaurant I really like and have to say my heart sank a bit when the waitress said the soup special was butternut squash. What’s special about that? Everyone makes it. Is anyone trying a cream of turnip, or kohlrabi, or escarole, or carrot with cumin, or Sea Island red pea with country ham, or wild lamb’s quarters with black cardamom and ginger, or …

10. Finally, show us your unique POV: I know many of your customers want a burger, or a steak, or the same sorry dish you’ve been making for 10 years and, well, sure: The customer’s always right. But you went into this line of work to show us who you are as a chef. Show me something that you, personally, in your most uncompromising state of mind, want to eat. Try and advance the agenda. This city needs you more than ever.

[Here is a response from chef Nick Oltarsh.]

251 comments Add your comment

Jennifer Harris

January 17th, 2011
10:14 am

Great article. I would add that chef’s should think of their food intolerant diners when they are creating new dishes. Gluten-free is not a trend and we love to eat out just as much as everyone else.

Allie Foster

January 17th, 2011
10:20 am

Unfortunately, Atlanta has the WORST restaurants in America! I continually shake my head in disbelief when dining out at the local “hot” fine dining restaurant – mediocrity at it’s best. Arrogant chefs and maitre’ ds; poor service, over priced, and my biggest gripe – over salted food!!!! Perhaps these hubris fools should take a week or two and visit true 5 Star dining in say Paris, NYC, SF????

Kristen

January 17th, 2011
10:20 am

AMEN and AMEN!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ethan Ray. Ethan Ray said: RT @AJCFoodandMore: An open letter to Atlanta chefs http://bit.ly/gdrAYy [...]

1164mgc

January 17th, 2011
10:35 am

I agree! Especially with the vegetables part. So many times I’ve gotten a meal and there are insipid, uninspired side dishes of steamed veggies that nobody ever touches. Seems like the cooks include them in some sort of attempt to balance out the meal, but when nobody wants to eat them, it doesn’t!

Caren Goode

January 17th, 2011
10:54 am

Great letter, John! I see a renaissance (sp?) on Atlanta’s restaurant horizon!
BTW Allie Foster… no good is ever gained by calling people names.

Chef Tom

January 17th, 2011
10:56 am

You are and inspiration! Thank you John!

Native Atlantan

January 17th, 2011
11:03 am

@Allie Foster — You must be going to all the wrong places then because there are only a handful of local restaurants I’ll not return to. Asking chefs to visit NYC, SF or Paris is insane….no one wants to copy what’s going on out there — we want original, and originality is out there, just look for it. I do agree with most of John’s comments but I’m rarely disappointed when I hit some of the spots that are off the beaten path.

nativeAtlantan

January 17th, 2011
11:06 am

I imagine it to be difficult to bring “fresh” or “new” to a table of Southerners looking for ” fried, salty, and stupid”.

Malika Harricharan

January 17th, 2011
11:10 am

I would add that chefs need to go easy on the salt. That is my biggest complaint about restaurants overall. So, many dishes are ruined because they taste like they had a box of salt poured on top of them.

jc_atl

January 17th, 2011
11:12 am

My answer to the overpriced, generic cuisine that is found in many so-called fine dining establishments is . . . Buford Highway. Cheap, casual, grungy decor, but unique food that you won’t find in-town.

BFellows

January 17th, 2011
11:19 am

Those than can, do. Those that can’t write about it.

Sara

January 17th, 2011
11:20 am

Great article! I agree that the restaurants in this city leave much to be desired. I’m always amazed at the condescending attitudes and complete lack of tact or class that many of the chefs, wait staff, and especially hosts/maitre-d’s show when you walk in to their establishment. Instead of being glad to see you, they act like you are an intrusive rube who wouldn’t know a butternut squash from a beet. I have eaten out in large cities and small towns all over, and met wonderful, cool, friendly staff, and I just don’t get the strange bad attitudes that I encounter here!
I think that right now, Atlanta is very much a wanna-be city – it wants to be New York or L.A., but it has a painfully long way to go. But I do think it’s on the right track, and I think the saving grace in the restaurant biz will be the ‘new blood’ – the folks from far outside the Southern U.S. who are coming here and deciding to give it a go here. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

airport worker

January 17th, 2011
11:25 am

yes, i love stupid food

airport worker

January 17th, 2011
11:26 am

almost as much as reading this stupid blog

Patience Turner

January 17th, 2011
11:29 am

Fantastic article! Let’s hope our chefs in Atlanta will take heed to this article. At the very least, let’s hope enough influential diners (those with discriminating tastes) will demand more from the Atlanta cuisine-scene. Atlanta is in a unique position to reassert and earn a prominent place on the culinary map.

nativeAtlantan

January 17th, 2011
11:30 am

I hate myself.

patty

January 17th, 2011
11:30 am

Real Meat

January 17th, 2011
11:31 am

Totally spot on. Atlanta deserves more than a handful of inventive, excellent restaurants.
How about a follow-up Open Letter To The Dining Public?
1. Let go and let Chef… Try abandoning your “I don’t eat that” list for a night…
2. We Don’t Have Mac-N-Cheese. Really. We don’t. It’ll be ok…
3. A truly independent Chef-owned restaurant differs from a restaurant “group” in that…
4. “Casual” does not necessarily mean “comfort food”…
5. “Creative” does not necessarily mean “gimmicky”…
and so forth…

JoeV

January 17th, 2011
11:31 am

Wow. A tad arrogant?

Repsonse from Atlanta Chefs…Grab a spatula and get in the kitchen; let’s see what you’re made of John.

Atlanta Native

January 17th, 2011
11:34 am

I agree, but note that I am constantly surrounded by people with a fear of different food. This is why big menu/small flavor chains are so popular here. Branching out from meat+three is hard for many diners. That is why the hanger steak w/ frites sells so well at most upscale restaurants.
Most people would be downright scared of the soups mentioned in #9, but actually consider butternut squash soup rather special. I believe the chefs are often stuck with their “special” specials and get sick of it. When I cooked at a restaurant years ago, anything “different” I made as a special didn’t generally get eaten.

Sam Bruni

January 17th, 2011
11:37 am

This article is about 4 years too late. But still a good wake up call. Innovative and inspiring food is not going to happen any time soon, the audience will not allow it. Most of the great cooks have all left this town, what’s left are the ones who crave for their 5 minutes of TV fame and that 5 minutes is almost up as with their career. These self proclaimed top chefs care not about food, it’s evident in the cooking or their line cooks’ cooking. To them is about how many same old dishes they can send out. It is a business but that does not mean you compromise on what this business was built upon, the food. Begging people to patronize a place so that it will stay open in the neighborhood is not how you run a restaurant. We know being a cook (the term chef is elitist) is a hard job but if all they care about is making money, become a stock broker then. I hope this article inspires some passion.

Both ways

January 17th, 2011
11:49 am

Atlanta is a tough town. Most folks want incredible food, but freak out when they see the price. Then, they see what many perceive as a small portion (in their eyes). They want Applebees prices and portions, but the Ritz for plates and service. Then they rip apart restaurants online.

I agree salt is an issue, and less than perfect plates leave the kitchen at high level restaurants too often. These two things are the biggest issues. They should know better! and I think they do.

Cacuth

January 17th, 2011
12:02 pm

Restaurants are a business like any other if the people don’t like the product it goes out of business. Foodies cry and cry about all their favorite restaurants closing. They close because they are not supported by the public. Atlanta is not a foodie town. People have to remember that when a restaurant closes its a painful thing. Peoples lives get put through the ringer. So if you love that little restaurant with wit, execution, and the certain feel that what you eat separates you from the “herd” go there regularly. Remember special occasion restaurants die off like dinosaurs.

Chief Wiggum

January 17th, 2011
12:04 pm

We like what we like, Atlanta Native. Berating and insulting others because they don’t want “edgy” food is worthless. Comes across as arrogant and elitist.

I can happily say that I don’t care for “edgy” food. The meat and three is fine by me. If you want to have a foie gras milkshake, knock yourself out. Don’t rant about how stupid we southerners are if we don’t care to join you. I’d tell you the old Lewis Grizzard line about Delta, but you were born here. Still, I think there are multiple daily flights to NYC, where that attitude would be welcomed.

Robert

January 17th, 2011
12:13 pm

I think John Kessler is painting his picture with an overly broad brush. There are a number of Atlanta restaurants and chefs doing great jobs right now, more than I can ever recall despite the loss of those once-a-year spots like Joel and the Ritz-Carlton Dining Room. While Kessler only gave it three stars (and made me think his palate is aging in a negative way) to Miller Union, I think it is outstanding and is something distinctly Atlanta. You would never get that food in NYC, Paris, SF, etc. The other local chef who doesn’t get enough acclaim is Chef Piero Premoli over at Pricci. He is doing some wonderful, creative Italian cooking these days.

Now, the economic problem for restaurants in general is that there are only so many people willing to pay what it takes to do really good stuff. There are far too many customers who require a big quantity on the plate at a low price and want to show up in tennis shoes and ragged blue jeans for dinner. You will never be able to satisfy these folks in a fine dining establishment, regardless of how casual it is.

memerror

January 17th, 2011
12:14 pm

Check out Peter Chang’s on Power’s Ferry. Your faith in culinary artistry will be restored.

Mary

January 17th, 2011
12:19 pm

This is why I don’t dine outside the home. I HATE restaurants……over cooked food, over priced, and not that good, rude wait staff, etc.

I would rather cook at home.

JoeInAtlanta

January 17th, 2011
12:20 pm

Under #10: “The customer’s always right.” When will that insipid phrase die? It was invented as a marketing gimmick by Harry Gordon Selfridge to publicize his department stores — and in one of the true realizations of poetic justice, it (among other mistakes) drove him to ruin. Selfridge died penniless and insane in 1947.

But John, if you really believe in this drivel, then I hope you get to spend eternity trying to make ends meet, and to keep your sanity, in an environment where customer cannot be challenged and you are ceaselessly at the mercy of her or his whims.

As for myself, I’m always the customer. I don’t own a business and for all practical purposes there’s no customer service aspect of my job. But even so, I’m smart enough to understand that if we truly believed the customer was ALWAYS right, the engines of commerce would grind to a halt under the weight of clueless, demanding, or fraudulent customers.

You’re smart enough to understand that too, John. But, unlike me, you’re not smart enough not to write it anyway.

As long as we’re holding people to higher standards, John, why don’t you put a little more intellectual integrity into your advice in the future.

Atlanta Native

January 17th, 2011
12:25 pm

@ Chief Wiggum: I am not berating anyone. I am a businessperson and know that restaurants want to stay in business. To do so, you give the public what it wants. Often the pubic wants sameness, not new experiences, which is why burger chains always thrive. That was my point.

I detest “edgy” food, as it is generally a chef trying too hard to make it “edgy” instead of taste good..
Also, I never said or implied that southerners are stupid. I am one. I know the “one of those restaurants where they cook the tomatoes and not the green beans” line from Grizzard by heart and understand it completely. Meat and three is great when I go to Matthews, Collonade or other such places, and I do. In the summer I live off tomato sandwiches rather than eat out for lunch and, yes, I have a jar of bacon grease in the ‘fridge.

Note that I never said “southerners” when referring to the meat and three or scared of food portion.

What I mean is what my mom always said – “Eat whatever you are served and do not complain. Try something new at least once a week, the worst thing that can happen is you won’t like it, and then you know.”

So get the chip off your shoulder, man up and try something new occasionally, or just keep eating the same few things over and over and you will continue to look like your namesake, or become him if you are not there.

John Kessler

January 17th, 2011
12:29 pm

Joe – I was (perhaps not very well) trying to use that phrase ironically.

HCat

January 17th, 2011
12:29 pm

Dear Food Critic,

As I read your article-I loudly replied with witty comebacks to which I’d love to serve you. But the bottom line is this, Atlanta is a food town. If you drive a minimum 45 minutes out of this city in any direction, you won’t find an eclectic mix of interesting, fun, and yes, standard fare that those who live in this city have come accustom to. I have traveled this country, and have had some great meals, too.Im proud to be married to a popular Chef in Atlanta. We have dined at all your fore-mentioned restaurants-you are giving the Chefs and Owners of those restaurants too much credit. Having a restaurant doesn’t just mean whipping up a plate of food, it means being a brilliant business owner, adored manager, time keeper, superior R and D, and absolutely no personal life. In other words, you have to be obsessed. Work on Mother’s Day-don’t see your own mother. How about New Years Eve, sorry-gotta work. Chefs sacrifice a lot. I for one am very pleased that most of the public does not appreciate you and Meredith Ford’s attempts to creatively rip apart a restaurant. That’s right, you don’t, in all your charm or wit, own this city. I know you have an Editor that probably rips you a new one on occasion. But what about “baby editors” AKA-bloggers who claim to know $%^& about food? What if they sat at your desk and took pictures of what you did all day, and then, in front of you, loaded the pics onto the blog? All the time? How about annoying. Ask anyone in the food industry-they kiss your critic ass, but just as you walk out the door-they begin to despise you, Meredith, Cliff-you name it. You are not a Chef, your livelihood does not depend on this article “working out”. For once in your career, just stop. Cook your own food. I remember your review of Joel years ago-or maybe it was Meredith’s-you dropped $400 a person for that meal. Did that come out of your pocket, or did the paper pay for that? I am guessing that you make about 100K a year-how many fine dining establishments could you afford to dine at, if the AJC didn’t catch the bill?

Dave

January 17th, 2011
12:30 pm

To the Chefs. Humility is a virtue. Get your heads out of your backsides and stop looking at your customers as if we are a band of howler monkeys who want to throw poop in your restaurants.

HotlantaHobo

January 17th, 2011
12:34 pm

The problem with trying to create a “new” Southern cuisine is that many of these chefs never mastered or understood the “old” Southern cooking, which really wasn’t all that great in the inland south. Atlanta never had a tradition of great restaurant dining until well into the latter part of the 20th century and very few places of the past have survived here unlike Antoine’s (1840, same family), Galatoire’s (1905, same family), Arnaud’s (1917 2nd owner) and others in New Orleans. Atlanta was not a city of people of continental European extraction who would bring those dining traditions. The Protestant wealthy ate at home and frequently didn’t drink. (Need a bottle of wine on Sunday?) In not having this restaurant tradition there was no pool of multi-generational service personnel resident and waitstaff had to be imported or trained. But hip restaurants probably wouldn’t hire age 60+ waiters no matter how good they were as they just wouldn’t be cool. I’m sure old Atlanta people would never dream of doing service work anyway, no matter what their background, since it would seem beneath them.

Old southern cooking simply would not cut it in today’s culinary world. I imagine if Mrs. Dull came back to life and did a cooking show at the AJC like she did in the 1930’s people (and some critics) would turn up their noses at it. But she did codify Georgia’s cuisine as it was and so far, no new local chefs have managed to create a new “guide culinaire” for the future. We do get novel creations, but they seem to be ephemeral and not dishes that will go down as classics. Paul Prudhomme created a new technique (blackening) that became not only a staple, but so popular that it nearly wiped out the redfish populations in the Gulf. Blackened anything is now a cliche to critics but was once cutting edge. What might our chefs create?

Add the fact that the puritanical business folk of today are petrified of complicated or sauced food, (I don’t eat seafood, fats, sugars etc.) and would demand that many complex dishes be deconstructed to suit their bland tastes so it’s a wonder a chef would want to create anything when they just end of being short order cooks for an unsophisticated clientele. The youth-oriented culture here does not bring tradition or experience to the restaurant world, but it does seem to think restaurants are steeped in the meanness of the mindless “reality” TV cooking competitions.

Ironically, we have several very prominent food writers here (Alton Brown, Shirley Corriher, Damon Lee Fowler) but they have no involvement in the restaurant world. In fact they seem to avoid much discussion of this scene.

Given the provincial nature of the market it’s a miracle there are any major places left. I’d hope that if anything our chefs could somehow find something creative and something comfortable for the dining public, but I’m not sure the public will have anything to do with it.

Clem Porcinack

January 17th, 2011
12:38 pm

@HCat

Such grace. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen…literally.

Will

January 17th, 2011
12:44 pm

Mediocrity rules, but exceptions do reign. Immigrant populations are increasing and bringing new flavors and wonderful new dishes to the Atlanta restaurant scene. If you’re not afraid to try these exciting new cuisines, there are plenty of great places to eat all over town. And to nativeAtlantan, I’m truly sorry for you if you’re really a native and you’ve never had some great fried chicken.

face it

January 17th, 2011
12:56 pm

Atlanta is NOT an international town with varying tastes and a worldly attitude. Atlanta is the capital of the South. Nothing wrong with that, but most folks like to stay conservative. Look at the fashions in this town – conservative and slow to change.

Most of these SEC types won’t visit Miami because it’s too Spanish. They stick with the Marriott, Katz Deli, and Times Square when visiting NYC. The backwoods of the Highlands in NC is more of an aspirational destination, if not Saint Simons. The general population here does not travel to cosmopolitan destinations (NYC, Paris, Rome, BVI) and don’t intend to. They think that 2-buck chuck is a hoot. They drink Firefly flavored vodka and think the flying biscuit is a splurge.

To try and be an innovative chef, introducing globally-influenced cuisine with top-shelf service is a noble idea – but it is lost on 95% of Atlanta diners. 5% of the diners cannot carry 50 4 & 5 star restaurants.

Lorenzo

January 17th, 2011
12:57 pm

I don’t get worked up over Atlanta restaurants or wish to waste energy pleading with Atlanta chefs/restaurants to change their ways. I live here and eat here–mostly at home–but always look forward to trips to other cities where there is a real restaurant culture. I think the Latin American and Asian joints on Buford Highway (and beyond) are the real gems in Atlanta’s dining scene. I’ve lived here 10 years and just accept that that’s the way it is here.

Kirk

January 17th, 2011
12:58 pm

As always, I’m left with the feeling that people take this “foodie” thing too seriously. I too go to a restaurant because they fix something I can’t or don’t make at home. I want to try to figure out what is in what I’m eating and why it is different than what I fix. As long as it challenges me on some level I usually enjoy the experience. Too much salt and fat leaves me cold. A good article. Keep stirring the pudding.

C3Atlanta

January 17th, 2011
1:03 pm

Here is what I got out of this article. 1) Stop being so bourgeois, lower the price, cook the food and let people eat their faces off, because Atlantan’s don’t give a DAMN about hoity-toity, expensive rent restaurants. 2) Stop it with the salt, people. 3) Expand your palette and make it interesting for people who aren’t so willing to try ” New Things.” Finally, national Chain Restaurants do well here, in ATL because they are simple, cheap, and their customers don’t have time for, ” new things @ the low, low price of $50.” Real Estate prices for Restaurants are the reason your food is expensive, not the Chef’s greed. So take it down a notch, put your restaurant in a truck or a Tent, for all I care… Just make me want to eat $30 worth of food, and when I leave, I should be saying… OMG.. I ate..Wayyyy..Toooo…Much..I’m going to EXPLODE…

C3Atlanta

January 17th, 2011
1:06 pm

I did forget one other thing- Diners… That is, people who dine… You don’t have to go to ” The mall area” or BUCKHEAD to get good food…Support your local restaurant, even if it’s not the pretties place, or around all those OTHER people and THINGS… You’re neighborhood might just have a fantastic Restaurant and you don’t know because you drive by thinking, ” ew I don’t like that shopping center…” Tell me you haven’t done it, 100 times…

Typical Redneck

January 17th, 2011
1:12 pm

Piccadilly hit the spot today.

Winnie Rains

January 17th, 2011
1:19 pm

Did anyone mention the saltiness of the food? It’s really salty.

Joe

January 17th, 2011
1:32 pm

And what about EVERYBODY now serving what they call sushi? Cream cheese in sushi? Please!!!!!!!!!!

Edward

January 17th, 2011
1:59 pm

Anyone who whines like Allie Foster is simply too caught up in their own ego to appreciate excellent cuisine anywhere. How wonderful that you can afford to go to Paris and New York for dinner. Money does not make you an expert, nor afford you class (nor an education in grammar, obviously).

Every American city is filled with the typical chain-restaurant-dreck, even San Francisco and New York. But Atlanta does have a good number of great venues serving some amazing food if you simply take the time to find them. It seems most people choose their restaurant not for the food but for how being seen there will boost their ego and status among their equally-shallow friends. Take a drive up the aforementioned Buford Hwy and visit some of the hole-in-the-wall establishments that can dazzle your taste buds for pocket change. Or enjoy an inventive yet satisfying experience at a place like Feast, Restaurant Eugene/Holeman & Finch, 4th & Swift, Woodfire Grille, etc. Should we, as patrons, keep chefs on their toes, not letting them slack off after gaining notoriety? Of course, crack that whip! But to completely dismiss an entire geographic region is the ultimate in hubris and arrogance.

Kristen

January 17th, 2011
2:07 pm

In this well-traveled foodie’s opinion, Atlanta chefs and restaurants need to take a lesson from Chef Carvel and her team at Canoe, and forget about emulating Eric Ripert and Le Bernandin (which SUCKED, for the record). The food’s outstanding, and creative without being trendy. They pay homage to where we are (which, like it or not, you damn Yankees, is the SOUTH) without going overboard. I appreciate places where I can get not only get New England mussels in a curry broth and Asian-influenced branzino, but also a fine steak with some good old southern sweet potato hash. She’s big on locally grown and raised, but realizes sometimes you have to look elsewhere to expand your menu. And, no, I don’t work there, I’m just lucky enough to be regular.

What I’d really like to see is the Atlanta bashing stop. I don’t understand why you people stay here if you hate it so damn much. It is what it is, you’re never going to change it despite your best efforts. People like me are not going to let you! I love NYC, etc, as much as the next elitist, but it really doesn’t do much in the way for our sense of community here to have a bunch of haters hating all the time.

Don

January 17th, 2011
2:08 pm

“An educated customer is always right”. A very successful business in Michigan taught me that.

Sander

January 17th, 2011
2:08 pm

Wow. I must be living in a different Atlanta. In my opinion the restaurant scene has never been better. It is true that the pinnacle of the heirarchy was chopped off with the loss of Dining Room at the Ritz Buckhead and Seegers but Joel was hardly a loss. If you need to see the pinnacle book a table at the Quinones Room at Bacchanalia or just go to Bacchanalia.

In the meantime, I can’t get enough of places such as Local Three, Empire State South, 4th & Swift, Restaurant Eugene, Abattoir, and Pricci. I know when I lived in Paris I lost weight due to the lack of such places and I certainly don’t have that problem right now in Atlanta.

CocktailHourTV

January 17th, 2011
2:13 pm

Agree about the salt, how about eliminating all the ingredients with high-fructose corn syrup in them? If your condiment/sauce has it, then make it yourself…thanks!

Soupy Sales

January 17th, 2011
2:36 pm

John: I can name several local restaurants that never needed a reminder to be fun, fresh and local. The names of these independently-owned, chef-run establishments include Dynamic Dish, Repast, Shaun’s, and Noon Midtown.

Unfortunately, your memo came too late for them. Hope your “Open Letter to Atlanta Eaters” will soon follow, because – - as you know – - it takes two to tang.