On a chilly Friday evening with my hands stuffed in my pockets, I waited patiently to meet the man who I consider one of the greatest contributors to Atlanta’s culinary scene in the past decade, Ford Fry. Fry is the owner of an impressive portfolio of Atlanta’s best restaurants to include: JCT Kitchen, No. 246, The Optimist, King + Duke and St. Cecilla. Both the Optimist and King + Duke have been listed among Esquire Magazine’s “Best New” with the Optimist being named as the 2012 Best New Restaurant in the country. Food and Wine Magazine, Jezebel, and others have praised his establishments for being the new standard of culinary excellence. With such an extraordinary list of accomplishments, I wasn’t sure what to expect from our meeting: would he be too busy to engage with me? Would he be exhausted from all the fanfare and media requests? Well, interviewing Ford Fry was like talking to an old friend. His approachable personality helped me understand why his restaurants are so successful. I asked him why he chose Atlanta as the home to so many of his restaurants. According to Fry, he moved to Atlanta while working for Eatzi’s Market and Bakery and fell in love with the City. The Texas native said that after the birth of his first child he started to see Atlanta as “home” long-term.
According to Fry, after making the decision to remain in Atlanta, it only made sense to pay homage to southern food and JCT Kitchen was born. He admits that he sees southern food beyond just fried chicken and he expresses that belief through the seafood infused menu served at the Optimist. With Gulf shrimp and oysters, southern food takes many forms that all begin with amazing flavors and a feeling of togetherness.
Fry has tackled many cuisines and done so seamlessly: southern, Italian, and now a Tex-Mex restaurant slated to open soon. He also shared with me that he has set his sights on opening restaurants in his home state of Texas. He is currently considering three sites and Houston and Austin are high on the list.
I enjoyed speaking with Ford almost as much as I enjoy dining at his restaurants! Ford Fry is definitely one to watch.
Have you dined at one of Ford’s restaurants? Tell me about your experience.