Chef Jamie Allred – North Georgia’s Most Influential Chef

Chef Jamie Allred – North Georgia’s  Most Influential Chef:   It bears saying that right here in our corner of the North Georgia Mountains that Jamie Allred is our most influential chef.  He is now embarking in his newest adventure with partner Jack Nolan “Fortify Kitchen & Bar” in Clayton, Georgia.

Chef Jamie Allred – North Georgia’s  Most Influential Chef

We are living in a golden age of food – and the artisans that prepare our foods are enjoying celebrity for their efforts.  I’m not just achef, I am also a foodie. I pay homage to the history of food, I revel in its culture and I marvel at the craftsmanship.

When Gayle and I travel we do so with fork and knife in hand and we engage all of our senses. What we seek in dining is authenticity. Fortunately, we have an up-and-coming chef in our area that is, dare we say it, turning our region into a “culinary destination.”  It bears saying that right here in our corner of the North Georgia Mountains that Jamie Allred is our most influential chef.  He is now embarking in his newest adventure with partner Jack Nolan “Fortify Kitchen & Bar” in Clayton, Georgia.

I view this venture as an important milestone. I saw this as I grew up in California. I observed the growth of California wineries during the 1970’s, but what really contributed to the development of culinary and wine tourism was the location of fine dining venues in Napa and Sonoma Valleys.  Only after John Ash & Company, The French Laundry, Auberge du Soleil and others built fabulous restaurants (and lodging) and they developed loyal followings – did tourism explode.   “Fortify Kitchen & Bar” will be an important catalyst for our region.

Chef Allred, an adherent of “farm to table cooking,” seeks to use only the best of fresh and local products to prepare his meals. His belief is that supporting local farms helps ensure sustainability in the region, and nurtures healthy food sources for the future.  So they named the new restaurant Fortify Kitchen & Bar. Merriam-Webster defines Fortify:   to give physical strength, courage, or endurance. Such as Fortified by a hearty meal.

I talked to Chef Allred and he understands that diners are savvier than ever in knowing whether restaurants source from the back of a food distribution truck or whether they’re really sourcing from local producers. Put simply: People are much more interested in understanding where their food comes from than ever before. Chef Allred told me at “Fortify” his menus will be based on seasonal shifts in our local gardens and they will change as often as the weather. Our meats will come mostly from pasture-raised animals and are hormone and antibiotic free.  Our dinners will offer a dialogue where the farmers, chefs and diner-neighbors can have a meaningful exchange.

Chef Allred understood that he had a passion for cooking as a youth. He said his mother was a home economics teacher and she would bring projects home. The young Jamie and his Mom would make muffins together as the class did, and when the class made cookies, he and his Mom made cookies. Also, cooking was his personal form of expression and became an outlet for his creativity.  In addition, as a youth he worked on a farm shelling beans, shucking corn and hoeing rows. It all seemed to connect.

Even today, next to diner-satisfaction, the creative aspect of cooking remains his biggest thrill. He is constantly seeking new ingredients, looking for a new food trend that may improve flavor profiles, or perhaps some new baking process. There is always something to learn.

As a product oriented chef he values what the small farmer is willing to produce to differentiate her-self from the grocery store.  They will grow heirloom varieties, the rare, quirky and colorful vegetables we would never find unless we grew them ourselves.  From local farmers he can source red dragon carrots, salsify, quince, persimmons, mangelwurzel, broccoli romensco, purple cauliflower, red cucumbers and much more. These are tasty, beautiful and made for the farm to table chef.

I have enjoyed working side-by-side with Chef Allred at the Farm to Table Dinners at nearby Chattooga Belle Farm each fall, where 150 dinners are served on white table cloths in the orchard. He is a funny and likable person. He told me one time he was working at a famous resort and his job was to poach eggs for their lavish brunch. Late in the morning his poaching bath was pretty well covered with left over egg whites, so he took a slotted spoon and swirled out the messy egg whites. With great flourish he arced the spoon over his head, as eyes turned his way he took perfect aim at a nearby trash can. As his arm reached the apogee he jerked it to a stop releasing the egg-whites into the trash – but they landed on the face of a passing waitress. They stuck.  The executive chef looked at Chef Allred and said with a smile “Looks like you both have egg on your face this morning.” Everyone within view started to laugh and so did Chef Allred.

When time permits Chef Allred hopes that he and new wife Hillary can journey to Tuscany. He said what distinguishes Tuscan food since the time of the Etruscans has been its noble simplicity.  Country cooking attests to the seasonal goodness of garden produce and the perennial splendor of green-gold extra virgin olive oil. Tuscans are fanatical about freshness. They use fava beans, artichokes and asparagus in the spring; tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini in the summer; all sorts of greens and mushrooms (especially plump porcini) in the fall; cabbages and chard in the winter. Herbs, above all rosemary, basil and sage, are good year-round, as are the fresh or dried white cannellini beans. Okay Jamie, my bags are packed and I’m ready to go, the Taxi’s waiting he’s outside the door  . . . excuse me, I digress.

Chef Allred is also a person who gives back to his community. His food can be eaten and his efforts can be enjoyed at many of our charitable events. You will also see him cooking local products at Simply Home Grown Famers’ Market. He works actively with Georgia Organics to help promote Farm to School initiatives throughout the region.

Chef Allred says that he and Hillary are living their dream in the North Georgia Mountains. 15 years ago he never expected that his peers would be naming him as one of the “Best Chefs America 2013 and 2014,” or that he would be opening his very own chef-owned chef-operated restaurant with partner Jack Nolan.   What’s next, maybe a distant dream of a James Beard Award?  Having known Chef Allred for several years, having enjoyed his food, seen him thrill at his farmers’ efforts and having worked beside him I would say his trajectory looks perfect.

In conclusion, Chef Allred said that it is hope that a few of his diners who experience our local foods and sustainable practices will want to make their own connection to time, season and place and will be encouraged to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and diet.  Bravo Chef Allred!

By Chef/Author David Darugh, Beechwood Inn – Georgia’s Premier Wine Country Inn; www.beechwodinn.ws; (706) 782-5485

Chef Jamie Allred – North Georgia’s  Most Influential Chef

Chef Jamie Allred – the Most Influential Chef in the North Georgia Mountains