Anthony Gray knows how the land connects to food, and how food connects people. He spent an outdoorsy, idyllic childhood in Macon, Georgia, fishing and hunting with his father and absorbing a general familial emphasis on cooking and sharing food. And it’s this love of the land—and personal understanding of where food comes from—that Gray brings to his role as executive chef at Southern Art and Bourbon Bar at the InterContinental Buckhead.
If the outdoors was an early teacher, Gray furthered his culinary career as a student at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, where he met Chef Frank Lee. Gray took a position with Lee at Slightly North of Broad, where he was initiated into the Maverick Southern Kitchen family. When the team opened High Cotton in Charleston in 1999, Gray became sous chef, staying with the company for 10 years and moving up to executive chef of both the Greenville and Charleston locations. Under his direction, the restaurants were featured in numerous publications including The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Southern Living, and Boston Globe.
Like his childhood experiences, Lee proved an important influence on Gray. Among other things, Lee taught Gray a deep appreciation for rich, traditional charcuterie, a talent he brings to Southern Art at his Ham Bar. Drawing on the lessons of his youth, Gray continues to support traditional Southern ingredients and traditions in his menus; he belongs to the Southern Foodways Alliance, Slow Food Upstate, Slow Food Atlanta, and the Carolina Farmer Stewardship Association, which he has plans to expand into Georgia. And while his Carolina experiences certainly kept him busy, the rush of the InterContinental’s kitchen—complete with breakfast, lunch, and dinner service, room-service offerings, and plenty of exciting Atlanta culinary events, has him buzzing around his new Atlanta home. He succeeds tenfold; Gray continues to charm local diners with his Southern menu, and StarChefs.com named Gray a 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef.