Frank Stitt’s Southern Table – Recipes and Gracious Traditions From Highland Bar and Grill
by Frank Stitt, foreword by Pat Conroy
Frank Stitt is a celebrity chef. But not the kind that America and the world knows about because he judges Top Chef, or competes on Iron Chef, or has a restaurant in Vegas. He’s John Besh before Besh made the move to grasp for the brass ring – a chef beloved in his hometown, celebrated in his part of the country as a shining representative of his cuisine, and a successful restaurateur/chef.
His restaurants, Highland Bar and Grill, Chef Fonfon and Bottega in Birmingham have been lauded by guests and critics as sterling examples of what a chef can do with fresh, seasonal ingredients. He has consulted with restaurants throughout the South and has trained an army of chefs, sous-chefs and line cooks that have made their own impact in the cooking tradition of the respect for seasonality and region. They carry his message to kitchens across the South, and elsewhere. Not surprisingly, he’s also a supporter of the Slow Food movement creeping its way across the nation.
Stitt’s no johnny-come-lately. His real start was in the 70s, working for free in Alice Water’s Chez Panisse where he gained the confidence to approach the famous food writer Richard Olney, the editor of the famous Time-Life Good Cook series, who agreed to meet him in London after Waters gave Olney a letter of introduction. He talked his way into being Olney’s personal assistant for part of the year at his home in France, where he gained an appreciation for the French love of seasonality, locale and…well, a life well lived. He also spent some time that year in France with Steven Spurrier, the famous wine expert, who helped him hone a sense of the harmony of wine and food. And he makes appropriate wine and food pairings throughout the book
In 1982, he opened Highland Bar and Grill and hasn’t stopped since.
This book is his personal narrative and a celebration of freshness, family tradition and a sense of place. It puts the spotlight on the people who help him create great dining experiences and is loaded with the principles that he finds important when creating and presenting a dish or a meal. The recipes are logically andpassionately presented, both in text and photo. There are discussions of the purveyors that make it possible for Stitt to procure the freshest ingredients and it’s not often that a cookbook addresses the very relationship between a chef and his or her vendors.
A substantial volume, if this book doesn’t set your culinary passions alight, then nothing well.
And pray that he never shows up on Iron Chef.
From www.southernaccents.com, this Frank Stitt summertime dish – Shrimp Salad Portofino, a dish not in the cookbook:
Photo credit: Monica Buck