Katherine Sacks: Who are your mentors? Who influenced you to start cooking?
Anthony Gray: My mentors are Frank Lee and my mother and father. I learned a lot about cooking and what food is growing up. To me, food brings people together—it’s meant to be shared, it’s meant to be enjoyed together. I think that’s the most important thing—nourishing your body sitting at the dinner table and getting to know each other.
KS: What advice do you have for young cooks?
AG: Everything isn't about being a celebrity. Work hard and be passionate, that will get you much more. Expand your knowledge; go eat food and get out in the world a little bit, but never lose your passion. That’s the most important thing.
KS: What was the idea behind Southern Art and Bourbon Bar?
AG: The idea behind was really Southern food reinvented. Taking [something] traditional and kind of shooing in a new idea, and at the same time sticking to a lot of the original ways of doing things. Charleston Receipts is one of my favorite cookbooks; I wanted to take those old ideas and making them into something new.
KS: Tell me about the ham bar at Southern Art?
AG: All of the charcuterie is done in house, other than the ham, which we are working on producing more of. We showcase artisanal products and a lot of my friends, like Emile DeFelice of Caw Caw Creek. He is like a pork whisperer; he owns 100 acres where he raises all heritage hogs. If the pigs are happy, the end results will be beautiful. My outlook is if we can make it here, then great, but we also support local products by showcasing them as much as possible.
KS: How did you get so charcuterie savvy?
AG: I worked with Lee for 13 years. He inspired me; country pâté and rillettes were always on the menu. It was also practice and cooking by hand. Paul Bertolli was my Bible, his techniques and pHs were always what they needed to be.
KS: Where will we find you in five years?
AG: I would love to own my own restaurant, a small intimate place where friends and family could gather and enjoy the bounties of the South. I would love to have my own small farm to raise animals and farm my own vegetables and serve that in the restaurant.