410 West Ponce De Leon Avenue
Decatur, GA 30030
Like many of the chefs who stumble their way into the business, Terry Koval began his restaurant career at the age of 15, working as a dishwasher at John Paul’s Armadillo Oil Company in Greenville, South Carolina. Rather than head to culinary school after those classically sudsy beginnings, Koval looked west to San Francisco, in hopes like many teenagers, of becoming a skateboarder. And it was on the west coast that he had his first introduction to local, seasonal produce and farm-to-table cuisine.
When the skateboarding career he hoped for didn’t work out, Koval came back to the South, refreshed and inspired by the west coast’s culinary prosperity. He worked his way up the Georgia culinary food chain to the position of executive sous chef under mentor Chef Gary Mennie at nationally acclaimed Canoe in Vinings. He later joined Concentrics Restaurants as the sous chef of Lobby at TWELVE and became executive chef of Room at TWELVE, which was awarded a three-star review from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under his tenure.
Koval eventually returned to his roots in sustainable cuisine with his expertly crafted, seasonal grass-fed burgers at Farm Burger. It may be burgers, but Koval understands the importance of refined, fresh flavors, no matter what the vessel. And he has big plans to return to the finer side of dining in the near future.
Interview with 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Terry Koval
Katherine Sacks: What made you interested in cooking?
Terry Koval: I started cooking when I was 15; it was just to kind of have a job. As I got older, I was out in San Francisco, and I started to see real farm-to-table food. When I was 24, I decided I was going to do more. I pretty much fell into it, but I knew then this is what I wanted to do.
KS: How do you describe your style as a chef?
TK: I would have to say it’s refined and simple, with fresh ingredients. I use a lot of stuff from the farms. I don’t like to over season; I like clean flavors.
KS: What efforts do you make to run a sustainable restaurant?
TK: All of our beef is all local cows; every bit is raised on Georgia soil. Eighty percent of our vegetables come from local farmers. We store our scraps, and I take them to farmers for compost. And all of our paper products are all biodegradable.
KS: What is the hardest thing you’ve had to do in your career?
TK: It’s a tough question because I really love my job, I love challenges. One time—it was a lot of fun but it was hard—I was the chef at a hotel downtown and this lady flew in from Morocco and made me cook out of this Moroccan cookbook from her mother. It was hard but I loved it. I also had to watch a cow get slaughtered and that was pretty rough.
KS: What are you most proud of?
TK: I’m really proud of this [Rising Stars]. I worked the event in 2007 with Chef Nick Oltarsh, so it is pretty cool that 7 years later I am one of the Rising Star chefs. I’m proud of the job I got too; dealing with all these local farmers, learning about local food, everyday I’m stoked.
KS: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
TK: Something to do with art, maybe a photographer. Or a farmer, I would try to farm.
KS: Where will we find you in five years?
TK: I see myself still working with this team, but in a full service restaurant dealing with more à la carte service.