South's Greatest Chefs 2019


#1. William Deane of Alligator Soul

What was your first restaurant job? I started washing dishes in high school at a restaurant in Lehigh Acres, Florida. That’s what got me into the industry — watching all the line cooks and seeing how hectic it would get, but somehow, they kept it all organized.

What do you love about cooking? I like making people happy, but what I really love is the team at Alligator Soul. From the front of the house to the back of the house, everyone tries to do better every day when they come into work.

What advice do you have for diners who make Savannah a food travel destination? Go to the places where you’re going to try something you’ve never had before. Stay open minded.

912.232.7899 •


#2 Kyle Brown of Churchill's

What was your first restaurant job? My first real restaurant job was at a place called Oliva. I worked the grill.

Did you know, then, that cooking was going to be your life’s work? I was already going to school at Savannah Technical College for cooking at the time. Before that I was in the Coast Guard, and we would take turns cooking meals for each other. That’s what got me into it.

What advice do you have for diners who make Savannah a food travel destination? Try something you’ve never had before. The dishes on the menu have gone through a lot of work, so be open to the dishes and trust the chef.

912.232.8501 •


#3 Tyler Slade of 10 Market, A Chef's Kitchen

What was your first restaurant job? My first job was working at Perry’s Fish House in Burlington, Vermont, but I wasn’t cooking fish. I was the omelet guy at the buffet. I had no experience cooking, and, man, I smoked that dining room out a couple of times.

Is there an omelet on the menu at 10 Market? I did put an omelet a la garconne on one of the menus for our weekend prix fixe dinners. They are all themed, and we were doing a series of movie-themed dinners – Great Gatsby, Titanic. That one was Pulp Fiction.

When did you realize cooking was going to be your life’s work? I always tell people it was the first job where I woke up excited to go to work. That’s how I knew. I decided to go to the New England Culinary Institute. Culinary school gave me the technique and basics, but the head chef at Posana in Asheville taught me how to be a chef. A lot of who you are and who you become as a chef depends on the mentors you learn from along the way.

843.644.1090 •


#4 Christian Santiago of Òrale Tacos

What was your first restaurant job? I’ve been cooking since I was a child, but I had my first restaurant job at age 25 at the Disney Resort in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

When did you realize cooking was going to be your life’s work? When I realized it wasn’t just a job, it was my passion.

What advice do you have for diners who make Savannah a food travel destination? Try as many places as possible. Explore the emerging generations of culinary artists. I think people visiting here will be truly delighted to find some non-traditional tastes.

912.349.6012 •


#5 Roberto Leoci of Green Fire Pizza

What was your first restaurant job? I worked at an Italian hall as a food runner in Montreal, Canada a long time ago.

When did you realize cooking was going to be your life’s work? I always loved cooking, but my dad kept trying to persuade me otherwise. My only other outlet was in creative arts — watercolor, film, painting. I went on to work as a color matcher for a big printing industry where I had an expense account, so I would eat out a lot. Finally, I said I wanted to do it every day. I was 28 at that point. In the kitchen world, that’s old.

What do you love most about cooking? I love seeing smiles on people’s faces when they have good food, how it changes the mood and brings people together.

912.298.0880 •


#6 Joe Randall of Good Times Jazz Bar and Restaurant

What was your first restaurant job? I worked in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania in the kitchen at The Chalet Restaurant in 1964.

When did you realize cooking was going to be your life’s work? I started in the kitchen, and I never left. My uncle, Richard Ross, was a caterer and restauranteur in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He gave me a real taste of the hospitality industry. It wasn’t exactly a decision, but I liked to eat.

What is the best dish you’ve eaten recently? I’m a true lover of gumbo. I’ve been making it for 50 years all over the country. Gumbo makes people do strange things. I invited a friend over for gumbo once. He couldn’t come, but later I got a knock on the door. This woman said, “You don’t know me, but I heard you’re fixing a pot of gumbo.” I said, “If you’re crazy enough to knock on my door, I’m crazy enough to serve you a pot of gumbo.”

912.236.2226 •


#7 Bryce Knott of a.Lure

What was your first restaurant job? I was a dishwasher at a barbecue restaurant. From there, I worked my way up to cook and eventually I was pulling the pits. This was still in high school.

Did you know then that you wanted to be a chef? It was probably at my first fine dining job. A friend took a chance on me and I got seasonal work at a fine dining restaurant in Nantucket, Massachusetts. I was 23 and fortunate enough to work with some great chefs who saw something in me and pushed me. At the end of my first season, my executive chef bought me a nice chef’s knife. That’s when I knew.

What is the best dish you’ve eaten recently? Definitely our local seafood. I grew up fishing here. I’ve always been a marsh rat, and I’ve been cleaning fish since I was five or six.

912.233.2111 •


#8 Chaz Ortiz of Chazito's

What was your first restaurant job? My first job was actually at Panera Bread. I was 14, and I worked in prep, slicing tomatoes.

Did you realize, then, that cooking was going to be your life’s work? No, I got the cooking bug from my grandmother. We have a huge family, and we would have a cookout every Sunday.

Is that what inspired Chazito’s monthly pig roast? The monthly pig roast is inspired by my grandfather. He would roast a pig to celebrate big days – birthdays, anniversaries. Every month it’s a celebration that Chazito’s lasted another month. We have more than 40 pig roasts under our belt now.

912.348.3373 •


#9 Jason Starnes of Rhett at the Alida Hotel

When did you realize cooking was going to be your life’s work? The industry chose me. Both of my grandmothers were in the food industry. I always enjoyed cooking and had the opportunity to cook with my family. It was the best decision I ever made.

What do you love about cooking? It’s multifaceted. I get to be artistic and creative. I get to help people enjoy an experience. As my career evolves, the biggest thing for me is teaching. We have a few international internship programs at The Alida, so I get the opportunity to take the knowledge I’ve gained and pass it on.

What is the best dish you’ve eaten recently? I’m pretty new to Savannah. I’ve been here three months now. I had a late summer cold a few weeks ago. My wife swung by a little dive in midtown and got me a bowl of pho. It blew my mind. The broth was rich, and the vegetables were fresh. It was outstanding.

912.715.7000 •


#10 Blake Young of 700 Drayton 

What was your first restaurant job? I was a line cook at the Lunchbox Café in Cairo, Georgia.

Did you know then that you wanted to be a chef? After being there for a little while, yes. My whole family is in restaurants. My grandparents owned a steakhouse. It was in my heart. I started competing in cooking competitions and won a scholarship to attend culinary school. I chose one in Orange County, California. I was there eight years then spent two years in Southeast Asia. After that, my family told me I had to come back to Georgia.

What is the best dish you’ve eaten recently? I’m going to go with our salmon crudo. That, right there, is me on a plate. It has a peach and chili vinaigrette. The peaches speak to my childhood in Georgia. The crudo speaks to my raw side and the time I spent in Asia. It has peas three ways — you see the whole life of the pea. It’s a life journey — the pea’s and mine as well.

912.238.5158 •

Subscribe now to the print edition to read the full article or get instant access to our interactive digital edition.

Download the digital issue now!

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Events Calendar

  • A Savannah Scavenger Hunt: Historic Savannah Adventure

    Feb 19, 2020
    8:00 AM - 10:00 PM @ Savannah

    Explore beautiful Savannah. Steeped in Civil War history, you will be sure to find some new-to-you spots. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a...

  • 39th Annual Savannah Jazz Festival

    Sep 20, 2020
    All Day

    The 39th annual Savannah Jazz Festival is an event featuring 27 performances. The festival celebrates regional, national and international...

  • Free Fort Pulaski Days

    Jan 20, 2020
    All Day @ Fort Pulaski National Monhument

    Fort Pulaski National Monument will have six entrance fee-free days in 2020. The dates for 2020 are: ● Monday, January 20 – Martin...

  • Mile Long Yard Sale

    Sep 25, 2020
    10:00 AM - 3:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    One man's trash is another man's treasure. Come shop 1 mile worth of treasures at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds! Free entry to shoppers! ...

  • Master Bourbon Music Festival

    Sep 26, 2020
    12:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Ghost Coast Distillery

    Ghost Coast Distillery is set to release their eagerly awaited, FLAGSHIP spirit and they’re celebrating the release of their blended Bourbon...

  • Charleston Beer Festival

    Sep 26, 2020
    1:00 PM - 7:00 PM @ Riverfront Park

    Thousands of beer enthusiasts and newbies alike will enjoy a day of craft beer, live music, and games, all to benefit a great cause. Charleston...

  • Coasters, Drifters and Platters

    Sep 26, 2020
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    Live in Concert! "The longest running music show in Las Vegas History" - The Drifters, Cornell Gunter's Coasters and The Platters. Three rock and...

  • The Fast and The Furriest Trail Run

    Sep 26, 2020
    All Day @ Skidaway Island State Park

    Get out and run/walk with your dog! Join us for a pawsitively good time at The Savannah Kennel Club’s Fast and Furriest Trail Race at...

  • Prohibition Cocktail Classes

    Jun 22, 2020
    6:00 PM @ American Prohibition Museum

    Monday & Tuesday evening from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Prohibition Cocktail Classes at Congress Street Up inside the American Prohibition Museum....

  • First Fridays in Starland

    Jun 26, 2020
    6:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Starland District

     Monthly arts event in Savannah’s Starland District, with street fair, art market or gallery shows. Starland doesn’t like to...

  • Georgia State Clogging Festival

    Oct 03, 2020
    12:00 PM - 6:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    For those that love clogging, this competition is for you! This NCHC Sanctioned competition will offer all Sanctioned Categories, Solos, and...

  • Nine Line Run for Wounded 5K/10K

    Oct 03, 2020
    6:00 PM - 10:00 PM

    Join the Nine Line Foundation and Nine Line Apparel this Armed Forces Day, Oct 3, 2020, for our 7th Annual 5K/10K Run for...

  • Casting Crowns: Only Jesus Tour w/Special Guest Matthew West

    Oct 08, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah Civic Center

    GRAMMY® winning multi-platinum group Casting Crowns has announced plans to extend its widely popular Only Jesus Tour into 2020, following...

  • 16th Annual Tybee Island Pirate Fest

    Oct 08, 2020
    All Day @ Tybee Island

    Escape the ordinary… if only for a weekend. Join us for the 16th Annual Tybee Island Pirate Fest! Entertainment includes live music, pirate...

  • Georgia Mountain Fall Festival

    Oct 09, 2020
    10:00 AM - 7:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    Look forward to the 2020 Fall Festival! With its mild temperatures and beautiful scenery there is no better place to be than the North Georgia...

  • 2020 SMF Fall Concert — Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers

    Oct 09, 2020
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Lucas Theatre for the Arts

    Part of a new fall concert series of rescheduled 2020 Savannah Music Festival performances, Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers will...

  • Roots & Boots 90’s Electric Throwdown tour featuring Sammy Kershaw, Aaron Tippin and Collin Raye

    Oct 10, 2020
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    The Roots & Boots 90’s Electric Throwdown Tour featuring legendary country artists Aaron Tippin, Sammy Kershaw, and Collin Raye is coming to the...

  • Ronnie Milsap and John Conlee

    Oct 17, 2020
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

     Local native, Ronnie Milsap, takes the stage with Country music singer, John Conlee Ronnie Milsap Born blind (his family thought it was...

  • 2020 SMF Fall Concert — Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

    Oct 17, 2020
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Johnny Mercer Theatre

    Part of a new fall concert series of rescheduled 2020 Savannah Music Festival performances, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton...

  • Pickin' & Shuckin' with Beer & Bubbles

    Oct 17, 2020
    All Day @ Tybee Post Theater

    A toast to island style in a sunset evening with roasted oysters and pig pickin' on the lawn in front of the beautifully restored Tybee Post...

Show More...

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Scenes of the South

Showing Appreciation for Savannah's First Responders

Harris Lowry Manton LLP presents their 7th Annual First Responder Appreciation Event in Savannah, GA.

Words of Friendship

Get your phone out. After you read This, you’ll be calling your childhood best friend.

Your New Life Awaits

For Ric Hollifield and Daniella Squicquero at The Hilton Head Life and The Beaufort Life, finding your dream home is just part of helping you write your next chapter.

Ring the Bell Twice

When children get to the end of cancer treatment, ringing the bell to signify its end is perhaps the most joyous celebration of their lives. That wasn’t necessarily the case with 13-year-old Lily Stuckey. For her, ringing the bell after two and a half years of harsh treatment was a mixture of joy and sadness.

Cadets of Salvation

Four graduates of Savannah Salvation Army’s intensive life rehabilitation program strike a pose and share their stories.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler's Savannah Stopover

Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler visited The Desoto Savannah Hotel Monday on her campaign trail across the US.

Savannah's Gourmet Seafood and Spirits Festival Rollin' on the River

Supporting the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Coastal Empire, Savannah's Gourmet Seafood and Spirits Festival continued with stunning views accompanied classic Savannah vibes at this unique opportunity to see the skyline from the river.

A Fabulous Derby With Woodford Reserve

Since we missed Derby Day earlier this year - Savannah's Gourmet Seafood and Spirits Festival recreated it with distancing and fresh air top of mind! Under the terraces of the Perry Lane, Woodford Reserve Mint Juleps were served with traditional derby cuisine and music to match.

Tybee Island Spikeball Champion Crowned

Some say that if volleyball and foursquare had a baby it’d be named Spikeball. To make it even more fun, the winner of rock, paper, scissors gets to pick the side or serve.

Zoom in to Kendra Scott's Newest Collection

Ashley Borders shares a sneak peak of Kendra Scott's latest jewelry collection with South.