Checking in with Kevin Gillespie

I caught up with Woodfire Grill’s Kevin Gillespie during his recent demo at Piedmont Park’s Greenmarket and quizzed him about his thoughts on the spate the restaurant closings, his plans for future projects and some of his favorite spots around town.

What is your take on all of the recent closings here in Atlanta? Is it the economy, the absence of the “star chef/owner,” or something else?
KG: I definitely don’t think it’s the absence of the chef/owner. All chefs would like to be in their restaurants every day—just like any business owner wants to be in the office. But the reality is that you’re pulled away a lot. I do think the economy factors heavily but I also think we’ve blamed the economy enough. I think we get ahead of ourselves in Atlanta, building restaurants with the expectation of reaching results that aren’t attainable. Hotels and condos do the same thing. It’s unfortunate and I hate to see my peers’ restaurants close. Maybe people will choose to do something closer to home, not as big and flashy.

How are your plans for a barbecue joint coming along? Have their been any changes from your original plans?
KG: They are coming along really well. We are still in negotiations on real estate. The ideas and goals have not changed—to create an old-fashioned, old timey-style barbecue joint meant to emulate the original roots of barbecue, where it was about community gathering, a festival of eating, a celebration.

Are you still planning a more permanent partnership with Morelli’s ice cream?
KG: Absolutely. We’ve been working together recently to produce a couple different modern flavors each week. [Recent flavors have included eggnog, blueberry pancake, and Mexican cinnamon toast crunch.] It’s been a lot of fun and we like working with each other, taking their knack for ice cream making and my take on combining flavors. I hope you’ll see a new project really soon.

Where have you been dining lately that has impressed you here in town ?
KG: The last couple of times I’ve been to Tasty China it’s been really good, so I’m very excited about Peter Chang’s new restaurant opening. [It opened Sunday at 6450 Powers Ferry Road in Sandy Springs.] Mostly I’ve been revisiting lots of places—Restaurant Eugene and JCT Kitchen and Bocado – that I think are still doing a really good job.

Congrats to Atlanta chef Nona Sivley, who won the season 8 Hell’s Kitchen competition last week.

Miller Union top toque Steven Satterfield was featured on CNN’s Eatocracy blog last week.

Buckhead. What Now Atlanta first reporting that chocolate maker extraordinaire Kristen Hard is planning to open a second Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Company location at 2815 Peachtree Road by the end of January.

College Park. Fina European Bistro, from the team that operates Social in downtown Atlanta, has closed.
Downtown. The AJC is reporting that Greek Gyros and Pizza, located in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market is closing.

Druid Hills. What Now Atlanta reported that Octane Coffee at Emory Village closed December 17, to be replaced by Steady Hand Coffee, owned by Dale B. Donchey and Jordan Chambers.

East Atlanta. Creative Loafing notes that Little Cafe Paris, a coffee house featuring home made crepes and waffles along with classic coffeehouse drinks, has opened in Ormewood Station, home to Morelli’s and Spoon.

Midtown. Bobby and June’s has shuttered their doors after over 30 years at 375 14th Street.

What Now Atlanta first reported that a 5 Guys Burgers and fries store is slated to open in the Spire condominiums at 800 Peachtree Street.

Old Fourth Ward. Thrillist reports that Condesa Coffee, featuring Cafe Cubanos, espressos, and a hot downtown view, has opened in Tribute Lofts on Freedom Parkway.

Virginia Highland. Talented pastry chef Taria Camerino (Top Flr, Restaurant Eugene, Highland Bakery) has opened a tiny, charming chocolate and pastry shop called Sugar-Coated Radical at 680 Drewry Street. The shop is open Thursday to Sunday. There is no sign yet; look for the green door on the front of the building. (H/T to Bill Addison for this report.)
Westside. According to What Now Atlanta, Central City Tavern is slated to close January 1.

Question of the Week: What ATL resto’s dessert was named one of the top ten dishes of 2010 by Bon Appetit’s Andrew Knowlton?

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What intown resto is offering a “Cookies and Cocktails” menu for the Holidays?—Is D.B.A. Barbecue (Commenter Wendy called that one out last week.)

Happy holidays to one and all!