Southern Food Revolution
From the farm-to-table movement, to the incorporation of nontraditional ingredients in classic, southern dishes, the south is finally reverting back to grandma’s way of cookin’ in an entirely new menu and movement known as the Southern Food Revolution.
Deep in the heart of Dixie, beyond the white linen tablecloths and deep fried chicken, a revolution is on the cusp. But this revolution isn’t being televised; it’s being devoured. With the sudden resurgence of using all natural, locally sourced ingredients comes a reminder that a successful restaurant relies on skill and talent.
The South has seen a food revolution in recent years—or perhaps it’s better characterized as a renaissance, as an influx of innovative chefs have refocused their efforts on showcasing strictly Southern ingredients and adding a modern touch to the region’s traditional dishes. And in a world that promotes celebrity chefs, the renaissance is disregarding the common belief that a famous name can keep a restaurant afloat.
No one has been more influential to this epicurean uprising than the Neighborhood Dining Group, and more specifically the group’s franchise (if one can really call it that) of Husk restaurants, which now have four locations, located in Charleston, Greenville, Nashville and Savannah. While the four locations share a name and a philosophy—if it isn’t from the South, it isn’t entering the restaurant—each has a distinct menu and style that suits its locale.
And in the remnants of the departure of Sean Brock, a major force behind Husk and renowned chef who has been one of the leaders of the rebirth of Southern comfort food as haute cuisine, Husk is proving that their longevity can be attributed to the quality of their product and dedication to returning to a classic way of cooking.
David Howard, president of the Neighborhood Dining Group, says Brock’s departure after 12 years is a natural step in his pursuit of the American dream and presents an opportunity for Husk to grow within its strict self-imposed constraints.
“With Sean’s departure on to the next chapter in his life, there’s a new chapter for the chefs in our restaurants,” Howard says. “We’re fortunate to have chefs and chefs de cuisines in our restaurants that are more than capable of standing on their own two feet and continuing the legacy that is Husk.”
Brock isn’t the first popular chef to vacate the South. Hugh Acheson, “Top Chef” judge, closed down his Savannah restaurant The Florence in 2017, while celebrity chef Robert Irvine shuttered up two restaurants—one on Hilton Head Island, the other in Bluffton—in the past five years.
Leading the charge at Husk Savannah is the new Executive Chef Chris Hathcock, a Georgia native who was raised in Savannah and most recently worked as executive sous chef at Husk Greenville. Hathcock, who looks forward to returning to his roots and reconnecting with the rich culinary traditions of coastal Georgia, was inspired by a recent trip to Thailand, where the lack of refrigeration results in the ample use of fresh produce and proteins and ingredients are typically found within a bike ride of the kitchen where they are prepared.
“That’s kind of what we’re doing here. We’re doing things that are at arm’s length and bringing them in and executing the best dishes possible using what is right near us,” Hathcock says.
That’s the overriding philosophy, not only at Husk, but across the landscape of the Southern food revolution. It’s often referred to as “farm-to-table” and considered a new trend, but it’s really a return to the most original cooking concept there is: building a menu around the ingredients that are readily available, rather than the use of processed foods.
And not only does it result in better food, it’s a boost to creators throughout the community.