We talk to the chef currently helming the kitchens at two Georgia restaurants.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Chef Woody Back began his restaurant career in the dining room of a pizzeria. He transferred into the kitchen and never looked back, eventually earning a culinary degree at Johnson & Wales University.
His resume includes stints at Havana, Mahi Mahs, Coastal Grill and, in Atlanta, Ga., Tom Collicco’s Craft and Chef Linton Hopkins’ Holeman and Finch and Restaurant Eugene. He joined Table & Main in Roswell, Ga., as executive sous chef and was named executive chef in December 2015. He’s currently partnering with Table & Main’s owner, Ryan Pernice, to open Coalition Food & Beverage in Alpharetta, Ga.
We recently chatted with him to learn more.
How did you get started in the restaurant industry?
I started working in a restaurant as a server when I was going to school. I loved it. My first restaurant job was at Uno Pizzeria, a Chicago-style deep dish chain place. I really liked it and saw what they were doing in the back of the house cooking and I wanted to be back there. So I started working in the back of the house and really liked it, then went to culinary school.
When did you first know you were hooked on cooking food?
I always really liked cooking, I cooked for my friends and parents quite a bit. It came natural to me. When I saw the camaraderie in the back of the house at Uno’s I really wanted to be a part of that.
What are some of your earliest food memories?
I always remember my grandma making soup beans or pinto beans for me, cooked with ham hock and green onions. I’d beg her to make those for me. I grew up in Syracuse, New York, but always had southern roots of Kentucky cooking. My mom made fried chicken, collard greens and stuff like that.
Do you have a signature dish?
I guess fried chicken right now, as much as we sell at Table & Main.
What’s going on with the new restaurant?
It’s so exciting right now. Ryan and I are opening the new restaurant together, so I’m making the transition from chef to restaurant owner. It’s a big transition for me, bigger than from cook to chef. It’s not just about food, it’s thinking about paperwork and stuff like that. Being a restaurant owner will be an even bigger step than becoming a chef.
But you’ll still cook, right?
I’m Executive Chef at Table & Main and will be Executive Chef and Partner at Coalition Food & Beverage.
– Photo courtesy Table & Main