Former Top Chef finalist Kevin Gillespie hasn’t given up on his plan to open a barbecue restaurant. He just hasn’t found the right spot.
Not that there isn’t plenty of vacant restaurant real estate in Atlanta, but locations he has seen so far all tend to be too big. He wants to find a place that seats about 40 people.
“It’s not about making tons of money,” he said. “It’s about doing it right.”
Buzz can attest that it’ll be worth the wait. Gillespie was the featured chef at Sunday’s For Food’s Sake benefit at Dunaway Gardens in Newnan. Gillespie cooked a whole pig, donated by Buckhead Beef, overnight, and served it both sliced and NC-style, chopped and vinegary, with sides of fresh slaw, potato salad and slices of white bread from Holeman & Finch.
The feast was paired with beers selected by brewmaster Crawford Moran of 5 Seasons Brewery.
As you probably know, Gillespie, a Henry County native, passed up a full scholarship to MIT in order to pursue his culinary dreams. Over time he came to embrace the organic, sustainable source ethic.
“It kind of came to me by accident,” he said, reflecting on his early days in the kitchen. “Where you got your food from was secondary. Focusing on minutae is what made you a good chef. Then one day it came to me: start with a better raw quality ingredients. If you want to make good food you have to start with good ingredients. I began to see rustic food could have this amazing charm.”
The rest, of course, is history. While the hunt for the perfect Q joint continues, Gillespie keeps packing the house at Woodfire Grill, where he is executive chef. While it may seem impossible to snag a reservation, he had this tip for foodies seeking a place at his table.
“Don’t use OpenTable,” he said, referring to the online booking site. “I pay people to answer phones. They will try everything to find you a spot!”