2017 Winners of South's Greatest Chefs Contest

When we asked our readers to name the Greatest Chefs of 2017, we knew we were asking the impossible. In a region like ours, with so much talent in the kitchen, how could anyone pick just one? Well every chef knows that sometimes you have to improvise, so we decided to bend the rules a little and feature more of these culinary geniuses than ever before. Read on and you’ll see why we made room at the table for a few folks who rarely get the recognition they deserve for giving the South its flavor.

Dustin Hambrick - Lizzy’s Tequila Bar & Grill lizzysgrill.com

I have been a chef for › I became a sous chef at the age of 23, so 10 years now. Started in the industry as a bus boy at age 15 and worked my way up.

I wanted to pursue this career path because › I was raised in restaurants my entire life and always wanted to be the like the “Rock Stars” I would meet in the kitchen.

My favorite thing to make is › I love cooking pork. Whether its ribs, chops, or butts. Nothing beats a good slow smoke.

If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only eat one meal I’d choose › Lasagna. Garfield is my favorite cartoon.

My signature dish is › For me my signature dish changes with the type of cuisine my restaurant is known for. Right now it would have to be Lizzy’s Two-Handed burrito. A pound slow smoked pulled pork, sweet slaw, and fried onion straws wrapped in two twelve inch tortillas. It’s a monster of a burrito with tons of flavor.

Art Smith - Southern Art and Bourbon Bar southernart.com

My favorite thing about being a chef is  › I love the fellowship of the chef community. We are a small group that works closely together to finding the best foods. We spoil each other at our restaurants. For example, recently in Nashville, chef Sean Brock and his team prepared an amazing dinner after my taping of the Pickler and Ben Show, which is Faith Hill’s new show. The dinner guests were the former executives of Oprah Winfrey’s show (I was the personal chef for Oprah for 10 years), and they loved it and were impressed with the chef “hook-up.” We can get reservations faster at any great restaurant in the world because of the close chef family we have.

Some future career goals  › My future goals include: Building Reunion 501 C3, my rural educational sustainable food program; bringing my Common Threads 501 C3 to America’s foremost healthy kids cooking program in all 50 states; creating a restaurant in my rural  birthplace of Jasper, Florida that is themed around a favorite food past time – tailgating; bring Art Bird, my NYC fried chicken concept, across the United States; and teach my four newly adopted kids to run it all!

Jonathan Garrett ShoNuff Smokin’ Good BBQ  @shonuffsmokingoodbbq

If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only eat one meal I’d choose › Banana pudding! My all-time favorite food, I never get tired of some good homemade banana pudding!

My signature dish is › Pork Sammiches! I make a pulled pork sandwich served on a bun- it’s simple and perfect. My customers love it!

A tip I would give other aspiring chefs would be › Love what you do. Let your passion be your guide, if you don’t have passion then your work is just mechanical.

Letricia Blake The Shrimp Factory | theshrimpfactory.com

I have been a chef for › I started cooking a long time ago. I have been at the Shrimp Factory for 14 years.  I have been the chef for 4 years.

My favorite thing to make is › I like trying new things all the time. It’s fun coming up with new ideas and experimenting with our ingredients here at the restaurant to add a spin to an old recipe.  My favorite part of making things is the part of making people happy by them enjoying my cooking.

Gladys Young The River House Seafood | savannahriverhouse.com

My signature dish is › The River House Paella

My favorite thing about being a chef is › Endless passion and using my creativity every day.

Some future career goals › Keep The River House Seafood Restaurant as number 1 destination restaurant in the state of Georgia.

Joe Maley Sunbury Crab Company sunburycrabco.com

I wanted to pursue this career path because › I was a business major and never thought much about it. I had anticipated moving back and joining the restaurant full time. I helped start the company with my family but had only been part time up to that point. I always enjoyed cooking but this was a family and business decision. It was a natural move but it was the quintessential trial by fire scenario.

My favorite thing to make is › I wish I could say there was a favorite thing for me to prepare in the restaurant. I always try to eliminate the things that I hate to make. I love to cook at home. I like doing pasta at the house. I get to experiment more at the house. Sushi is always a fun one to me.

Johnny Baker Bar•Food savannahbarfood.com

I have been a chef for › Seems like forever! Yeah, forever

I wanted to pursue this career path because › I have always played with pots & pans.

My favorite thing to make is › I love to cook with old recipes & classic cuts of meats.

Patrick McNamara Noble Fare Savannah @noblefare

My favorite thing to make is › Love…but making soup is therapeutic.

If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only eat one meal I’d choose › Lobster, baby – all day every day.

My signature dish is… › Our duck – duck – duck – goose.  It’s duck confit, duck breast, foie gras and gooseberry reduction.

Travis “Shug” Phillips The Painted Chef thepaintedchef.com

My favorite thing about being a chef is › meeting different people with my food is very inspiring and makes me happy. I love hearing other people’s stories and experiences.

Some future career goals › I recently purchased a private residence that I plan to transform into a wedding and event venue. I hope to open in Fall 2017!

A tip I would give other aspiring chefs would be › don’t be scared to try new things. Always think outside of the box.


To read more Q+A's from these chefs, subscribe now or pick up the October/November issue of South magazine.  

Edit ModuleShow Tags

South's Greatest Dads 2018

Do you think your dad is Superman? Nominate him today!

South's Greatest Bosses 2018

Nominate that boss that has you looking forward to Mondays again.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Events Calendar

  • Scenic Impressions: Southern Interpretations from the Johnson Collection

    Oct 13, 2017
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Telfair Academy

    When the world gets urban, the South gets Southern. That’s one way to sum up Scenic Impressions: Southern Paintings from the Johnson Collection,...

  • Paul Stephen Benjamin: Reinterpreting the Sound of Blackness

    Jan 26, 2018
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Paul Stephen Benjamin (American, b. 1966) is a conceptual artist whose work is a meditation on the color black, specifically as an entry point into...

  • Carrie Mae Weems: Sea Islands Series, 1991-1992

    Jan 26, 2018
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Considered one of the most influential contemporary artists, Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953) has continued to explore the African American...

  • Shine A Light When It’s Gray Out

    Mar 03, 2018
    10:00 AM - 6:00 PM @ New Gallery of Modern Art

    Fine artist Stephen Wilson's newest series Shine A Light When It’s Gray Out is being shown at Charlotte’s New Gallery of Modern Art from March...

  • Whiskey Wednesday

    Mar 21, 2018
    5:30 PM @ 39 Rue de Jean

    South Magazine, Ghost Coast Distillery, and 39 Rue de Jean  host an evening of power networking and fundraising, on the third...

  • Taizé services

    Feb 28, 2018
    7:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church

    Taizé worship is peaceful and reverent. Attendees will focus on silence, breathing, healing, prayer and reflection. Reverend Billy Hester will...

  • Rotary Read In

    Mar 22, 2018
    9:00 AM - 10:30 AM @ Savannah Chatham County Public School System

    Several Rotary clubs and community volunteers in the greater Savannah area will host the inaugural Rotary Read-In on Thursday, March 22, from 9...

  • BURST into Bloom Opening Party

    Mar 22, 2018
    6:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Telfair Academy

    Join us for an opening night reception at the Telfair Academy and view the art and beautiful floral arrangements by local floral artists while...

  • BURST into Bloom - Telfair in Bloom

    Mar 22, 2018
    6:30 PM - 9:00 PM @ Telfair Academy

    Celebrate springtime with cocktails & lite bites at the Telfair Academy amongst floral creations complimenting the Telfair's Scenic Impressions...

  • BURST into Bloom Opening Party

    Mar 22, 2018
    6:30 PM - 9:00 PM @ Telfair Academy

    View the art and beautiful floral arrangements by local floral artists while enjoying cocktails and lite bites at this amazing opening...

  • Anything Flows Yoga Class

    Jun 15, 2017
    7:00 PM @ Dragon Dance Yoga

    7 pm Anything Flows Yoga Class Walk in rate: $14 Dragon Dance Yoga This class will take you beyond your comfort zone while still...

  • Telfair in Bloom

    Mar 23, 2018
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Telfair Academy

    Telfair Academy Guild presents Telfair in Bloom 2018, a vibrant festival of art and flowers featuring work by local designers. Telfair in Bloom...

  • Telfair in Bloom Lecture and Luncheon with Sybil Sylvester

    Mar 23, 2018
    10:30 AM - 1:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Popular Southern floral artist Sybil Brooke Sylvester is the owner of Wildflower Designs in Birmingham, Alabama, a “creative think tank” for...

  • Willy Russell's Shirely Valentine

    Mar 23, 2018
    7:30 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    A bored English housewife, wondering what her life is about and how to navigate around her clueless husband, Shirley would be at her wits'...

  • Lean Ensemble Theater presents Breathe

    Mar 23, 2018
    7:30 PM - 9:15 PM @ HHP Main Street Theatre

    Brennen, just wanted to be normal. The only problem: the fatal lung disease, Cystic Fibrosis. The only solution: a double lung transplant....

  • Savannah Community Theatre and Tybee Post Theater present “Shirley Valentine”

    Mar 24, 2018
    7:30 PM - 9:30 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    Second in a three-series SCT season at Tybee Post Theater An ordinary, middle class English housewife, contemplates her life and her future...

  • Flannery O'Connor Birthday Parade/Street Fair

    Mar 25, 2018
    1:00 PM - 4:00 PM @ Lafayette Square

    This lively annual celebration of acclaimed author and Savannah native Flannery O'Connor's birthday will offer free family fun, live music,...

  • The Savannah Golf Championship

    Mar 26, 2018
    8:00 AM - 6:00 PM @ Deer Creek Golf Course at The Landings Club

    The PGA TOUR invites you and your family to join them in Savannah at the new 2018 Web.com Tour event, The Savannah Golf Championship. Hosted at...

  • PGA Hyatt Pro-AM Pairings Party

    Mar 27, 2018
    5:30 PM - 8:30 PM @ Savannah Hyatt

  • Savannah Music Festival

    Mar 29, 2018
    All Day

    This two week festival is not only the largest musical arts event in the state of Georgia, it is also one of the most distinctive and celebrated...

Show More...

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Scenes of the South

Celtic Cross Ceremony

An Evening of Brilliance for St. Andrews

St. Andrews partnered up with the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce to bring this year's edition of the Chamber Ball.

March of Dimes Shamrock Run 2018

Get a running start on the 2018 St. Paddy's Day celebrations with the March of Dimes Shamrock Run 5k!

Telfair Sea Islands Ball

A Highlight of Savannah's social scene, the Telfair Ball is open to Director's Circle members, and all proceeds benefit Telfair's exceptional exhibitions, educational programs, and community outreach.

Pia Camil Public Art Performance

Part of SCAD's de:FINE ART 2018 celebration included a public performance piece with internationally reknowned artist, Pia Camil, that took place in Forsyth Park

Savannah Book Festival

More than 40 authors came from around the nation to Savannah, GA to share a love of literature, the arts, culture, and most of all, books.

Gullah Market and Celebration

The once a year celebration of Lowcountry culture and heritage out on Hilton Head Island

Hearts for Heroes Gala

2018 Hearts for Heroes Gala benefiting Savannah-Chatham CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force

Lyn Avenue EP Release

Hearts for Healing Gala