John Portman taps Julio Delgado to be executive chef of JP Atlanta

Ritz-Carlton vet to create a menu where “old is new again.”
Julio Delgado
Julio Delgado

John C. Portman’s new Downtown restaurant, JP Atlanta, is slated to open in December, with former Ritz-Carlton and Chateau Elan chef Julio Delgado in the kitchen.

“This is a very unique and important project,” Delgado says. “For me to be able to represent [Portman] as an artist and an architect and his impact on this city, to project that onto my food for the guests, I feel like I’ve been preparing all my life for this. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

JP Atlanta will serve three meals a day, plus a late night menu on the weekends. We spoke to Delgado about his plans for the restaurant.

What kind of food will you serve? Old is new again is the theme. It’s New American with modern influences. The goal of restaurant is to represent John Portman’s work on the city—the last 50 to 60 years. He pretty much developed half of Downtown Atlanta. He’s a global institution in architecture.

How will you represent Mr. Portman with your food? Our goal is to have the food reflect his craftsmanship with very strong presentations. He’s big on colors and textures and very abstract styles, so we put a lot of effort into [doing] that in the food.

What are some dishes on the menu? One is a braised beef short rib bourguignon style. We want to reflect Atlanta by using the most local produce we can find. Even if it’s not a Southern dish, the ingredients will be as regional as possible. Other dishes [include] a butcher’s block. It’s not your traditional charcuterie plate. There are no dried sausages. We’re doing chicken liver, terrine, and rillettes. The wooden boards are craftsman, made by one of my cooks who does woodwork. We’ll have a take on fondue, a take on chicken ala king, and a braised lamb neck.

What do you have in mind for the format of the menu? Downtown Atlanta is a very different restaurant market than other places. It has big conventions and a lot of business travelers. Our menu is designed to attract that. It’s very simple with sharing items, appetizers, and entrees, and great craftsman cocktails.

What about breakfast and lunch? Breakfast is mostly local, organic cage-free eggs—very simple. There’s braised rib hash with eggs, and chicken and waffles with chicken liver mousse and fried chicken skin on it. We’re going for the quick power lunch with sandwiches and salads. It’s very traditional. We’ll have a lamb meatball sub, the house-ground JP Burger, and truffle chicken waldorf salad.

Who is leading the bar program? Eric Simpkins [of the Lawrence] is designing the program inspired by the ‘60s and ‘70s. He’s using six types of hand-carved ice. We’re not taking any shortcuts when it comes to the food and cocktail preparation. We’ll have regional beers and a small but unique selection of wine by the bottle and the glass. [Cocktails include] the Fifth Ward, a riff on a Ward Eight cocktail, made with bourbon absinthe and grapefruit.