A new SCAD-produced docuseries focuses on food as a force for cultural connection

The series features interviews with popular Atlanta chefs, including Miller Union's Steven Satterfield and the Deer and the Dove's Terry Koval

A new SCAD-produced docuseries focuses on food as a force for cultural connection
Chef Terry Koval talks with director and SCAD student Astrid Sims during the taping of chefATL’s fourth episode

Photograph by Jenna Weisenbach of SCAD Atlanta

Food is good in many more ways than one. This is a premise that faculty and students at the Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta in Midtown are exploring in a new seven-episode docuseries currently in production, chefATL.

Each installment of chefATL explores the diversity of Atlanta through the lens of its dynamic culinary culture.

The recent taping of chefATL‘s fourth episode wrapped at the start of the month and provides a taste of the series’ premise. Shot on-set at the SCAD Digital Media Center in the former WXIA-TV studios on Monday, producers paired up host Bilal Sarwari with chef Terry Koval. Sarwari is a one-time farmer, gardener, and interim executive director of Slow Food USA, a national organization devoted to uniting the joy of food with the pursuit of justice. Koval is the James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of the Deer and the Dove restaurant in Decatur and its next-door eatery, B-Side.

A highlight of Sarwari and Koval’s on-air discussion is the connection between Atlanta, food, and how the two bring together people from a fusion of backgrounds to enjoy different flavors and experiences.

“I moved here as a child,” Koval notes following the taping. “Atlanta is a food town, and one thing I like about Atlanta is all the different cultures.”

Those cultures, Koval says, are then stirred up with a very collaborative and caring culinary community of professionals—including his chefATL host Sarwari, who once worked as a therapeutic gardener at a psychiatric facility.

“Everybody involved [in the culinary field in Atlanta] is very collaborative. I don’t think there’s another town that’s as connected with the people who grow food, raise food, and the farmers markets. It’s a very tight-knit community,” Koval says.

Sarwari agreed, adding, “There’s a square mile in Clarkston that has more international communities than anywhere else in the entire country, and possibly the world. I’ve seen chefs like Terry embrace these cultures and embrace their own cultures and make that very mainstream through their restaurants.”

Where food brings diverse groups together, conversation ensues—along with genuine connection and understanding, both find.

“My family are political refugees from Afghanistan,” Sarwari says. “Atlanta is unique because [many] people have been living the diaspora—they’re trying to keep their cultures alive but not in their own homeland. They find Atlanta a place where they can keep their own identifies alive while also folding into American culture.”

Stories like Sarwari’s are one reason chefATL was created, says Quinlan Orear, SCAD associate chair of film and television.

“This was an idea that came out of President [Paula] Wallace’s office here at SCAD, and it grew from just a concept about celebrating Atlanta to [looking at] Atlanta diversity,” Orear notes. “We produced the pilot episode, featuring Steven Satterfield and hosted by TV personality John Gidding, in fall 2023, which premiered at our SCAD TVfest in February this year. It was so well-received that President Wallace asked us to produce a full season.”

The series’ exploration of Atlanta’s diverse culinary landscape has created opportunities to bring students together as well—with more than 100 across nine SCAD degree programs working on the series, Orear says.

For SCAD film and television students like Astrid Sims and Alisanna Vincent—both working toward a B.F.A. in film and television—production of chefATL has provided a chance to be part of something much larger than a film class project.

A new SCAD-produced docuseries focuses on food as a force for cultural connection
Astrid Sims during the fourth episode taping

Photograph by Jenna Weisenbach of SCAD Atlanta

“I can’t wait to see what comes out of this,” says Sims, the fourth episode’s director. “This is just the beginning of my directing career.”

Vincent, the episode’s lead story producer, adds, “Working on chefATL has been my best experience so far at SCAD.”

A new SCAD-produced docuseries focuses on food as a force for cultural connection
The student crew for the chefATL pilot, which featured chef Steven Satterfield

Photograph by Jenna Weisenbach of SCAD Atlanta

In hopes of sparking conversation about food and cultural connection far beyond Atlanta, SCAD is currently shopping chefATL for television and streaming distribution.