2018 Atlanta Rising Star Bartender David Chapman of Kimball House

2018 Atlanta Rising Star Bartender David Chapman of Kimball House
January 2018

Kimball House
303 E Howard Ave
Decatur, GA 30030


David Chapman grew up just outside Atlanta in Avondale and graduated from college in 2008 in the dismal throes of the Great Recession—with a philosophy degree no less. After college, he got a pay-the-bills job at Rise-n-Dine, brewing Counter Culture coffee and falling in love with hospitality. 

Once he knew his way around a counter and cup, Chapman wanted to grow and secured a barista-bartender hybrid position at Hugh Acheson’s Empire State South. For the next two and a half years, he worked for Bartender Kellie Thorn, learning to apply culinary techniques and a Southern perspective to the classics. He also served as Tales of the Cocktail apprentice in 2012.

That foundation helped land Chapman a gig on the opening team of Miles Macquarrie’s Kimball House in 2013. Having since risen to head bartender of the lauded Decatur restaurant and bar, he continues to build upon Kimball House’s detail-obsessed approach to cocktail making. Chapman tinkers with classics, has mastered the centrifuge, and collaborates with his culinary counterpoints at the restaurant. Macquarrie, Chapman, and their bar team have earned Kimball House nods as a James Beard semi-finalist for “Outstanding Bar Program” three years running, from 2014 to 2017.

Interview with Atlanta Rising Star Bartender David Chapman

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start?
David Chapman:
I grew up in Avondale and moved outside the perimeter. I needed a job after college, graduated in 2008 with a philosophy degree. I was making Counter Culture Coffee at a diner. I went to work for Kellie Thorn at Empire State South for two-and-a-half years. All the while, I loved the Decatur area. When it was time for change of scenery, Decatur felt more like where I should be. 

CH: Who are your mentors?
: Kellie Thorn and Miles Macquarrie

CH: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
: I try to get out as much as I can. I have been working at bars in Atlanta for seven years. Atlanta has a sense of community that’s genuine and personal. Hospitality is genuine, people meet each other more closely here. 

CH: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
: I have been here four years, so finding what’s next from my position here. I’m finding new challenges, adapting to usual restaurant stuff, and managing and advancing the bar creatively. We want to be sure that everyone feels heard. Everyone back here gives a shit and does well. I’ve never worked anywhere this long. I don’t have plans on moving anywhere. 

CH: What’s a city whose cocktail culture you’d most like to explore?
DC: Tokyo, Japan. The Japanese style is the perfect combination of precision, elegance, and hospitality. The way they run bars is so different. I think spending time exploring bars there would not only be a fun experience, but one that would change my perspective on my career for the better.

CH: What's your five-year plan?
: For the first quarter of those five years, I’ll be at Kimball House. I would eventually like to open a new space, something that encompasses more of what I want to do, and step up in management. I would like more oversight of whole operation and build the wine side.