A team player with a passion for food and the stuff that makes life worth living, Chef Ford Fry spends his days curating unique dining experiences. His ten restaurants, nine of which are in and around Atlanta, each have a specific spin. From an oyster bar, to a tex-mex hybrid, to classic Mediterranean style cooking, Fry has his hand in everything. His love for food is lifelong. But, his passion seems to lie with creating these unique foodscapes. He does it well, too. He’s received a bevy of awards from publications like Garden & Gun, Bob Appétit and the Washington Post. Fry will be heading to Columbus to serve as the celebrity chef in the Aflac Chef’s Tent and this year’s Synovus Toast of the Town. Fry sat down with SVM to discuss his obsession with food and what it really takes to be a successful restaurateur.
Of all the restaurants you own throughout the south, which most represents the type of food you cook in your kitchen at home?
None of them, really-ha! But, if I had to choose, it would be a blend of BettleCat and King + Duke. I try to eat light, bright food at home, but I like to add elements from the wood grill or smoker.
Without giving too much away, as this year’s Synovus Toast of the Town celebrity chef, what delicious bites do you have in store for the guests of the Aflac Chef’s Tent?
Wood cooking is always a must for me, so you can definitely expect bug flavors matched with the experience of cooking over a live fire.
What’s your guilty pleasure food?
I love chicken-fried steak or chicken-fried chicken—heavy, crispy crust with smokey, peppery cream gravy. And, it’s got to be big. I mean hanging off the plate big.
Your ten restaurants are award-winning. Which award has meant the most to you as a chef?
The Optimist making it on the Bon Appétit “Hot 10” list was a huge honor for me. Almost equal to that is when The Optimist was voted Esquire’s number one restaurant of the year.
Building a catalog of restaurants requires a lot of blood, sweat and tears. What pushes you to keep expanding from one market to the next?
I love creating restaurants and watching the lives of people I work with change through the growth and opportunity. Why other markets? There comes a point where we have fully saturated one; other markets allow us to keep growing.
What’s the secret to any great meal?
Less is more! The secrete is selecting three components to create something amazing versus six components that amount to “just okay.” Then, it’s about the shared experience you create with friends or family.
If you look at the different types of restaurants you own—seafood, tex-mex, homecooked Southern, Italian, the list goes on—it might seem as though none of them are owned by the same man. What string connects all these different ventures that makes them totally you?
All of them use locally sourced ingredients but fund inspiration from near and far. For example, at no.246, we take what our farmers and fisherman have at the moments and cook it with the modesty and simplicity inspired by Italy. What’s ironic about the connecting string is that it’s not about me. My passion is serving others, so that also means serving our chefs. I set the tone. Then, I pass the ball for them to run with it.
What are you currently craving?
That would have to be a double Texas Star Margarita from Superica! Fresh grapefruit, hibiscus flavored tequila, St. Germaine and lime.