What’s one thing you wish you knew how to cook?
One of my favorite things in the whole world is American-style Chinese food, and I’m afraid to learn how to make it because I’ll ruin it for myself by making it too fancy. I really love Mongolian beef. My favorite place here is China King.
When you aren’t cooking, what do you do for fun?
I am an extremely avid outdoorsman and fisherman. I hunt everything. That was how I grew up—we kind of relied on whatever we could hunt or fish to fill the freezer. Now, myself and my dad and my uncles, we always plan multiple western hunting trips, like Rocky Mountain goats in Canada, sheep in Mexico in mountains. What we call camping, most people would call survival training. You find water, and you hunt for food.
What’s the last TV show you bingewatched?
My wife and I watched all of True Detective back-to-back. We literally stayed up all night. It was intense. And it was 5:30 in the morning, and Val is an attorney, and she had to go and get ready for office.
What’s your guilty pleasure fast food?
Buffalo wings. They might be my favorite food. When I worked at the Chicken Coop, all we did was fried chicken and buffalo wings. I’ll sometimes go to places like the Local and Fox Bros, but when I want the classic old-school flavor, I make them at home. I’m the only person who has three deep fryers at home.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
We actually play this game at work all the time: if you weren’t a chef and economics wasn’t an issue. I would be a park ranger.
What’s the worst dish you’ve ever made?
In my career earlier at the Ritz-Carlton, I really got on this kick that saffron and vanilla went really well with seafood. I suppose it can if done well. I tried to make this roasted scallop with saffron and vanilla dish. It tasted like you were eating hand lotion.
Beer, wine, or cocktails?
All of the above. My wife is really into wine. One of our shared hobbies is wine collecting, so I probably drink more wine than anything else. But I’m about to open a beer garden [in Revival’s backyard] because I really love European-style beers. And as a self-professed redneck by birth, I do love moonshine.
Is there any classic Southern dish you can’t stand?
I’ve never liked fried chicken gizzards.
What’s the weirdest thing about being on Top Chef?
The TV time-out. Unless you’re being recorded and the camera is on you, you can’t speak; you have to remain in complete and total silence. It’s very peculiar and disheartening. They want you to hang out and make friends but only if someone is watching. It was the idea that you were supposed to coexist and live but only if people could watch you, and every other time, you were supposed to hit the snooze button.
Other than your own fried chicken, who makes the best in the city?
My favorite fried chicken in the Atlanta area is Buckner’s; it’s a family-style restaurant in Jackson, Georgia.
Do you have any pet peeves?
Punctuality. All the men in my family were in the military, so on time was late and early was on time. My wife will tell you the first time I ever took her out on a date for a dinner at 7, I texted her at 6:30 and said, ‘I’m running late.’ My wife is always late, so she took it as she could be ready by 7:30. I still showed up before our originally scheduled date time, and she was completely not ready.
Tell me the story behind your newest wolf tattoo.
I was elk hunting in Idaho last year in the Frank Church Wilderness. One day, it was unbelievably, oddly dead. There were no birds, no bugs, just this eerie silence I’d never experienced in my life. Something just didn’t seem right about it. Later in the afternoon, I spotted with my binoculars this lone gray wolf. There’s this big wolf pack that inhabits the area, and when it shows up, everything hides. If you see one, there are others. It was a very startling experience. You kind of knew you must be surrounded. When they show up, your trip is over. It was eerie and inspiring; it made me feel very in touch with the real cycle of life.
What was the first thing you learned how to cook?
Scrambled eggs with American cheese, and it’s still my favorite. My mom taught me when I was four or five just because she didn’t want to make me breakfast at the hours I liked to get up on weekends.