` Olive Oil Joins Locavore Movement in American South

Food & Cooking

Olive Oil Joins Locavore Movement in American South

May. 14, 2012
By Lara Camozzo

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Fresh pro­duce picked from a gar­den and plated by the chef who grew it is no longer a con­cept reserved for the high­est end restau­rants of Cal­i­for­nia, Spain, or France. The farm to table move­ment has swept the South faster than a wild fire, and if newest James Beard Award-win­ning Best Chef of the South­east Hugh Ache­son has any­thing to say about it, this wild fire won’t be burn­ing out any time soon.

The chef and part­ner of Five and Ten and The National in Athens, Geor­gia, as well as Atlanta based restau­rant, Empire State South, Ache­son has been buy­ing and cook­ing local for as long as he can remem­ber. I grew up in French kitchens in Canada — you knew where the lamb came from a guy down the street and the cheeses were made by that guy’s wife. We knew our peo­ple, that was just how our high end restau­rants worked.”

Clearly, this type of think­ing is work­ing for him in the South as well. The food cul­ture of the South is so vibrant right now. There’s an abun­dance of agrar­i­an­ism around us,” said Ache­son dur­ing a cook­ing demo held recently at the Dirt Fair in Charleston, South Car­olina. We’re see­ing a big push towards local­iza­tion of foods — things that we always thought had to be pro­duced so far away are being pro­duced in our own back­yard.”

Acheson’s aim is to con­vince us all to break our depen­dence on con­ve­nient food items. It’s nice to know that my milk and cream come from Madi­son, Geor­gia and my eggs come from a woman named Hope. Lit­tle steps towards buy­ing this way can change things ever so slowly.”

The same goes for olive oil, I’ve always used a lot of olive oil in my cook­ing, but it’s very beau­ti­ful that we can now use it from our local sphere.” At his restau­rants, Hugh uses olive oils from Chile, Texas and Geor­gia, specif­i­cally Lake­land, Geor­gia where the cli­mate is just right for Geor­gia Olive Farms to pro­duce mainly Arbe­quina olive oil.

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You should have two dif­fer­ent types of olive oil in your reper­toire — one that you really cook with, and one that you can use in salad dress­ings and for fin­ish­ing dishes,” insists Ache­son. I don’t want you to die with­out hav­ing eaten well, so find good stuff and invest in it — it’s going to bring you equal enjoy­ment.”

Hugh Acheson’s cook­book, A New Turn in the South,” cel­e­brates the tra­di­tion of South­ern food — the land, the his­tory, the end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties. He is the lat­est addi­tion as judge on Top Chef,” and most recently the James Beard Award Win­ning Best Chef of the South­east 2012.

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