Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hugh Acheson, What Are You Reading?

Currently, Hugh Acheson is appearing as a judge on Top Chef Texas which I’ve been watching with hometown pride. He was also a recent competitor on Season Three of Top Chef Masters. When he’s not on TV, he’s busy as chef/partner of Five and Ten, The National, Gosford Wine, and Empire State South in Athens, Georgia. Hailing from Ottawa, Canada, he’s not a native to the US South, but over the years, he has developed his own approach to Southern cooking with a European influence. He was a Food and Wine Best New Chef in 2002, has been a James Beard nominee for Best Chef Southeast in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, was a 2007 Rising Star chosen by, and was included as one of the 100 contemporary chefs in Phaidon Press' Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs. His new book is A New Turn in the South which offers 120 recipes showcasing his fresh take on Southern cuisine. With his busy schedule, I was lucky to steal a moment of his time to ask: what are you reading?

Vegetarian by Alice Hart
I think there is a health movement afoot in the food world that is going to embrace vegetable based diets more than ever. I am a huge proponent of a shrinking meat protein size on our dinner plates and filling in with an abundance of great local vegetables and grains. This beautiful book is a great generator of ideas for me these days, served up in a beautiful layout. Cool book. The North American edition is coming out in April, but I bought my fine copy at Omnivore Books, in San Francisco, one of the best cookbook stores in the whole wide world.

The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis
Edna was ahead of her time. She was a true woman chef in a male dominated trade. She was a refined voice that defined Southern food in a whole new light. This book recounts the flavors of her youth and is an essential read in realizing why Southern food is so pertinent now and how it has long been misunderstood. It’s less about lard than about blackberries and fresh eggs. Lovely book.

The Frankie’s Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual by Frank Falcinelli, Frank Castronovo, and Peter Meehan
Who else gets a bible printer to produce their book in a very old-timey edition that reads like a long lost primer of seasonal Italian food? The Franks are so stylish and current and curate the best little neighborhood spots, spots you would long to have in your hood. The book is great, and the words bounce off the page in such a happy way with the crafty sensibility of Pete Meehan, who co-wrote the Momofuku cookbook.

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
I love the flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean and not since Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean have I been this excited about a book focusing on the region. This book is getting used in our home kitchen. Soiled and dog-eared like all good cookbooks. The restaurant that it comes from is changing the way London eats with great to-go food and a really thought-through menu. Vegetable heavy again. The world is changing.

The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook
Because it’s awesome. Really great homage to the classic regional Junior League project. But better than they ever were.

Thank you for participating, Hugh. Check back to see who answers the question next time and what other books are recommended.

Previous WAYR posts:
Jaden Hair
Michael Ruhlman
Monica Bhide
Michael Natkin
Sara Roahen
Andrea Nguyen
David Lebovitz
Rick Bayless
Tara Austen Weaver
Mollie Katzen
Deborah Madison
Soup Peddler
Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan
Robb Walsh
Kim Severson
David Leite
Dan Lepard
Carolyn Jung
Joan Nathan
Melissa Clark
Dianne Jacob
Zoë Francois
Yotam Ottolenghi
Lucinda Scala Quinn
Barbara Lynch
Addie Broyles
Cheryl Tan
Joanne Chang
Kim Boyce
Barry Estabrook
Gesine Bullock-Prado
Virginia Willis
Lisa Fain


  1. What a great post! I really like Hugh Acheson; he seems so down to earth and approachable in his style. The list of cookbooks are so interesting and different from one another - I want them all! Thanks, Lisa!

  2. Hugh has such a droll sense of humor on "Top Chef.'' Have much enjoyed seeing him be a judge this year. And you gotta love any guy who can joke about his own "unibrow.'' ;)

  3. I confess, I'm not certain how I feel about Hugh. I watched him last year in Top Chef Masters competition and thought he was full of himself and had rather a smirk on his face most of the time. Then, I noticed he's been a judge recently and wondered why he was chosen. I'm going to reserve judgement as I haven't read his new cookbook so haven't tasted his cuisine. Will put it on my wish list, Lisa.

  4. I hope to make to Five and Ten one day- I've been hearing about it for years. I did check out Empire State South this summer and it lived up to the hype. Love his choice in books- naturally, since I love Ottolenghi. And I didn't know that SFA had a cookbook- can't wait to pick it up!

  5. Thanks for the introduction to Hugh Acheson as I am unfamiliar with his work. My daughter insists I am missing out by not watching Top Chef Texas and from your review she may be correct! I'm going to give it a try; thanks for enticing me to explore outside my familiar boundaries.

  6. Great list. I didn't watch that season of Top Chef so I am going to have to check out his recipes.

  7. That's an impressive list. I haven't watched Top Chef but you've inspired me to watch out for it.

  8. Love the Vegetarian book. Im checking it out on Amazon now. Haven't heard of the chef in question but this is an interesting read :)

  9. Oooh I'd love for him to cook for me if these are the cookbooks he is loving right now! The Ottolenghi is stunning and now I need the Edna Lewis book!


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