“I get up at 3:00 a.m. and I’m excited. I absolutely look forward to every day.”
How many people can say that they’re excited to hop out of bed at 3 a.m. to start the work day? There is one chef who can: Kevin Clark, chef and owner of Home Grown. Kevin brings a contagious enthusiasm to both his food and restaurant.
Home Grown serves Southern fare in a casual spot that just might have been your grandmother’s house. Judging by this meat-and-three, you’d never guess that Kevin Clark began his career in fine dining. But Kevin’s roots are in Southern food.
Growing up in Tucker, Kevin says “I always had food smells around me.” His mom made dinner every night and a roast on Sundays. The food was all fresh and simple — nothing boxed. Kevin also spent a great deal of time in the kitchens of the Southern landmark, Matthews Cafeteria, which is owned by his buddy Mike’s family.
Despite this early exposure to food, cooking was not originally in Kevin’s plan. While he was in college, his dad, a retired Bell South employee, accepted a job in Australia at a new start-up phone company. Kevin joined his family in Australia, a place he says awakened his palate. There, he experienced the cuisine of many cultures for the first time in his life, reigniting his passion for food.
After his time in Australia and another year backpacking through Europe, Kevin made his way back to the states and attended The Art Institute of Atlanta. He then worked in the fine dining scene, cooking in places such as Harvest, an upscale Southern restaurant, and Spice.
Kevin’s career abruptly changed after a serious scooter accident landed both him and his wife in Grady hospital. He says, “The accident opened my eyes. Life is short. It’s worth taking a risk. That’s what drove me to open Home Grown.”
Kevin took that risk in June of 2010 in order to create “a place that calms you down and feels like your grandmother’s — a safe place that puts a smile on your face.” Now, just over a year later, he admits that he doesn’t miss working in fine dining. He’s humbled that other chefs such as Ricardo Ullio, Kevin Rathbun and Kevin Gillespie eat at Home Grown even though the food is what he calls “simple.”
Kevin now spends his days cooking the food he loves — the food of his childhood — with his wife, Lisa Spooner, by his side. Lisa manages the front of the house and handles all the business affairs for Home Grown. He says, “She has a hard job. I couldn’t do what I’m doing without Lisa. She gives me peace of mind, which allows me to be more creative.”
In addition to spending time with his wife, Kevin also enjoys the company of his customers. At Home Grown, you’ll find Kevin interacting with diners, requesting feedback. In doing so, he has developed a loyal and diverse customer base, with customers ranging in age from 18-70 years.
When asked where he sees himself in ten years, Kevin says without hesitation, “I’ll be at Home Grown. Every day is something great. It totally floors me… totally chokes me up.”
Meet Kevin Clark, a chef with passion for his food, his restaurant and the connection with his customers.
Home Grown: 7 a.m.- 3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. 968 Memorial Drive, Atlanta. 404-222-0455.
–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog
– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team.