The James Beard Awards are often referred to as the food world’s version of the Oscars.
That puts Buckhead restaurateur Linton Hopkins, owner of Buckhead's and Public House, in a special category among chefs.
Hopkins is nominated for the category of Best Chef in the Southeast for his work at Restaurant Eugene. His latest nomination, for the 2012 award, makes him a five-time nominee for the culinary honor.
“I like that I’m still getting nominated and still relevant in my category of top chef in the region,” Hopkins told Patch during an interview Tuesday.
Hopkins said he thinks he has been nominated so many times because his work goes beyond simply preparing good food. He counts many of the other nominees as friends and said that, like them, he is striving to define his region of the country through the food he prepares. He refers to his work as telling “the story of American cuisine.”
“These are people who are defining what it is to think about food,” Hopkins said.
His defining dish at the moment is a salad that changes daily. But not the basic lettuce with sauce that most people think of as salad. “It’s a salad that tells a story of where we are,” he says, including wild greens, roots, and pickled items from the previous season. He has a variation of this dish on his vegetable tasting menu that goes by the simple name Roots and Grains.
Restaurant Eugene’s menu and website list the names of farms that supply the meat and produce served there, and he has been a supporter of the Peachtree Road Farmers Market.
Hopkins, who grew up in Brookwood Hills and comes from a family that has been in Buckhead for four generations, also believes in giving back to the community. He and his wife, Gina, started a nutrition program and community garden at . "You can have a big impact with small little things," he said of that effort.
Hopkins will attend the black tie awards dinner in New York on Monday evening and said he’s excited about the opportunity to meet his culinary heroes, including people like Alain Ducasse.
Of course, he’d like to win, but Hopkins says he’s not sure that it would be a bad thing to get nominated a fifth time and not win. Being nominated so many times “means you’re part of the conversation, and that’s good.”
The other nominees for Best Chef in the Southeast are:
- Hugh Acheson, Five and Ten, Athens, GA
- Craig Deihl, Cypress, Charleston, SC
- Edward Lee, 610 Magnolia, Louisville
- Joseph Lenn, The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
Have you eaten at Restaurant Eugene? Do you have a favorite dish there? Tell us in the comments area below.