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.