Rising Son chef Hudson Rouse on fancy Southern food: “I don’t think there’s a place for expensive fried chicken”

Plus 12 other things we learned from the chef at Rising Son

13 Questions is a weekly series where we ask chefs 13 questions to get to know them outside of the kitchen. Hudson Rouse, formerly of Home Grown GA, is the chef and co-owner of Rising Son.

Photo by Kathryn Fitzgerald Rouse
Photo by Kathryn Fitzgerald Rouse

What was the first thing you learned how to cook?
Every Friday night we’d go over to my grandparents. They’d always making the same thing: a traditional salad with homegrown tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, and onion; steak; a baked potato; mac and cheese; and broccoli. I remember my granddad lecturing my brother and I on how to cook a steak.

Who was your role model growing up?
 I have a twin brother who always knew he wanted to be a chef. My dad had a culinary degree. My grandfather and uncle were chefs. I remember watching The French Chef as a child. Julia Child was big part of our childhood, and I guess I picked it up by osmosis.

How did you jump from insurance sales to food?
I got out of insurance around 2011 because the market had crashed. One night I went to a Baton dinner at Gato in 2011 or 2012. Danny Bowien, from Mission Chinese, was cooking that night, and he said, “You should just go to work for someone you know is good and go from there.” So next time I saw Angus Brown, I begged him and begged him to come into the kitchen and work. I worked with him until he went to Vietnam. Then Nhan Lee whipped me into shape for four to six months. It was the best experience in my life. He’s a beast in the kitchen—no standing around, no having fun until you’re done. Angus was the other way around, fun, joking around. My style is more like Angus now. Part of my interview process is asking, “Do you like to tell jokes? Can you take jokes?” And “Do you like country music?”

What’s your fast food guilty pleasure?
Publix fried chicken. I eat the thighs, my wife eats the breast, and my son eat the legs. The wings never make it back because I eat those on way home.

What’s one classic Southern dish you can’t stand?
I just can’t stand to see [Southern dishes] fancied up too much. I don’t think there’s a place for expensive fried chicken. It should be something you enjoy anywhere, anytime. You shouldn’t be spending $30 to eat a whole bird.

How did you meet your wife, Kathryn [Fitzgerald Rouse, known for her craft sodas]?
We ran in parallel universes in the city for a long time. One of us followed the other on Instagram. I posted a picture on Instagram of this sage bush that was flowering, and it had these beautiful purple flowers. I was giving them away and asked if anyone wanted any, and she said yes. When she came to get them, I was kind of knocked off my feet. We found out we had so many mutual friends and similar backgrounds. I would invite her on a date to go pick honeysuckle flowers. We got married and opened a restaurant within a year of meeting each other.

What do you do when you aren’t running the restaurant?
In the spring, early summer, and fall, I’m planting vegetables in my front yard and backyard in East Atlanta Village and at my father-in-law’s large plot of land Stone Mountain.

What was the last TV show you bingewatched?
The Cleveland Show with my 10-year-old son, Branch, every night. It’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen. I hope the jokes are going over his head.

Beer, wine, or cocktails?
Depending on the occasion, I enjoy all of them. But when I come home, Kathryn makes me a nice cocktail. We’re really big into gin martinis right now.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
I would have a nice farm somewhere near the water. It would be in the vicinity of nice restaurants, so I could still enjoy my other passion, eating a lot.

What’s one thing you wish you knew how to cook?
I’m terrible at dessert and pastries. It’s the preciseness and measuring. I just like to cook and see what I’m gonna get in the end.

What’s one brunch trend you’re over?
Anything over a six-top. It’s a meal, not a party.

You named a meal after Angus Brown. If a meal were named after you, what would it be?
A nice juicy burger with fries and any hoppy IPA.