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by Chef Linton Hopkins

I love cooking. I enjoy drawing from a  lifetime of cooking and eating to achieve my desired goals within my craft. A memory  drinking ice cold Coca-Cola when I was ten cannot be separated from the large family reunion I was attending one squelching summer day; eating barbecue ribs under giant, shady oak trees.  Now, to serve a guest a Coke in one of my restaurants evokes this memory, and innumerable other ones, where Coca-Cola played a role, not as a large beverage corporation, but as a boy growing up in the South.

My love of cooking, as it did for many professional chefs, began at home, surrounded by family, observing and participating in meals and their preparation. Food and family, for me, are inseparable; intertwined to form a multilayered tapestry that reflects every influence and memory, weaving the story of who I am and enriched by personal experience. Why is it then that as Chefs we are often asked to pull out of the world of creating personal, family-based food memories and commit ourselves to our craft alone?

We have chosen a profession that demands us to be in our restaurants during the very mealtimes that shaped us as children and laid the foundation for our future as chefs. Many of the memories I have of dining at the table with my family are not shared by a growing number of cooks I speak with, and I find it interesting that this tradition of family mealtime is starting to wane. Unfortunately, many cooks now grow up in a world of convenience food as their primary taste memory. They read professional cookbooks from top chefs as their first introduction to from-scratch food and then chase our craft as the crowning achievement in the food world.

Our craft is a beguiling one, filled with heroes, such as Fernand Point and Alice Waters, inspiring us to continue to refine our discipline. It is impossible for my professional training not to play a significant part in who I am. I love our craft dearly and have spent quite a bit of time and effort in my lifelong journey dedicated to become a better chef. The wonderful secret is that the journey never stops.

What I hope for is recognition that taking time to cook at home for our families and friends, from foods we purchased from our neighborhood markets, has a profound influence on who we are within our profession. Long-term relationships around food are difficult to achieve in our fast-moving professional world, but they can be found at home.

The entertainment aspect of restaurants is very strong. Many people dine in restaurants to get an elevated sense of technique and the wow factor from the food served. Cooking in the restaurant inspires me to see how many ways I can cook a carrot and play sometimes daringly with combinations and techniques I have no memory of in order to create new ones. Cooking at home teaches me to find pleasure in creating and sharing my food memories with our family.

In my home kitchen I do not have to create a dish clamoring to find its place on a menu. It’s here that I can see each ingredient as if for the first time; to find greatness in a perfectly steamed new potato dressed with nothing more than a pecan pesto made with a mortar and pestle mere seconds before it is served.

I recognize that in order to have a lifetime surrounded by the generous world of good food, I must find the delicate balance between home and work, but firmly believe that you don’t need to give up one for the other, and they should be joyously layered. The answer lies in an anecdote about Paul Bocuse who when confronted by a person in Paris asking him who was cooking in his restaurant in Lyon famously replied, “the same people who cook every night.”

It is not me at the stoves of our restaurant kitchens every night. How could it be? My wife and I have six restaurants. It is our creative, hardworking, and collaborative team who is there, allowing each of us within our company to not feel bound to just the professional realm. Good, Slow Food is the most collaborative enterprise in which I have ever taken part. It is a relationship – a culture – that takes care of its own. Words like “trust” and “companionship” mean something in the food world, and they allow us to create balance within our lives.

Yes, I still feel a tinge of guilt when I am home at night cooking roast chicken and a salad for my family. I know that I can lose touch with my service teams and possibly  disrupt that team dynamic by being at home. The obverse is also true; I can feel guilty being at the restaurant when I should be cooking for my wife Gina and our two children.

A great team and balance between cuisine and cooking, ensures my work is like play. I have always felt like I am getting away with something by being in the restaurant. It’s like I ran away to join the circus. 

What is great? I always get to come home.

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Linton Hopkins is a James Beard Award-winning chef based in Atlanta. With his wife Gina Hopkins, he is chef and proprietor of six restaurants, including Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch, and a founder of the Peachtree Road Farmers Market.


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