What’s Cookin, Atlanta? Pt. I
This post contains excerpts from an interview with Kiran Patel.
Tell us a little about yourself…
I remember the first time I got my own place. My parents dropped me off at my apartment in college and my first thought was “I have my own kitchen now! I can cook whatever I want.” This was a profound moment for me. I’ve had a love affair with food ever since I was a kid. I was fascinated with learning how to cook. I love seeing what happens when you mixed ingredients and that buzz you get when someone loves your creation. Here I was now with my own kitchen and it gave me the opportunity to dive deep into my penchant for cooking. I quickly realized this was my passion.
So naturally I ended up leaving the University of Georgia for Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta. After graduating there, I managed Fresh to Order in two locations for three years (started as a line cook, quickly moved up). In the last few months I’ve branched out to start my own catering company providig dessert bar services for weddings and small events, specializing in chocolate truffles and candies.
Where do you love eating in Atlanta? Take us through a day long adventure :)
Breakfast: 7 - 10 AM
My guilty pleasure for breakfast is The Flying Biscuit Cafe. I’m not usually into chains but this is one local emerging chain that I’m really liking. Everything they do - they do very well. Get the Hollywood omelet.
Highland Bakery in Midtown also serves up a rich and decadent breakfast. Their baked goods are always fluffy, flaky and awesome probably because they mill the grain that goes into their bread themselves.
“Elevenses”: 11ish AM
There’s always this odd time between breakfast and lunch when I get hungry. I call this a case of the “elevenses”. My solution: Cafe Gourmandesis (pictured at top).
One of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta was Au Pied de Cochon. After they shut down I sought out the guys who used run the place. One of them, Chef Christophe, moved to Suwannee and opened up a small bistro called Cafe Gourmandises. Even though it’s outside the perimeter, it’s worth the drive.
Gourmandises serves up the best authentic French food I’ve ever had. The food is fucking amazing - everything from the lamb to deserts to quiches. He makes these crispy steak lamb sandwiches that are phenomenal. The lamb’s thin, bacon-like and retains a juicy quality. (this is imp. because lamb can easily become tough if overcooked). It’s made with quality bread, topped with simple, fresh ingredients and Dijon mustard. Blows my mind. He also makes one quiche a day which are always fantastic.
Lunch & Farmer’s Markets: 1 - 4 PM
Float Away Cafe is a perfect spot for a light lunch. Their menu changes constantly. The last time I went they served up a fusion of southern and Mediterranean food.
After lunch I go pick up a few things at the market. Although it’s a chain, Hmart is one of my favorite places to go shopping. If you haven’t been to one, then it’s a huge learning experience. They carry everything you’d possibly want. The place sparks excitement and wonder. For example, you can find any organ part here - among them - a pig’s uterus and eggs that are partially developed. I’d love to sneak into the houses of the people buying these things and see how they’re using it in their food.
For people into locally grown food or fans of the “slow food” movement, there are two great farmers markets in town. The East Atlanta Village Farmers Market is open from 4-8 PM on Thursdays and The Whistle Stop Farmer’s Market in Norcross is open Tuesdays from 4-8 PM. It’s places like these where you get to meet people who are growing their own fruits, pickling their own veggie and making their own jams and soaps. You get a sense that they have a real connection with what it is that they’re making.
When you go to a grocery store and buy all the same stuff week after week - you have no connection with that food. You have no idea where it came from, who made it and who grew it. What we’re seeing happen with the mainstream food culture today is people want to understand where their food came from because they value their health. When you meet people who grow their own fruits and veggies, they give you a level of detail about that product that you can’t get elsewhere. They’ll tell you if a specific batch grew out really well or if it needs a few more days to ripen. That conversation that then gives you an instant connection with what you’re buying and an understanding of where it came from.
When you meet people growing their own plants, it’s always a good time hearing their stories. One time I met an old lady at the Norcross farmer’s market who was growing these heirloom tomatoes that were huge. Whenever she walked by her plants or tended them, she literally talked to them. She told me how she gave them the same love and attention she would her children. It’s fascinating.
Part two of this interview covers dinner and emerging trends in the food culture in Atlanta.