2018 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Jonathan Kallini of Bacchanalia

2018 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Jonathan Kallini of Bacchanalia
January 2018

South Florida native Jonathan Kallini grew making meals for his family and poring over cookbooks. After high school, he headed north to West Lafayette, Indiana, and Purdue University, where he graduated with a degree in hospitality and tourism management while teaching undergraduate classes in food chemistry. During the last year of his studies, the university president’s chef, Carl Behnke, took Kallini under his wing and introduced him to classic technique and the inner workings of a production kitchen.
Kallini continued his education at the Culinary Institute of America and completed his externship at Anne Quatrano’s Bacchanalia in Atlanta. In 2010, after graduation, Kallini returned to Atlanta, and four days later, Quatrano named him pastry chef of Floataway Café. Despite having relatively little pastry experience, he embraced the offer wholeheartedly. Kallini worked within the group to establish a pastry program at Abattoir, and eventually took on a joint savory-sweet Sous Chef role at Floataway.
Feeling restless, Kallini moved to Copenhagen to work at Noma, where he relished in the spirit of experimentation and excellence. Moving back to the States, he staged at the French Laundry for a brief period before returning to Atlanta in 2014. Quatrano welcomed him back into the family with the chef de cuisine role at Bacchanalia. In the summer of 2017, Kallini took over Bacchanalia’s kitchen as executive chef, and in addition to exquisite, rooted tasting menus, he has worked to build a mentor-based environment to develop his team and support the Atlanta food community.

interview with Atlanta Rising Star Jonathan Kallini


Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start? 
Jonathan Kallini:
I started cooking at 21, but before that I was a vertical axial decompression technician. I started at Bacchanalia in 2008 for a CIA externship. I came back in 2010, and four days later I was made pastry chef at Floataway Café. After Floataway, 

CH: And how did you get to Bacchanalia?
After Floataway, I worked at Noma for almost two years. I got along with the staff there, but it was not my style of cuisine. Matthew Orlando, who recently left Noma for Amass, he’s friends with the chef of The French Laundry, so I worked there next as an unpaid stage for a week plating food. I was living with my brother in Snellville, Georgia, at the time and I kept getting promoted. I had planned to save money to move to Napa, but then I felt like staying put. Anne [Quatrano] welcomed me back.

CH: Who's your mentor?
Anne. She has fostered me for all these years. She’s pretty much invested in me to the point I wouldn’t have my career without her. She showed faith in me and treated me with respect. She understood my desire to travel abroad and told me that she didn’t want to see me go. She understood I would, and she wanted to make sure I was going toward a great opportunity. I do my best to help her out in my own way. 

CH: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
We do a lot of fundraising with Georgia Organics, and Anne is deeply involved with the James Beard Foundation. We also work with Sunday Supper South and Team Hidi. We did an Ovarian Cancer dinner here.

CH: What's your biggest challenge?
The fight to improve, remembering it’s not a competition against each other. It’s not about being the best in town. It’s about being better than I was yesterday—looking where you can improve, doing the best you can, and figuring out where you’re going next. 

CH: What’s your five-year plan?
I didn’t think I’d have an executive chef position so soon, and I do want my own restaurant. There are concepts I admire. In 2013, I had a meal at the Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs. When you first walk in, there’s a hot dog menu and Champagne. There’s a blue curtain in the back, an homage to Keller’s blue door. The restaurant is behind the blue curtain, much akin to Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. There’s a small group of people concentrated on food. I am in love with that style. Being small and hands-on. James Knappett is the chef there. It was the first time I experienced a meal like that.