South's Greatest Chefs



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With the food revolution starting in the South, it’s no wonder our chefs are so dang popular.

People from all over the country voted in our annual poll and we received the widest variety of winners in DineSouth history. Is this an indication of the growing popularity of Southern food culture? We think so. It’s also proof that the Chefs down South are kicking a** and taking names in the Southern food revolution.

 

Jesse Rice of Backwoods Crossing in Tallahassee, Florida placed first in our Greatest Chef’s Contest.

“Being raised in the true South, most of us are used to our parents having a garden of some size in the back yard. I’m bringing that super fresh taste back to the table with a garden growing at Backwoods Crossing fed by any organic material left over from my restaurants to create a super-rich compost. Momma’s proud!”

 

 

Ryan Goreau of Fifth & Thomas in Tallahassee, Florida;

“Southern food over the years has become much more desirable to the general public because the old classic “stick to your ribs” Southern food has become much more refined and delicate with the influence of fine dining that has taken over the world. I do whatever I can to contribute to this food revolution. I visit local farms and volunteer my time, supporting the local farms by using anything and everything available to me that is sourced locally. I feel as though I do a really good job transforming Southern classics into a more desirable cuisine by lightening up the dish, representing the ingredients from my region of the South, putting my more “high end” perspective or interpretation on the dish, and by letting these awesome Southern ingredients speak for themselves. All of these fresh ingredients are so delicious, so why would we compensate their integrity by over cooking them?”

 

Michael Wright of Natalia’s in Macon, GA;

“I think mainly Southern food has become more refined. When I moved to the South from Michigan in ’98 Southern food was always your typical meat and three. Now we are seeing chefs use typical Southern ingredients with new, more refined techniques or using your typical Southern techniques with new ingredients. After a five year stint in South Florida, which I do not consider part of the South, I moved back to Macon. As a chef you are always somewhat restricted in what you can do by the type of restaurant you work in. Since being back in Macon, I have done Southern fine dining, casual European bistro, Mongolian barbecue, gastropub and currently Italian food. I try to take the knowledge I’ve gained working in Atlanta, Boca Raton and other major markets and bring that to Macon. It’s very nice being in a smaller city that is experiencing great culinary growth right now.  I’ve been able to come in at the beginning and hopefully pave the way for the future chefs of Macon. Also making sure to source as much local quality ingredients as possible. By using local farmers we are able to provide fresher food and give back to the community.”

 

Crystal Hoang of Corner Cafe in Atlanta, GA;

“Growing up in Savannah played a large role in my decision to become a chef. Some of my earliest memories in a kitchen were at my great aunt’s house helping her cook. It was always hearty, filling meals; chicken fried steaks, gravies, mashed potatoes, casseroles, and a lot of cookies. She called it ‘stick to your ribs’ food. It was only when I moved to Atlanta that I noticed a shift in the mentality of cooking in the South. Nowadays people are more health conscious and there are wonderful substitutions for fatty or unhealthy fare at our fingertips. My part in this is to pay homage to inspirational Southern chefs in my life by taking what they taught me and applying it to today’s tech-advanced kitchens. Whether it’s sous vide chicken before it is fried or creating a chickpea foam, we have new toys and gadgets that weren’t around before; how exciting is that? Also, it’s important that we support our local farmers, growers, and markets. Keeping these places alive is key to pushing us forward with quality ingredients to be innovative with.”

 

Matthew Coburn of Cypress Restaurant in Tallahassee, FL;

“Southern food has grown in popularity over the years, with an emphasis on farm to table cooking and preservation. It has come full circle from people only cooking what they could grow on their own land to the more eclectic Southern fine dining scene we see today. Southern food isn’t just fried chicken, grits, greens, and gravy. It is a respect for the food that grows around us and the animals raised around us. Southern farmers show the land and animals respect by growing and raising food sustainably and I attempt to show that same respect by working with the farmers directly and serving their products at Cypress. I think more people across the country are becoming aware of this farm to table movement with well-respected chefs bringing it to light and making it more easily accessible to their restaurants. Most of the food I cook is grown or raised within a 50-mile radius. Knowing my farmers personally contributes to my passion for the food I am cooking and my awareness of the plates I am setting before guests in my restaurant. “

 

Greg Silver of a.Lure in Savannah, GA;

“I feel that the Southern food has recently became one of the most loved American cuisines. Chefs are recreating the flavors and dishes across the United States and guests are eating it up. I have been lucky enough to work with some great people in the Southern food scene such as the Brennan family from New Orleans and Louis Osteen from Charleston. I use my education through them to try keep pushing forward with my food. I was 16 when I picked up my first knife in a professional kitchen. I was actually a fast learner and enjoyed trying new things I had never tried before. I found out I was actually pretty good at it and could hang with the veterans. I loved to come in everyday and learn new things. But the best was how I felt when I would leave after a busy night; to know you did what seemed to be impossible at the time gave me sense of pride and made me feel unstoppable.”

 

Clayton Rollison of Lucky Rooster in Hilton Head, SC; 

“We get our Southern soul from serving the freshest ingredients sourced from local and regional farms, purveyors, and our local waters. Revolutionizing Southern food is about using what is in season and changing it up based on what’s available. I take inspiration from my surroundings, but also my staff. We’ve got a great array of people from every background that bring so much to the table.”

 

Kevin Nape of Savannah Riverboat Cruises in Savannah, GA;

“In the last couple of years Southern food has gone back to the true basics - with a twist. I’m contributing to this Southern food revolution by using true and local ingredients in timeless Southern recipes with flare. It’s comfort food; going back to your roots when you were a child and your family cooking your favorites will always make you feel better. Southern food is about remembering the good times.”

 

Bridgette Frazier of Gullah Fried Sweet in Bluffton, SC;

“Southern food has become more respected and revered. It has gone from the simplistic nature of good ole’ backyard barbecue and all things fried, to now a fusion of multiple cultures with the utilization of locally grown produce, seafood, you name it. I’m contributing to the Southern Food Revolution by expanding the palate of all things Gullah. Gullah cuisine is exotic to some but often omitted by others when they think of Southern food. I make traditional Gullah dishes, but I also spin some of them in a way that introduces them to this ever evolving culture.”

 

Zach Starr of Ordinary Pub in Savannah, GA;

“At Ordinary Pub we take  pride in the meticulously details that go into every dish. We’ve combined classic pub fare with Southern cuisine that will seriously blow people’s minds. That’s what the food revolution is about. Putting your spin on the classics so it is more accessible to everyone.”

Check out the slideshow below of this year's Greatest Chefs! For a complete list, subscribe now or pick up the October/November issue of South Magazine.

GREATEST CHEFS SLIDESHOW

 

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Greatest Destinations 2020

Greatest Professional Photographers 2020

Calling South’s Greatest Photographers! Are you a professional photographer with beautiful work? Enter South’s Greatest Photographers 2020!
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Events Calendar

  • Book Signing and Luncheon with Colleen Oakley

    Feb 19, 2020
    12:00 PM - 2:00 PM @ Chatham Club

      Join us for a luncheon with Colleen Oakley featuring her new book, You Were There Too. Tickets include lunch and a copy of Oakley's book. Two...

  • American Traditions Vocal Competition Quarter Finals II

    Feb 19, 2020
    4:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Skidaway Island United Methodist Church

    The second half of 28 quarterfinalists compete for a spot in the semifinals in the 2020 American Traditions Vocal Competition.  With an...

  • 2020 American Traditions Vocal Competition

    Feb 17, 2020
    4:30 PM - 9:30 AM @ Skidaway Island United Methodist Church

    The American Traditions Vocal Competition (ATC) returns for its highly anticipated 27th anniversary season Feb. 17-21, 2020. With an outstanding...

  • “Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao: Nationalism and Regionalism in Contemporary Spain”

    Feb 19, 2020
    7:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Savannah Country Day School

    SCDS Upper School Spanish instructor Michelle Dumais will explore the historical roots of the tensions between Spanish regionalism and nationalism...

  • Savannah Pennysaver Job Fair

    Feb 20, 2020
    10:00 AM - 2:00 PM @ Charles H. Morris Center

    Lowcountry artists are invited to submit their works of art for The Society of Bluffton Artists’ (SOBA) 26th Annual Judged Show. Winners...

  • Confident Complexion – Love Your Skin at Bluemercury!

    Feb 13, 2020
    11:00 AM - 6:00 PM

    The beauty of makeup is that you’re in control of when and how you wear it—whether it’s to enhance, conceal or simply not to wear it at all....

  • American Traditions Vocal Competition Semi Finals

    Feb 20, 2020
    4:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Skidaway Island United Methodist Church

    The 12 semifinalists compete for a spot in the finals as they sing their second program of American songs. The ATC requires singers to create...

  • Oglethorpe Mall Carnival

    Feb 20, 2020
    5:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Oglethorpe Mall

    Experience the sights, sounds and aromas of the electrifying midway with rides and games for all ages, favorite fair food and Victoria Circus...

  • Sips for Spouses

    Feb 20, 2020
    5:30 PM - 8:00 PM @ Ghost Coast Distillery

    Who: Patriot Advantage, Hire Heroes USA and YOU! What: A fundraising event to benefit the nonprofit Hire Heroes: Serving Spouses Program Where:...

  • "Little Women"

    Feb 20, 2020
    7:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    Nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, writer-director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) has crafted a “Little Women” that draws on both the classic...

  • Julilette Gordon Low Birthplace Groundbreaking

    Feb 21, 2020
    12:30 PM - 2:00 PM @ Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace

    Girl Scouts of the USA is hosting an official groundbreaking ceremony to share information on current renovation work, future site highlights and...

  • American Traditions Vocal Competition Master Class

    Feb 21, 2020
    3:00 PM - 4:30 PM @ Savannah Cultural Arts Center: Ben Tucker Theatre

    Spend the afternoon with the judges as they work with contestants to perfect performances of select ATC songs. The ATC requires singers to create...

  • Magical Interventions feat. Ngil Mask, Fang People

    Feb 21, 2020
    4:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Savannah African Art Museum

    Everyone knows that magic is everywhere and everyone knows that you should only use magic if it helps yourself and others. What if someone has...

  • AURA Fest: Underground Weekend

    Feb 21, 2020
    7:30 PM - 11:45 PM @ The Jinx

    AURA Fest: Underground Weekend at The Jinx February 22, 2020 Torche, Bask, Oakskin, SHEHEHE, Knightsquatch February 21, 2020 Inter Arma, CLOAK,...

  • Savannah Music Festival IPA Release featuring Roosevelt Collier & Jontavius Willis

    Feb 21, 2020
    7:30 PM - 9:30 PM @ Southbound Brewing Company

    On Friday, February 21, 2020, Savannah Music Festival and Southbound Brewing Co. will celebrate the release of this season's Wailin' IPA with a...

  • American Traditions Vocal Competition Finals

    Feb 21, 2020
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Savannah Cultural Arts Center: Ben Tucker Theatre

    Join the gala evening as finalists content for top prizes and the all-important ATC Gold Medal. The ATC requires singers to create three rounds of...

  • Retro Run 5K Race

    Feb 22, 2020
    8:00 AM @ Red Gate Farms

    The Retro Run is Feb 22nd at Red Gate Farms: 8am Kids Mile, 8:30 5k/10k start. Bring out the coolest clothing, hair and bling for this race. Finish...

  • Forsyth Farmer's Market

    Jun 29, 2019
    9:00 AM - 1:00 PM @ South end of Forsyth Park

    The Forsyth Farmers’ Market vendors offer a variety of local goods including seasonal produce, eggs, honey, pastured meat, bread, cheese,...

  • 17th Annual Savannah International Food & Wine Festival

    Feb 22, 2020
    3:00 PM - 6:00 PM @ Hellenic Center

    Come eat and drink for a cause! You are invited to participate in the Savannah International Food & Wine Tasting. The Tasting offers guests...

  • Savannah Philharmonic Cinephile du joure

    Feb 23, 2020
    5:00 PM - 7:00 PM @ Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Ascension

    The Blue Heron Chamber Ensemble goes to the movies to bring you Chamber works by film composers. Flutist Jeana Melilli, pianist Ben Warsaw and...


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Scenes of the South

2020 Southern Coast Heart Ball

The American Heart Association held its annual Southern Coast Heart Ball on Saturday, February 8th at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa. Guests enjoyed a cocktail reception with a silent auction, dinner and program, and dancing to end the evening. All proceeds went to the Open Your Heart campaign.

4th Annual Hearts for Healing Gala

Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center held its Fourth Annual Hearts for Healing Gala on Friday, February 7th at the Tybee Island Wedding Chapel. Guests enjoyed gourmet dining, dancing, and a silent auction. All proceeds from the auction benefitted the Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center's program for individuals with disabilities.

IDC Benefits the 200 Club of the Coastal Empire

The LeClerc Family owners of IDC (International Diamond Center) in Savannah 349 Mall Blvd held a benefit to support the 200 Club of the Coastal Empire on Thursday, February 6th from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. Guests enjoyed light food and drinks, while bidding on several silent auction items, including autographed footballs and helmets donated by Anthony Lanier II.

Royce Learning Center Annual Low Country Boil & Oyster Roast

The Royce Learning Center held their annual low country boil and oyster roast on Saturday, February 1st. Guests enjoyed mingling over the seafood selection. Royce Learning Center meets the needs of children and adults with learning differences and literacy needs through its unique programs.

Dining in the Dark 2020

The Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision held its annual Dining in the Dark event on Saturday, January 18th at the Embassy Suites Downtown Savannah. Guests were served a four-course meal in complete darkness by the Savannah Metro's SWAT team. Dining in the Dark serves to raise awareness about vision loss.

January Brews for a Cause

South magazine in collaboration with Southern Eagle Distributing hosted their monthly Brews for a Cause on Thursday, January 16th at the Savannah Taphouse in a successful effort to raise money and awareness for the Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision. The night featured delicious appetizers by Savannah Taphouse and a range of flavored Bud Light Seltzers provided by Southern Eagle. These events provide good food, fun entertainment, refreshing drinks and most importantly – raise money for a great cause! Be sure to be on the lookout for our next Brews in February!

Ford Plantation's Grand Opening & Ribbon Cutting for Silk Hope

The Ford Plantation celebrated the completion of its two new Silk Hope model homes on January 10, 2020. The Silk Hope project is limited to 53 homes, on beautiful lots of buyers’ choosing amongst old oaks and a Lowcountry marsh setting. This member-backed project is the first new for sale residential development at The Ford Plantation in more than fifteen years and represents the final phase of home development to be offered. The Silk Hope community is the product of a collaboration of some of the world’s top residential architects and landscape designers and has been modeled to capture tranquil European village and Lowcountry architecture.

Mat Best Signs his New Best-seller at Nine Line

Veteran, entrepreneur and author Mat Best met fans and signed copies of his new book “Thank you for my Service” Thursday Dec. 12 at Nine Line Apparel. Best’s best-selling authorial debut chronicles his service as a U.S. Army Ranger. Best's Black Rifle Coffee co., partnered with Nine Line Apparel, has shops on River st. and off route 95 on Ft. Argyle rd.

Victory Antiques and Engel & Völkers' Holiday Party

Dickey Mopper and his team at Engel and Völkers celebrated the season at their annual holiday party on Wednesday Dec. 11, with a special appearance from the jolly fellow himself, Santa Claus. Mopper and company, celebrating alongside the crew of Victory Antiques, showed off the newest Engel and Völkers office at 1650 East Victory Dr. in Savannah.

Good Times Jazz Bar & Restaurant's 2nd Anniversary Celebration feat. Lady Leah

Jazz lovers celebrated Good Times Jazz bar's second anniversary on Nov. 8 and 9 featuring jazz vocalist Lady Leah and the culinary stylings of Good Times' chef Joe Randall, the dean of southern cuisine. In 2017 Randall teamed with Danielle and Stephen T. Moore to create one of the city's smoothest spots, a confluence of culture and taste fit for the soul of Savannah.