Design Dossier: Kevin Gillespie

Top Chef alum Kevin Gillespie is a rising culinary star and author of Fire in my Belly. During his run as head chef of Woodfire Grill, the restaurant was featured on CNN and numerous national publications. He recently departed to open his own food venture, Gunshow, that’s set to open this spring. Get a glimpse inside his world:

What ingredient can make all the difference in a dish? Salt. It may seem obvious, but it’s the most often overlooked ingredient at home.

What are your standby cookbooks? A Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis; Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras; After the Hunt by John D. Fulse

When I’m not cooking for others, I like to make… anything that I can cook outdoors and old classics I had when I was growing up that are hard-to-find at restaurants.

My perfect lunch companion is… my wife because I almost never get to have lunch with her. We both work so much, that it’s really a pleasure when I get these opportunities to eat with her.

Where’s your favorite travel destination? Bora Bora. If you believe in paradise on Earth, then this is it.

Items I won’t leave without my home are… phone (unfortunately), a little bit of cash and a pocket knife (every guy should carry this).

How would you describe your fashion sense? I would say my style is old-fashioned. I don’t have much in my closet, but what I do have is carefully chosen and well-made. Some of my favorite stores are Sid Mashburn, Billy Reid and Cabelas (for all my outdoor gear).

The last good movie I’ve watch watched is… Skyfall. I think James Bond is absurdly cool. A lot of the movies are kind of cheesy, but the last one was awesome and the way I imagine him to be. He shows that he’s not invincible and it shows more of his background.

What are some of your favorite places to dine around Atlanta? On Buford Highway you can pick a different spot every time and it’s always going to be good. I equally like all of Ford Fry’s restaurants, JCT. Kitchen & Bar, No. 246 and The Optimist. I believe all of his restaurants provide a great experience. Also, Restaurant Eugene because it’s a beautiful space and is great for celebrations. Lastly, Houston’s. I don’t care what people say. They provide a high quality product that is consistent every time. Isn’t that what every restaurant strives for?

Is it surreal being a celebrity chef? Yes, extremely! I don’t really know how to respond to the title of “celebrity chef,” but I’m doing something I believe in and hope that my conviction in that shows through to people. I believe people sense my passion in everything I do and respect that. I am surprised when people approach me and truly appreciate every single fan. It’s a privilege when people approach me and I am more than happy to take a photograph or talk to fan. It’s something I don’t take lightly.

Any words of advice for a rising chef? The single most important thing to start your career, as a whole, is knowing that you will be affected by the quality of the place you work vs. the job title you have. You’ll learn more from peeling potatoes at a great restaurant versus going to culinary school, then getting hired as a sous chef at a mediocre restaurant. Also, if the job isn’t challenging, then make it more challenging or get a new one.

Don’t miss your chance to meet Chef Gillespie at AH&L’s Reader Day at ADAC on Thursday, February 20. Click here for more information.

{The “10 under 40” Presenting Sponsor for 2013 is AmericasMart}