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Chef Chrysta Poulos, King + Duke

chrysta-poulos

CHRYSTA POULOS: PASTRY CHEF – KING + DUKE

HIGHLIGHTS:
The energetic and friendly Chrysta Poulos has been honing her pastry skills for 10 years in Atlanta. A graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta’s culinary program, she has worked in some of the city’s top pastry kitchens. Before joining the team of the newly minted King + Duke, Poulos earned her pedigreed chops at luminary restaurants including Woodfire Grill, 4th & Swift, Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch and Holeman & Finch Bread Company. Along the way, she’s amassed accolades and awards, including being named a Rising Stars Pastry Chef, and her signature sticky toffee pudding as the “People’s Choice.”

FULL BIO:
The energetic and friendly Chrysta Poulos has been honing her pastry skills for 10 years in Atlanta. A graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta’s culinary program, she has worked in some of the city’s top pastry kitchens. Before joining the team of the newly minted King + Duke, she earned her pedigreed chops at luminary restaurants including Woodfire Grill, 4th & Swift, Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch and Holeman & Finch Bread Company.

Poulos, who rocks a vibrant mane of shocking pink, is lauded for striking the delicate balance of taste, textures and temperatures to create an impressionable dessert experience. “Dessert is the last impression a restaurant can make on a diner,” she says. “I want to provide a great memory for people—and I want them to come back for more.” Farm fresh fruits and produce provide constant inspiration for her seasonal menus.

Poulos has an enthusiastic but controlled approach to pastries. Now that she’s at the helm of King + Duke’s pastry kitchen, which employs a Colonial American approach to cooking—all on an open fire—she’s seamlessly translating this style to her desserts. “I use the hearth and the smoker with my desserts,” she says. “For example, I smoke the cherries that top our Black Forest chocolate cake,” which is paired with house-made black pepper ice cream. She utilizes Americana traditions in most of her dishes, including roasting the strawberries, which crown the vanilla cheesecake.

Poulos’ career is a varied one. Before her 10-year reign in Atlanta as one of the top pastry chefs, the Atlanta native served in the U.S. Air Force, working on B1B bombers. After retiring from the military, Poulos started picking up shifts as a server and felt drawn to the kitchen. Poulos found she enjoyed the lifestyle, and enrolled at the Art Institute of Atlanta.

Poulos was named Atlanta Rising Star Pastry Chef in 2012 during her tenure at Woodfire Grill, but perhaps what she’s best known for is her signature sticky toffee pudding, which won Adoption Discovery’s “People’s Choice” Award in 2011. She has carried that beloved recipe from 4th & Swift to Woodfire and now is introducing it to King + Duke’s guests as Dates + Ale. But here she takes a twist, cultivating something new: The crème anglaise is crafted from Sweetwater Lowrider IPA. “I wanted to give a nod to our local brewery, and it really cuts the sweetness with a warm finish.”

A sugar aficionado, Poulos is perhaps most passionate about cacao. “I love working with chocolate,” she raves. “It has so many flavor profiles with wine.” She says she plans to work with King + Duke’s bartender to create a series of canapés to be offered with dessert wines, again looking to the sweet, happy ending for her diners.

When she’s not preparing seasonal product-driven delicacies, the pink-haired Poulos spends time traveling and taking abstract photographs of her discoveries along the way. She buzzes with fun energy and creative spark in all that she invests her time.

 

 

Atlanta, Bios, Portfolio

Chef Andrew Isabella, No. 246

No. 246

No. 246 Photo by Access Atlanta

 

CHEF DE CUISINE ANDREW ISABELLA  NO. 246

Andrew IsabellaQUICK HIGHLIGHTS:

Italian tradition courses through No. 246’s Chef de Cuisine Andrew Isabella’s veins. Growing up in an Italian family who emphasized helping people, he knew at an early age that he was destined to serve others through community outreach and drawing upon his culinary talents. In November 2012, the Floridian native arrived at Atlanta’s luminary restaurateurs and chefs Ford Fry and Drew Belline’s Italian-inspired No. 246 restaurant, which is deservedly praised for its affection for farm-fresh ingredients. Isabella’s career includes the role of sous chef at Luma on Park, in Winter Park, Fla., from 2010 to 2012, as well as the lead line cook and sous chef under Bravo’s Top Chef contestant Tracey Bloom at Table 1280 on the High Museum of Art’s campus from 2009 to 2010. Isabella, who has been wowing dining guests and employers alike with his flair for creative dishes, earned his associate of science in culinary arts from Keiser University in Tallahassee, Fla.

He now is settled happily in the heart of Buckhead with his wife Kaylen. Together, the sweethearts enjoy antiquing and traveling, though she might be in fierce competition for time with Chef Belline, who’s just introduced Chef Isabella to the exciting world of foraging. The Belline/Isabella duo makes for an impressive combo of leadership and style at No. 246, which places importance on the seasonality of locally sourced ingredients to build fresh, everyday dishes utilizing Italian cooking techniques in the heart of Decatur. “I like working with seasonal and locally inspired ingredients,” says Isabella. “I believe good food brings people together, so my passion for food also corresponds with my calling to serve others.”

FULL BIOGRAPHY:

Italian tradition courses through No. 246’s Chef de Cuisine Andrew Isabella’s veins. Growing up in an Italian family who emphasized helping people, he knew at an early age that he was destined to serve others through community outreach and drawing upon his culinary talents. “During my senior year, there was a family who had a tragedy,” recalls Isabella. “Instead of bringing them food, I asked my mom if I could go over there and cook. The feedback I got and the happiness I brought, and just being there with them during a difficult time helped me to know this is what I wanted to do with my life.”

Since his teen years, this Marianna, Florida, native has dedicated himself to the culinary craft—from paying his dues at a small family restaurant in his hometown to gaining familiarity with kitchen practices and managing a staff at a country club. The lure of kitchen life drew Isabella to enroll at Keiser University in Tallahassee, Florida, where he graduated with an associate’s degree in culinary arts.

During his education, Isabella interned at Wolfgang Puck’s Catering at the Georgia Aquarium, where he assisted in cooking for parties from 10 to 10,000. After culinary school, Isabella’s career path led him to Table 1280 on the High Museum of Art’s campus from 2009 to 2010. Under Bravo’s Top Chef contestant Tracey Bloom’s tutelage, Isabella gained a greater understanding for refined American cuisine. When she went on hiatus to film Top Chef, he was tapped for the position of sous chef, and wowed his employers and guests with his creativity and food knowledge.

Isabella returned to his home state in 2010, accepting the position of sous chef at Luma on Park, a Concentrics concept owned by NASCAR CEO and Chairman of the Board Brian France, and remained until the fall of 2012. “We worked with a lot of local farms, changing our menu every day,” says Isabella. “I learned a lot about fish butchering during my time there.” Luma’s modern American style served Isabella well, enabling him to master sous vide like nobody’s business. After his promotion from sous chef to management, Isabella began to yearn for Atlanta. Luckily, Luma’s executive chef Brandon McGlamery is close friends with Drew Belline, co-owner of No. 246, and he happily connected the two. “I fell in love with No. 246,” says Isabella, “and Drew took me right in.”

In November 2012, the Florida native became the chef de cuisine at Atlanta’s luminary restaurateurs and chefs Ford Fry and Drew Belline’s Italian-inspired No. 246 restaurant, which is deservedly praised for its affection for farm-fresh ingredients. Isabella is now is settled happily in the heart of Buckhead with his new wife Kaylen (the newlyweds tied the knot in November 2011). Together, the sweethearts enjoy antiquing and traveling, though she might be in fierce competition for time with Chef Belline, who’s just introduced Chef Isabella to the exciting world of foraging.

The Belline/Isabella duo makes for an impressive combo of leadership and style at No. 246, which places importance on the seasonality of locally sourced ingredients to build fresh, everyday dishes utilizing Italian cooking techniques in the heart of Decatur. “I like working with seasonal and locally inspired ingredients,” says Isabella. “I believe good food brings people together, so my passion for food also corresponds with my calling to serve others.”

During his time at No. 246, Isabella’s feeling most appreciative of the simplicity in approach. “It’s great letting the ingredients speak for themselves,” he says. “Coming from Luma, where there was so much put into every dish, it was very complex. At No. 246, we let the produce talk.”

No. 246 is hailed for its veneration for local produce and meaningful relationships developed with local farmers. “It’s amazing,” says Isabella of the fresh produce. “The farmers cut it and bring it in dripping wet, still covered in dirt. It means a lot. It’s a good way to see it.”

An integral figure in the design and development of the oft-changed menu, Isabella’s philosophy is represented in every dish. It’s refined farm-to-table food rooted in Italian techniques—served at lunchtime and evening to ravenous Decaturites and Atlantans alike.

 

 

Atlanta, Bios, Portfolio, writing

Chef E.J. Hodgkinson, JCT. Kitchen and Bar

Chef-EJ-Hodgkinson-Atlanta-food

E.J. HODGKINSON: EXECUTIVE CHEF – JCT. KITCHEN AND BAR

QUICK HIGHLIGHTS:

Before becoming the Executive Chef at JCT. Kitchen and Bar in January 2013, E.J. Hodgkinson crisscrossed the country, polishing his culinary chops at luxury resorts, cafés and the Texas Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu. Hodgkinson’s comfort in the kitchen came easy, as he watched his grandmother tend to her garden, turning fresh, local ingredients into fulfilling and nourishing meals at the family dinner table. The 29-year-old California native is in an unabashed love affair with the South now, and aims to rocket JCT. Kitchen to the national acclaim it deserves.

FULL BIOGRAPHY:

Executive Chef E.J. Hodgkinson has been immersed in a vibrant culinary culture for half of his life. The Placerville, California, native began cooking professionally at the ripe age of 14 in a neighborhood coffee shop. It was during this chef-driven childhood that Hodgkinson developed his insatiable appreciation for locally sourced ingredients, observing his grandmother canning the tomatoes grown in her lush California garden. “My grandmother taught me the art of preservation and the concept of farm-to-table long before it was cool or a cliché,” says the family-oriented chef who could cook an egg at the tender age of 6. “I fell into cooking comfortably.”

Once he finished high school, the adventurous spirit headed to Idaho, polishing his gourmet chef skills at the posh Sun Valley Resort, a luxury travel destination teeming with celebrities seeking refuge and anonymity. Chef Hodgkinson continued with his training in Ashland, Oregon, where he kept beat to a high-paced rhythm at a cozy restaurant which caters to the Shakespeare festival that attracts 1.8 million people annually.

At only 21-years-old, Hodgkinson was named executive chef at Tomei’s, a hip restaurant in his historic hometown, which is famous from the Gold Rush days. He says that “to take the next step I had to take a step back.” So he enrolled in Texas Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, Texas. Graduation landed him the sous chef position at for 34th St. Café, where fresh, locally sourced food was the focus.

Chef Hodgkinson’s love affair with the South blossomed when he moved to Atlanta with his girlfriend, who wanted to be closer to her family. He sought out chef positions with premium restaurants, and caught the attention of Bravo’s Top Chef luminary Kevin Gillespie, who was at the helm of Woodfire Grill’s kitchen at the time.

Hodgkinson earned multiple promotions from line cook to sous chef to chef de cuisine in his 4-and-a-half years at Woodfire Grill. “Kevin played an integral role in my falling in love with Southern cuisine,” says Hodgkinson, who confesses he used to think grits played second fiddle to polenta. “I quickly learned it was the other way around,” he says, adding that “Southern cuisine is the richest and most fulfilling in America because of the history and heritage behind it.” Perhaps what has made the deepest imprint on the chef’s heart is how the Southern family values its meals around the table, which reminds him of his own family back in California. “Sitting down with your family every night and eating dinner together is how I grew up, but it’s not the norm in California. It seems to be the norm in the South, and it’s why I fell in love with it.”

The chef’s expansive knowledge of sourcing the freshest ingredients and layering their flavors into perfection led to a call from Chef Ford Fry in the fall of 2012, inviting him to become part of the JCT. Kitchen family. As executive chef of the lauded dining destination known for its down-home gourmet style, Hodgkinson revels in employing the proper, fundamental techniques to bring out the best of each ingredient and letting each component speak for itself. “Something gets lost in translation when you do too much to it,” he says.

Chef Hodgkinson easily became a proud ambassador for Chef Fry’s West Midtown restaurant. “What I love about JCT is the friendly, comfortable experience offered from start to finish. I like people to feel like they’ve come into my home and had an amazing meal, accompanied by great, not-too-intrusive service and incredible drinks.”

The ambitious chef has set his sights on countrywide acclaim for JCT. Kitchen. His goal is elevating the level of cuisine without becoming pretentious, continuing to make it a fun place at which to dine and experience food. “My aim is to execute a very high level of food in a format which people can enjoy and still keep it approachable,” he says, noting that the Southern focus situated in comfortable yet refined environs is what’s kept it such high regard with Atlanta’s foodie community. “There’s a reason it’s been here for seven years. I aim to just make it make it better. I would like to take JCT to the national realm of recognition. Ford knows I’ve always had my foot on the gas.”

 

Want a professional biography like this one? Contact Kirsten Ott at ko@kirstenott.co.