Atlanta Food and Wine Festival - Part 1: Chef Duane Nutter and Chef Todd Richards

At the Food and Wine Festival 2011, there were so many fun and educational food events, it's impossible to summarize the experience in one post. I will definitely be back next year! This week, I will post a three part series about my adventures at the festival. Bloggers sometimes take a little while to get their reports up, but this was an educational BBQ event relevant at any time of year, a grilling presentation by two illustrious Atlanta chefs.

When I arrived at the beautiful, modern Loews Hotel, I was very excited to see crowds of my fellow foodies navigating the festival, making new acquaintances, and having lots of fun in general. It was time for programs presented by chefs and culinary experts, and I chose to join the group outside on the Terrace to see the "Grilling Demo: Chef's Secrets to Perfect Grilling" presented by Duane Nutter and Todd Richards.

Chef Duane Nutter is the Chef/Owner of One Flew South and Rolling Bones.
"His simple yet intricate dishes have led to his acknowledgement as one of Atlanta's most innovative chefs." Chef Nutter is also a stand-up comedian and competed on Iron Chef. His partner in the demo, Chef Todd Richards, is the Chef of the Cafe at the The Ritz Carlton in Buckhead where I had my wedding luncheon. Chef Richards was on Iron Chef America and has won numerous accolades. A couple of assistants were there from the Ritz Carlton as well.

The grilling presentation was great. The chefs kept the humor level high the whole time, informing us that in their kitchen, "Fat" is not a bad word, but is actually called "The Goodness." They said that you should keep your seasonings simple, and not create a "Hodge Modge Collage" of flavors - 3 flavors maximum usually. Often, the only seasoning a great cut of meat needs is salt and pepper. Salt is most important.

We also passed around a small plate of fennel to smell (I have smelled/tasted most seasonings since Dan had to know each one at culinary school), and Chef Nutter joked that we shouldn't snort a bump of his fennel. They made a prawn dish with mint apple salad, and left a bit of shell on the prawns' tails. Prawns don't take long to grill of course. They also discussed many other grilled meats.

The chefs said that Salmon is the #1 fish in Atlanta, followed by Tilapia, which holds up well to marinade, but doesn't have much nutrition. Sea Bass is also popular, but not good for grilling because it falls apart. An audience member asked how to tell if fish is done, and the chefs said that you can check for white albumen, a protein that comes out of the fish.

Steaks are the best thing to grill because of the high fat content - also lamb. It's good to sear steaks because it breaks down the connective tissues and you get a flavorful crust. Chefs often sear meat in the oven, not in the pan because it's easy to get an even sear.

If you want to have your steak blue (very rare) Nutter recommends grass-fed beef. He also said that the fresher you can get the meat, the better, preferably as soon as the animal is gone. The Chefs joked that they do not care for orders for "medium plus" steaks. There is rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well, and well-done. Chefs think "medium plus" is just silly, and I definitely think that diners should educate themselves on meat temperatures. Often diners order their steaks medium, and send it back because it's not done enough, when actually the chef cooked it perfectly.

Other points - you can use a wet or dry marinade, and don't use pure EVOO on grilling because it's a waste. I asked how they choose their meat cuts. They said that chefs in restaurants choose the meats on the menu in large part based on what is available and cost-effective. Chefs have to look out for their bottom line. They often buy large cuts to butcher, and they are responsible for the whole thing. The Chefs said that you can do the test for meat doneness according to different places on your face. That is something for home cooks, as chefs always know when meat is done. The presentation was done using Viking grills. It was a lovely location, and I learned a lot from these funny and accomplished chefs.

Visit their websites here:

Chef Duane Nutter's One Flew South

and Chef Todd Richards' Cafe at the Ritz Carlton in Buckhead

Coming Up - Part Two: Old Rip Van Winkle Bourbon Tasting

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