Interview with Chef Hugh Acheson of Five and Ten - Atlanta, GA

October, 2007

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.