Chef Kevin Gillespie

One of Atlanta’s favorite celebrity chefs talks about his new restaurant, Georgia agriculture, cooking meat and how this interview gets him in a partying mood.


By Hope S. Philbrick

Before being crowned as ‘Fan Favorite’ on Bravo’s Top Chef: Las Vegas (Season 6), Chef Kevin Gillespie was winning over taste buds in Atlanta.

The Atlanta native first learned to cook from his grandmother and PBS cooking shows. Offered a scholarship to attend MIT, he opted for culinary school instead. After graduating with honors from Art Institute of Atlanta, he worked at Atlanta Grill at The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta, TWO Urban Licks, and Woodfire Grill.

With the opening of his highly anticipated new restaurant Gunshow, which is inspired by Brazilian churrascaria-style dining and Chinese dim sum, Gillespie pushes creative boundaries. I recently talked with him by phone.

At Gunshow each chef presents dishes to guests. Does that lead to pressure and competition between the chefs?
I’m certainly competitive, but in reality if someone was not doing well it’s the fault of the entire team not a single person. We look at it as a team effort. What we all get really excited about is when everybody is successful.

Press materials state that the goal of the service approach at Gunshow “emphasizes the fun, casual and family gathering type of experience.” So is it communal seating?
It is, sort of. It’s different and was stylistically designed so that if you want to pretend you’re sitting by yourself you can, it’s up to you. I can’t explain it—you have to see it to understand what I mean.

Will any dishes that you were known for at Woodfire Grill make it onto the menu at Gunshow?
There’s only one dish that I brought over: the pork skin risotto—which is really a farrisotto since it’s made with farro. I made it at Woodfire and liked it so much I brought it over here. It’s heavy for summer so it’s not on the menu now, but we’ll see it come back in the fall.

You’re known for cooking meat. For that, do you prefer low and slow, hot and fast, or some combination of those?
Different cuts of meat require different approaches. The protein makeup of one animal to another is slightly different, so there is no one universal approach.

Last year you served as one of the four inaugural Georgia Grown Executive Chefs. Did you learn anything that you didn’t already know about Georgia agriculture?
The thing I picked up on more than anything, and is something that I rediscovered, is the pride of Georgia farmers. They are proud of their products and the fact that Georgia grows the finest onions, peaches and peanuts (and other crops) you can buy. I appreciate that pride and their dedication to what they do.

What are your favorite Georgia ingredients?
My single favorite Georgia ingredient from a cooking standpoint is the Vidalia onion. I’m hard pressed to use other onions because the subtle sweetness of Vidalia onions is so beautiful, it works in everything for me. From an eating standpoint I still swear that Georgia peaches are the best ones. I’ll believe that ‘til the day I die.

You’ve been honored with numerous culinary awards, but whose opinion about your cooking matters most?
It’s the people who dine in my restaurant. Before all the accolades, before the books and TV, I—like any other chef—lived and died by the people who came into the restaurant. I take that very seriously. My responsibility before anything else is to make food people can enjoy and they can find satisfying. I’m still very concerned of the people who come into my restaurant day in and day out. Magazine articles and accolades are wonderful and can make you feel good about yourself but nothing replaces watching someone eat your food and smile. I put more stock in that than anything.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Celebrating the anniversary of you asking me this question. Honestly, I have no idea. My hope is to have a couple more restaurants open—I feel like I’m a three to four restaurant type of guy. And I hope to have another couple of books with my name attached to them by that point in time. My goals are focused on doing the best I can do and creating something special.

Author’s Note: I also interviewed Chef Kevin Gillespie about his new venture Gunshow for the August 2013 issue of Where Atlanta magazine.

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HopeP_144Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. She’s reviewed restaurants for several Atlanta-based newspapers and magazines for more than 10 years. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.

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