The Interview: Chef Kevin Gillespie
If you’ve heard of Kevin Gillespie, it’s probably because of his stellar performance on Top Chef: Las Vegas, where he won the most Quickfire and Elimination challenges in the history of the show, was voted "fan favorite," and was in the final three contenders. But he also happens to run one of Atlanta’s hottest restaurants, Gunshow, which opened in May and has one of the most unique concepts you’ll ever see: dishes are prepared and brought out into the dining room, and guests can choose from them, sort of like dim sum. He also released his first cookbook, Fire in My Belly, last year, which was named a 2013 James Beard Award finalist in the
Cookbooks: American Cooking category.
We spoke with Gillespie about his past, likes and dislikes, and his experience on FX’s Archer.
What was your first restaurant industry job?
It was at the Chicken Coop in Locust Grove, Ga. We made only wings, tenders, and fries. I was 15 years old and seriously, it was the best job I've ever had!
When you first walk into a restaurant, what do you look for as signs that it's well-run, will be a good experience, etc.?
I always think having someone greet you instantly is a must. I also don't like to see the manager dealing with the staff out in the open. It seems like things aren't going well if she or he has to do that.
Is there anything you absolutely hate cooking?
I hate to cook she crab soup because when I worked for the Ritz-Carlton I had to make 12 gallons of it a day for years.
If one chef from history could prepare one dish for you, what would it be?
I would love for Escoffier to make me peach Melba and explain it to me. I just don't get it.
The service style at Gunshow is certainly unique. Can you explain it, and your inspiration for it?
I just wanted a place where I could cook good food and people could enjoy it as if they were dining in my home.
What do you consider to be your biggest success as a chef?
I feel most successful about how well I have done retaining loyal employees. Many sous chefs and cooks have been with me for a long time, moving with me. And they have continued to grow and become better during this time.
What do you consider to be your biggest failure as a chef?
I am notorious for leaving a mess behind. I work really clean while I'm prepping but then at the last stage I leave all the remnants behind. I tend to lose kitchen tools a lot — not forever but for hours and sometimes days.
What was your experience on Archer like?
Those guys were cool as sh*t. It was awesome. If you're gonna be in cartoons you can't take yourself too seriously. The first thing they said to me was, "I don't know if you're willing to say some of this."
What is the most transcendental dining experience you've ever had?
It was very recently at Eleven Madison Park. They completely restored my faith in fine dining.
Are there any foods you will never eat?
I'll try everything once. There are many things I'll never eat again!
Is there a story that, in your opinion, sums up how interesting the restaurant industry can be?
I was working at a classy establishment and a guest came in with an entourage and security. She had clear connections to a royal family. I and one other chef were selected to prepare and serve the food. There was a lot of formality. They were very nice people. Just formal. As soon as the meal was over we were all ushered out. A few minutes later the guest of honor came back without her entourage and walked into the kitchen to say thanks. One of the chefs suggested she do a shot with us and she ended up getting sh*t-faced drunk with us on Ricard, the only thing we had in the kitchen!