South's Greatest Chefs, a Q&A



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This year’s Greatest Chefs Contest turned out to be cutthroat. With 46 entries, more than 30,000 votes, and a shocking turn that left some of the Lowcountry’s best chefs in the lead, it’s no surprise that citizens of the Hostess City have such a passion for their chefs. We sat down with the top ten winning to pick their brains on the foodie scene in Savannah. 

Chef Chaz Ortiz from Chazito’s Latin Cuisine, chazitos.com

How long have you been cooking? About eight years.

Do you remember the moment you realized cooking was your passion? That would have happened when I was a little boy. My family is very, very big, so definitely at our family cookouts. I think my passion came from my grandparents teaching me, and that’s kind of where it hit.

What’s your favorite dish to make? My favorite dish to make would probably be paella. I love seafood. It’s probably one of my favorite things to eat, too. I do a pad Thai paella. Traditionally, it’s a Spanish dish, but I mix in a lot of seasoning and I add in mixes of Thai.

 

Chef Tommy Dye from Top Deck, topdeckbar.com

How long have you been in the chef game? Well, I’ve been doing this on and off since I was eighteen. I’m 46 now. I’ve been steady with it for the last four or five years.

Do you remember the moment you realized cooking was your passion? Yeah, actually. I went to school for nursing and didn’t like it. I would always watch cooking shows on TV. Right before I decided to go full time and do cookin’, I was actually repairing restaurant equipment. I found myself staring at the chefs and just listening to everything. I remember thinking, “That is stupid. This is what you really need to be doing.” So that’s what I did.

What’s your favorite dish to make? My favorite thing to make would probably be our Salmon Top Chop.

 

Chef Emanuel May from Bon Appétit at the Savannah College of Art and Design

How long have you been cooking? I’ve been cooking all my life, but professionally for 24 years.

Where did you get your start? Well, my father owned an old-school pharmacy and it had a grill behind it. As soon as I could see over the counter, I was cooking and running the cash register.

Do you remember the moment you realized cooking was your passion? My grandmother Rachel used to cook a lot. I still have her cast iron skillet. She would make fried okra and it was the best thing in the world to me.

 

Chef Marvin Sterling from Treylor Park, treylorparksavannah.com

How long have you been cooking? The first job I could get was as a dishwasher at Ruth’s Chris here in Savannah. I took it and busted my a-- for a year and a half, and then three years later, I was the executive chef. While I was working there, I took a couple jobs for a seafood place, salad shop, and a couple restaurant jobs to get more experience. I figured, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to go all out. And then Treylor Park was going to open up four years ago, I applied and got the job. Ever since it just took off and we’ve just been cranking it out.

What started your passion? For me, it was at a young age I knew that cooking was something I was kind of good at. My parents both worked when I was younger. I had to cook dinners and I was good at coming up with stuff. Experimenting is my niche.

What’s your favorite dish to make?

Definitely the shrimp and grits tacos. That’s my jam.

If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? I don’t know why I’m such a carnivore, but I love short rib that falls off the bone. I’ll make that at home for me and my girlfriend.

 

Chef Johnny Smalls from Jazzed Tapas Bar, jazzdtapasbar.com

How long have you been cooking? Well I was the sous chef at Vic’s on the River for six or seven years and I left to come to Jazz’d. I’ve been here for about two years.

What fueled your passion? I grew up with a very large family, so cooking was always a way to bring everyone together. Mom did a lot of cooking. Grandparents did a lot of cooking. So it was always around.

What’s your favorite dish to make? I don’t really have a favorite, but I love to cook fish. Any type of fish.

 

Chef Peter Schott from Savannah Spirits, savannahspirits.com

How long have you been cooking? I’d say about 30 years.

Do you remember the moment you realized cooking was your passion? I don’t remember the exact moment. I always grew up with cooking. I was always around my grandparents and they cooked all the time. My parents cooked all the time. It’s kind of like I knew when to do it.

If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be? I’d have to say my grandmother’s baked chicken.

 

Chef Kevin Conway from Local 11Ten, local11ten.com

How long have you cooking? I’ve been cooking since I was 15, so about 14 years.

How did you get your start? My sister’s boyfriend, back whenever she was in high school, was a sous chef. I was looking for a job and started off dishwashing. I was there for about three months, then I started cooking on the fry station, sauté, grill, so on and so forth.

Do you remember the moment you realized cooking is your passion? I was sitting in class at Armstrong. It was my senior year. Classes weren’t going as planned and I kicked back, thought about it, and realized I should be cooking, which is what I was doing a lot of at the time.

 

Chef Bryce Knott from A.Lure, aluresavannah.com

How long have you been cooking? I’ve been cooking for almost 13 years. I’ve been doing fine dining for almost seven of those. Started off in a very corporate background, Outback Steakhouse, and then I eventually hit a point in my career where I figured this is what I want to do and got into fine dining. Did a little bit of traveling. Spent a few years in New England on Nantucket Island.

Do you remember the moment you realized cooking was your passion? My first season in Nantucket, at the end of it, I was the youngest guy. At the end of the season, on the last day, the chef brought me outside of the kitchen and he gifted me a handmade Japanese chef’s knife. It meant the world to me. I was looking at it like it’s Christmas. He said, “Don’t you dare darken that knife at an Outback.” I said, “Yes, chef.” I came back to Savannah and started at a.Lure.

How long have you been there? Four years. Started as the line cook for about two years, then I was sous chef for a year, and now executive chef for almost a year.

 

Chef Justin Grizzard from The Ordinary Pub,  theordinarypub.com

How long have you been cooking? I’ve been doing this for 18 years. I got hired on my 16th birthday at a restaurant in Virginia and ever since I’ve been cooking and sweating and bleeding and all that.

What fueled your passion to be a chef? To be honest, it’s just because I like to eat. There’s only a few things I don’t like, but I genuinely love being around food. I love creating food. I like surrounding myself with people who like to push the boundaries of what food can be. I’m very fortunate now because I have the best team in Savannah that makes me want to come to work every day. I am so proud of my team. I couldn’t have done any of this without them.

What’s your favorite dish to make? Gumbo is my favorite thing to cook, just because it’s very technical. Everyone knows what gumbo is, but they don’t know what a trinity is, the process of when things should go in. Gumbo seems so simple, yet it’s so technical.

 

Chef Kevin Nape from Richmond City Center, richmondhillcitycenter.com

How long have you been cooking? I’ve been in it for 37 years.

Do you remember the moment you realized cooking was your passion? It was when I was going through college, working three jobs. I wanted to be an architect, but things just happened.

If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be? Probably oxtails.

 

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Greatest Chefs 2019

Chefs are invisible artists. They keep us salivating, our minds fixated on the last time we ate at our favorite restaurant, and when the next time we plan on going. For all the times we stuffed our faces with our favorite dish, let’s give it up to the chefs behind the meal. Nominate your favorite chef now!

Greatest Pets 2019

Man's Best Friend can be South's Greatest Pet with the right amount of love. Enter your pet and get those votes! Limited to South East Georgia and the Low Country. Nominate your favorite pet now!
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Events Calendar

  • SS Savannah (1819-2019)

    May 23, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Ships of the Sea Museum

    2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the SS Savannah's groundbreaking trans-Atlantic crossing.  In recognition of this monumental achievement,...

  • SS Savannah (1819-2019)

    May 23, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Ships of the Sea Museum

    2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the SS Savannah's groundbreaking trans-Atlantic crossing.  In recognition of this monumental achievement,...

  • Ready. Set. Summer. at Bluemercury!

    May 13, 2019
    10:00 AM - 8:00 PM @ Bluemercury

    Summer is quickly approaching – stop into your local neighborhood beauty store Bluemercury for all the essentials you need to refresh your summer...

  • "The Prints of Dame Laura Knight" Exhibition at Telfair Museums

    Jan 19, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Telfair Museums' Jepson Center

    Telfair Museums exhibits nine prints by Dame Laura Knight (British, 1877-1970), together for the first time since they were acquired by the museum...

  • "Keita Takahashi: Zooming Out" Exhibition at Telfair Musuems

    Jan 24, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Telfair Museums hosts the first museum survey of the work of visionary videogame designer Keita Takahashi (Japanese, b. 1975). Takahashi is noted...

  • Moose Tracks - 10,000 Scoops Challenge

    May 23, 2019
    11:00 AM - 3:00 PM @ Ellis Square

    Enjoy FREE Mayfield Creamery Moose Tracks Ice Cream to help raise $10,000 for The Salvation Army of Savannah. Moose Tracks is partnering with...

  • "Rembrandt and the Jewish Experience" at Telfair Museums

    Mar 15, 2019
    12:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    This exhibition contains 21 etchings by Rembrandt and one drawing by Rembrandt’s teacher Pieter Lastman (Dutch, 1583-1633). These works highlight...

  • “Jaume Plensa Talking Continents” Exhibition at Telfair Museums

    Mar 01, 2019
    12:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Jaume Plensa (Spanish, b. 1955) is one of the world’s foremost living sculptors. He is widely known for large-scale public artworks and more...

  • Hospice Savannah Party and Art Auction

    May 23, 2019
    5:30 PM @ Cha Bella

    Hospice Savannah’s  Board members invite the community to celebrate 40 years of “The Art of Living”  at a Summer Nights Party and Art...

  • Rembrandt Exhibit

    Mar 15, 2019
    All Day @ Jepson Center

    Rembrandt lived and worked in Amsterdam during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. Although most residents of Amsterdam during...

  • Friday Concert Series

    May 03, 2019
    7:00 PM - 12:00 AM @ Historic Courthouse, Downtown Blairsville on the S

    Come enjoy live music every Friday Night from the first Friday of May through the end of October. The Historic Union County Court House will host...

  • Savannah Mile

    May 25, 2019
    8:00 AM - 1:00 PM @ Forsyth Park

    The 14th Annual Savannah Mile presented by the Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire honors our fallen first responders, their families, and our...

  • Bug Fest

    May 25, 2019
    10:00 AM - 4:00 PM @ Savannah Children's Museum

    Savannah Children’s Museum invites the public to attend Bug Fest 2019, the annual family-friendly celebration abuzz with bug crafts,...

  • Interstellar Echoes Present Pink Floyd!

    May 25, 2019
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    The Southeast's premier Pink Floyd Tribute, Interstellar Echoes, back at the Post after a sold-out concert last year, pride themselves on...

  • Memorial Day Parade

    May 26, 2019
    10:00 AM - 11:45 PM @ Downtown on the Square, Blairsville

    Bring your friends and family to the Blairsville Memorial Day Parade on May 26 at 10:00 a.m. Celebrate this time of remembrance and watch the...

  • Franklin Pond Chamber Music Competition and Awards Concert

    May 26, 2019
    4:00 PM - 6:00 PM @ Spivey Hall

    The third annual Franklin Pond Chamber Music Competition Awards Concert on Sunday, May 26, 2019, 4 p.m. showcases Georgia’s most talented young...

  • Summer Sea Camp

    May 27, 2019
    9:30 AM - 4:00 PM @ Tybee Island Marine Science Center

    Kids 6 to 11 years old * Morning and/or Afternoon Modules * After Care * Curbside Drop-off/Pick-up   Summer FUN for the kids…designed to fit...

  • Spring Arts, Crafts & Music Festival

    May 27, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Downtown on the Square, Blairsville

    Bring your friends and family to the Spring Arts, Crafts & Music Festival at Downtown Blairsville! From May 27-28 from 10- 5:00 p.m., enjoy locally...

  • Teacher Tuesdays

    May 07, 2019
    5:00 PM - 7:00 PM @ 39 Rue de Jean

    If you're a teacher, come visit us at 39 Rue de Jean on May 7th, May 14th, May 21st, and May 28th from 5pm-7pm for a glass of bubbles on us. We...

  • Cruise “Into the Farmers Market”

    Apr 06, 2019
    3:00 PM - 7:00 PM @ Union County Farmers Market

    Join the Blairsville Cruisers every 1st Saturday of each month at the Union County Farmers Market to enjoy cruise contests, food, music and chances...


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Scenes of the South

SCAD Fashion Show 2019

It's the celebrated return of SCAD's spring fashion shows, touting the Savannah debut of the latest collections by top senior and graduate students. Live for the runway and off-duty looks over this four-day campaign as you get to know the next big names.

Nine Line Foundation Dinner

On Friday, May 17, Nine Line hosted their Foundation Dinner that included special guests WWE Superstars Mark Calaway Aka: The Undertaker, Dustin Rhodes aka: Goldust, John Tiegen "Tig" hero of Benghazi portrayed in the movie "13 Hours", Chad Prather, Comedian and Social Media Celebrity, and Graham Allen, Social Media Celebrity. Guests mingled with the superstars and bid on auction items to raise money for the foundation. Matt Lyda put on a stellar performance as the MC of the event and kept the crowd entertained and bidding.

6th Annual Nine Line Run for the Wounded

The Nine Line Foundation and Nine Line Apparel celebrate Armed Forces Day for their 6th Annual 5K/10K Run for the Wounded in Savannah, Georgia. Proceeds from the race go directly towards their newest initiative: building a transitional community, a Veterans Village, for homeless veterans right here in Savannah, Georgia. With both 5K and 10K options available, this twilight run turned out to be another great success.

Nine Line Foundation Dinner

On Friday, May 17, Nine Line hosted their Foundation Dinner that included special guests WWE Superstars Mark Calaway Aka: the Undertaker, Dustin Rhodes aka: Goldust, John Tiegen "Tig" hero of Benghazi portrayed in the movie "13 Hours", Chad Prather, Comedian and Social Media Celebrity, and Graham Allen, Social Media Celebrity. Guests mingled with the superstars and bid on auction items to raise money for the foundation. Matt Lyda put on a stellar performance as the MC of the event and kept the crowd entertained and bidding.

SCAD40 Block Party

SCAD celebrated their 40th anniversary with a grand block party. Fellow alumni reconnected with university faculty and staff. ShopSCAD had live artist demonstrations, live music at the Gryphon, keepsakes and SCAD40 merchandise to purchase at the Art’s Café, SCAD food trucks with tasty treats and much more.

Kessler Collection’s Armstrong-Kessler Mansion Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Local hotelier Richard Kessler and his company The Kessler Collection officially cut the ribbon on his newly restored home in Savannah, the Armstrong-Kessler Mansion. This iconic home celebrates its 100th birthday this year, and his been meticulously restored to its former grandeur as one of the foremost examples of Italian Renaissance architecture and design in America. Congratulations to Richard Kessler and The Kessler Collection!

The Clyde

The Clyde Venue is Savannah’s newest, most modern, wedding venue located in the Historic Landmark District. The space has been completely renovated, and a work in progress for more than a year. The venue is 5,200 square feet and includes a grande room, large marble bar, catering prep area, and restrooms. It’s located at 223 Martin Luther King Boulevard.

The Fire Ball

IAFF Savannah Firefighters gathered together at Savannah Station March 15th to celebrate with friends and family. They welcomed their newest members, honored those that recently retired and acknowledged departments joining from around the world! The event was a blast. From 6pm-10pm guests danced to live music, sampled premium foods and even played with local puppies up for adoption.

Savannah's Newest Hot Spot Opens

SEED Eco Lounge, Barrelhouse South and Rogue Water welcomes a new addition to the family. Vice is located on Broughton at Saya's former location. Few pursuits tap into the pleasures of nightlife more than music. Giving yourself over to the rhythms, the lights, and the energy is a total release. Amazing DJs get the crowds moving, and other patrons ensure that there's plenty to see and socialize with. This sleek and sexy underground spot is sure to be one of the best spots for Savannah's night life.

The Royal Flush Casino Night Presented by Roto-Rooter Plumbers of Savannah

Roto-Rooter Plumbers of Savannah hosted “The Royal Flush Casino Night” on Thursday, Feb. 28, at the Savannah Station, with all of the proceeds going to benefit families at the Ronald McDonald House of the Coastal Empire. The casino-themed party will feature heavy hors-d’oeuvres, an open bar, live music, dancing and complimentary casino.