Following up an event at The Daily Meal’s kitchen on Thursday, May 14th, Atlanta chef EJ Hodgkinson, an alum of Ford Fry’s JCT Kitchen and newly minted executive chef at the award-winning King + Duke in Buckhead, brought a team of Atlanta based chefs to the James Beard House on Friday, May 15th to give a new-school take on Georgia farm-to-table cuisine.
The menu offered the highest quality seasonal Southern ingredients, from fresh North Carolina shrimp to Georgia-based trout and chicken, all of which highlighting EJ’s growing reputation as a farm-to-table chef who believes the best food is, “straightforward, simple, and prepared well.”
EJ and his chefs served the guests of the James Beard House in an intimate atmosphere, showcasing the best Georgia had to offer. Appetizers included a savory Georgia tomato tart over coal roasted Vidalia onions and a flaky puff pastry, as well as roasted quail with sourwood honey and grilled shrimp with spicy Sapelo Island clam butter.
Wendi Royal of the James Beard Foundation gave opening remarks at the sit-down meal, before giving way to pickled smoked trout over traditional Georgia green beans and black eye peas with an excellent crunch.
One of the highlights of the night was the Springer Mountain Farms chicken torchon, combining sweet hints of rosemary with a salty bacon-wrapped exterior and served over summer roasted vegetables for a nice finish. Springer Mountain Farms originally sought EJ out for his commitment to sourcing local products and to highlight the natural flavors of premium meats, and his attention to detail shone through in the final product.
“You’re always looking for the best quality product, and what impressed me with Springer Mountain was that they sought me out—saying, ‘We want to help you do what you do, here’s our awesome chicken to get you there.’”
EJ followed with an impressively sweet root-beer braised rabbit with crisp dumplings, followed by a “best part of the ribeye” wellington with smoked mushrooms and bone marrow potatoes. A deconstructed key lime pie with blueberry and basil finished off what was an impressive first go around for the young Atlanta chef, who was without his legendary 24 foot hearth at King+Duke but still captured the coal-roasted flavor nicely in his food.
EJ had cooked in the legendary space twice before as part of Ford Fry’s staff, but never with his own menu. Yet while enjoying his moment in the spotlight, EJ took time to give some advice and pointers to the interns assisting with meal prep.
“One thing I love to do is teach—to get people to understand the food and most importantly, to help them develop,” he said.