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Q&A with JBF Taste America All-Star Hugh Acheson

Maggie Borden

October 28, 2015

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Photo by Emily B. Hall

As we head into the final stop of the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America®, our national culinary tour, it seems only fitting our last All-Star is a Canadian import who has fully embraced American regional cuisine. JBF Award winner Hugh Acheson is known for his sartorial taste, his determinedly singular brow, and mostly for his seasonal, reverent, yet innovative take on Southern cooking. We chatted with Acheson before his trip to Los Angeles for a weekend celebrating the city's dining scene and collaborating with local chefs. Read on for his take on overdone food trends, Atlanta hot spots, and why we all need to cook with more vegetables.

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JBF: Where are you most looking forward to eating in Los Angeles?

Hugh Acheson: POT. I love that restaurant and Roy [Choi] is just an amazing human. 

JBF: What food trend do you wish would end immediately?

HA: Ramen burgers. 

JBF: Is there a technique or ingredient you just can’t get enough of right now?

HA: Pickling. 

JBF: What are some of your favorite bars and restaurants in Atlanta?

HA: Kimball House, Umi, Staplehouse, and W.H. Stiles Fish Camp.

JBF: What dish or ingredient is your culinary spirit animal?

HA: The common yellow onion.

JBF: People often make a big deal about the notion of authenticity when it comes to regional cooking. Do you think it was more of a challenge for the public to embrace your take on Southern cooking, given your Canadian background? Or is there a freedom in being and outsider who falls in love with a cuisine?

HA: I think there is a real perspective you get when you are an outsider looking in. It's kind of like being objective when it comes to collard greens—many Southerners are too apt to just say their grandma's were the best because of matriarchal loyalty—sometimes Grandma's collards just aren't that good. 

JBF: Your latest cookbook, The Broad Fork, focuses on putting produce at the center of the plate. What made you choose that strategy to encourage more people to cook at home? What would be your first suggestion for getting people to make dinner at home?

HA: I think it's more economical to cook with a ton of vegetables than just rely on protein to fill your belly. And we have finally fallen in love with vegetables, so let's keep the fire going! People just need to realize that cooking from scratch is a lot easier than you think, and the time spent with friends and family is priceless. 

JBF: Where do you try to shop for ingredients when cooking away from home?

HA: A good farmers’ market and a Latin supermercado. 

JBF: What city is next on your "must-hit" list?

HA: I really want to go spend some time in Tokyo. Someday. 

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Get details about Taste America and buy tickets here. Follow the festivities on Twitter with #JBFTasteAmerica. You can also follow the adventures of #bittybeard, our portable homage to James Beard, as he travels around the country.

 
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