David Carson developed his love of cooking with his grandmother, Mary Ellen Babcock, making the simple food of childhood: banana and brown breads, casseroles, bubble bread, and cream of wheat. He turned that love into a profession, when at 17, he took his first job as a grill cook at Orlando, Florida restaurant Max’s. It was there, working alongside Chefs Rocky Tarantello and Matthew Alexander, that Carson added a serious respect to his love for the craft of culinary arts.
From Florida, Carson worked his way through kitchens in New Jersey, Vermont, and Knoxville, Tennessee, before heading to South Carolina to solidify his culinary education at Johnson & Wales. After graduating in 2001, Carson led a successful culinary team at Vintage Restaurant as executive sous chef, eventually moving on to become a chef and leading saucier at the Zinc Bistro & Bar on the Charleston Harbor. Carson also helped create an eclectic, seasonally inspired global menu at Tristan, which earned the restaurant the AAA Four Diamond Award.
From South Carolina, Carson headed to Atlanta, where he took a position with Clifford Harrison and 2007 Atlanta Rising Star Mentor Chef Anne Quatrano at Bacchanalia. In the days before farm-to-table was de rigueur for responsible chefs, Carson worked with Quatrano to bring in whole animals, finding creative ways to use every part on their menu. And after working through the ranks of one of Atlanta’s most renowned kitchens, Carson has not only become head chef at Bacchanalia, he’s also one of Quatrano’s most celebrated protégés—though some credit, no doubt, is due to his grandmother.
Interview with 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef David Carson
Katherine Sacks: What got you interested in cooking?
David Carson: It was actually an older friend of the family. He was a chef, and I started working for him in high school. It clicked; he showed me about the art and science of a daily progression, that’s it’s a never ending learning experience.
KS: Who are your mentors?
DC: Anne Quatrano. She’s taught me the importance of local, the importance of using every product, every ingredient, the whole animal.
KS: What is you style as a chef?
DC: It’s kind of a simple, modern approach towards southern ingredients. I do use many modern techniques in the kitchen but that’s not something the guest would ever know coming in here. We don't tell them we cook sous vide or use modified starches; we stay true to heart of the ingredients. It’s ingredient driven cuisine and an ingredient-dictated menu.
KS: Do you recommend culinary school?
DC: I went to Johnson & Wales in Charleston. That's a hard question, I want to say no. To be honest, I would say if a student wanted to go to culinary school, they should find a company like this were they can learn from a baker, from a chef, a number of pastry chefs. That is as much experience, if not more, than going to culinary school. You are also getting paid to do it.
KS: Where will we find you in five years?
DC: I don't know how to answer that question; probably working in the kitchen or on a beach somewhere.