A provocative view of all that is food

Soul-to-Soul Food

In Awesome People, Chefs, Restaurants on April 5, 2013 at 10:18 pm

I feel pretty honored and humbled at the same time to meet a few great chefs in Atlanta the last few months and am excited that Atlanta is gaining more attention with the food and restaurant industry.

Today, I bonded with Chef Sammy Davis Jr., a former contestant on Food Network’s show, Chopped, over food, liking food too much, and of course, spinal problems. Frequent cooking, in general, wreaks havoc on your knees, feet and spine. He is always great when I see him, and today I got a hug because I come in so frequently. He will be starting up cooking classes soon at his neighborhood eatery, The Park Market & Deli in Grant Park. Chef Sammy’s Philadelphia-style sandwiches pack a flavorful punch and satisfying sink-your-teeth bite in a world full of wimpy, soggy, squishy, flavorless subs; his other signature dishes like Shrimp and Grits, are some of the creamiest grits I’ve ever tasted in Atlanta.

Mihoko Obunai

Chef Mihoko Obunai

Also, I recently met Chef Mihoko Obunai, who is  also a former contestant of Chopped, at a recent charity event for CARE at her restaurant, Joli Kobe. I was amazed at her grace, beauty, and absolute skill in the kitchen, and I was secretly rooting for her as a woman in a competitive industry. I watched her in action from my countertop right next to the kitchen as she artfully plated her Yuzu Kombu-cured Kona Kampachi, all the while working alongside Chef Todd Richards, Chef Cooper Miller, and Chef Hector Santiago in a tiny space.

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Joli Kobe CARE Event Joli Kobe CARE Event

It was pure poetry in motion – they instinctively knew how to work together and glided around the kitchen without bumping elbows or keeping the other chefs from perfecting their dishes. Had this been in my family, there would be a lot of spills, clamoring, and hollering – but this is why these chefs are true professionals. But it’s beyond that – they have a silent understanding, some sort of secret code in the kitchen amongst each other…all for the love of food, that I will never know.

It’s really something to have a chef chat with you, and generously pour you an extra glass of sake at the end of the night after a successful event as they wind down and enjoy the rest of the evening. The gift of food is so intimate and ritualistic. I felt that I got to experience Chef Obunai’s passion, her art and Japanese heritage through her food, and with the same care as though I was a special person invited into her home. I can’t wait until her next dinner affair to see her in action – it’ll be a smaller event featuring specialty fresh Ramen noodle topped with a choice of pork tonkatsu (a panko-breaded Japanese cutlet) or seared beef belly.

I’ll also get to see Chef Todd Richards at this event, whom I originally met at Atlanta’s Fried Chicken Festival (yes – it now exists in Atlanta, and you can die happy after that festival, I assure you). His fried chicken dish was actually the winner of the competition. I later got properly introduced to Chef Todd through one of my old friends, KC Scott, who got into the restaurant business as a chef at the Ritz Carlton but has since ducked out of the restaurant business to raise four of her own little ducklings. Hopefully this time Chef Todd won’t be working in the kitchen and I’ll have a chance to break bread, or in this case, slurp noodles, with him.

What’s wonderful is that these three folks are down to earth, are an absolute joy to talk to, and that they share that same glee over presenting their food and take pleasure in you enjoying it.

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