Born and raised about forty miles south of Atlanta in Locust Grove, Woodfire Grill's Kevin Gillespie learned to cook by watching his paternal grandmother prepare gargantuan smorgasbords of humble South Carolina Appalachian fare for an army of relatives who wandered in and out of her house daily.
A native of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Evans moved to Atlanta to helm the kitchen at Buckhead’s now-defunct Craftbar. His focus at the Optimist is seafood, but he still craves the earthier Southern comfort foods of home: his mom’s biscuits and gravy, his grandmother’s chicken and dumplings, and most of all, North Alabama chicken stew.
The spacious kitchen of Mary Moore, founder and CEO of the Cook's Warehouse, in her Oak Grove home is fully equipped with Japanese knives, silicone spatulas, a sous vide water oven, and an electric grain grinder with variable texture control.
Jay Swift, chef-owner of 4th & Swift, and his son Jeb Aldrich, chef de cuisine at 4th & Swift, are Baltimore natives with fond memories of weekend fishing trips on Chesapeake Bay and raucous get-togethers around picnic tables piled high with freshly steamed blue crabs.