2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Anthony Gray of Southern Art and Bourbon Bar at the InterContinental Buckhead

2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Anthony Gray of Southern Art and Bourbon Bar at the InterContinental Buckhead
June 2012

Anthony Gray knows how the land connects to food, and how food connects people. He spent an outdoorsy, idyllic childhood in Macon, Georgia, fishing and hunting with his father and absorbing a general familial emphasis on cooking and sharing food. And it’s this love of the land—and personal understanding of where food comes from—that Gray brings to his role as executive chef at Southern Art and Bourbon Bar at the InterContinental Buckhead.

If the outdoors was an early teacher, Gray furthered his culinary career as a student at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina where he met Chef Frank Lee. Gray took a position with Lee at Slightly North of Broad, where he was initiated into the Maverick Southern Kitchens family. When the team opened High Cotton in Charleston in 1999, Gray became sous chef, staying with the company for 10 years and moving up to executive chef of both the Greenville and Charleston locations. Under his direction, the restaurants were featured in numerous publications including The New York Times, Bon Appétit, Southern Living, and The Boston Globe.

Like Gray's childhood experiences, Lee proved an important influence. Among other things, Lee taught Gray a deep appreciation for rich, traditional charcuterie, a talent he brings to Southern Art at his ham bar. Drawing on the lessons of his youth, Gray continues to support traditional Southern ingredients and traditions in his menus; he belongs to the Southern Foodways Alliance, Slow Food Upstate, Slow Food Atlanta, and the Carolina Farmer Stewardship Association, which he has plans to expand into Georgia. And while his Carolina experiences certainly kept him busy, the rush of the InterContinental’s kitchen—complete with breakfast, lunch, and dinner service, room-service offerings, and plenty of exciting Atlanta culinary events—has him buzzing around his new Atlanta home.

Interview with 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Anthony Gray

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.