Antoinette Bruno: When and why did you start cooking? What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Hugh Acheson: I grew up in Ottawa. I started working after school as a dishwasher at a deli, and later got a job working on the line at a local restaurant.
AB: Where have you worked professionally as a chef?
HA: I worked at Henri Berger, an old-school French place in Quebec, and Mecca and Gary Danko in San Francisco. My wife is from here – that’s how I ended up in Athens. I opened Five and Ten seven years ago on a budget of less than $200,000.
AB: Who are some of your mentors?
HA: I owe my foundation to Rob McDonald, who was the executive chef at Henri Berger while I was there. He taught me butchery, stock-making, everything. He also taught me to never take shortcuts.
AB: In which kitchens have you staged?
HA: I've staged at Babbo in New York City.
AB: What question gives you the most insight to a cook when you’re interviewing them for a position in your kitchen?
HA: “Where do you see yourself in three years?” I’m looking for long-term dedication to the industry, not someone who’s in the middle of a passing fad.
AB: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
HA: Know the history of food, and know what you’re talking about, in general.
AB: Is there an ingredient you feel is particularly under-appreciated or underutilized?
HA: Catfish! And okra. People eat them a lot, but they’re so rarely done well.
AB: What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
HA: I like hot and sweet – like cayenne and mango in a sorbet – and nuts and acid, like lemon juice and walnuts.
AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
HA: The French Menu Cookbook by Richard Olney.
AB: Where do you like to go for culinary travel?
HA: The Pyrenees.
AB: What are your favorite restaurant – off the beaten path – in your city?
HA: Eigensenn Farm, Northeast of Toronto. In Georgia: Haru-Ichiban for light salads, matsutake soup and sushi, particularly the toro, and Co’m Vietnamese Grill on Buford Highway.
AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry now?
HA: The revival of Southern food. The Southern Foodways Alliance plays a very important role in that – what they do is invaluable in preserving Southern culture.
AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
HA: I want to run a restaurant that people can come to 4 nights a week.
AB: Which person in history would you most like to have dinner with?
HA: Mark Twain.
AB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be doing?
HA: I’d be an academic.
AB: What does success mean for you? What will it look like for you?
HA: I want to write cookbooks. And I just opened a new 40-seat restaurant in the front of a new art house cinema in town.