As you may or may not know, I work in school nutrition for the state of Georgia and Haley is a professional photographer. Both of us, through our work, are able to travel and explore unique opportunities to meet influential leaders within our industries. This month I was honored to sit down with restaurateur, author and Top Chef Judge, Hugh Acheson, during the Georgia Organics Conference in Athens, Georgia.
Born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, Hugh Acheson is the chef/partner of the Athens restaurants; Five & Ten, The National, the Atlanta restaurant Empire State South, and the Savannah restaurant The Florence.
His cookbook titled A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen, won the James Beard Foundation award for Best Cookbook in the field of "American Cooking" in 2012. Read below for our interview on what he has to say about better farms and flavors in Georgia.
On the Farm-to-Table Movement:
We’re in a farm-rich environment in Georgia – how do we celebrate that? I want to celebrate the farmers by having them harvest beautiful produce that we actually consume, in both our homes and restaurants. We’re at the point where farm-to-table is a co-optable term – it can be used for marketing and it can resound as not very true most of the time. We’ve never actually marketed the restaurants as farm-to-table. Instead we’ve just always walked the walk, rather than talk the talk. We support our local environment the best we can, every day. It’s what we do.
On Farm to School:
Georgia is doing a great job of implementing the farm-to-school program – we have definitely made great strides but unfortunately school lunch is not something that can change overnight. The important thing is to keep moving forward and to keep making progress. There is more of an interest in food policy than there was ten years ago, which is good, but there is still a ton of work to be done.
On re-thinking Home Economics:
The idea is this: for a long time, home economics was very gender-specific and focused on how to maintain a home. Simultaneously, over the past few decades, we have become accustomed to the concept of convenience, i.e. soup in a can, frozen dinners, etc., which infiltrated our culture and our lifestyle. There is an entire generation that has almost lost the art of cooking. So my goal, as a father of a 10 and a 12-year-old, is to help reshape the requirements for family and consumer sciences. Let's equip children who will turn in to college students who then turn in to working adults, to be able to prepare their own meals and have basic life skills. By teaching these skills, we’re going to make a big threat to the 'happy meal' – and that’s the end goal. (Read more here)