Hugh Acheson -- and his now signature unibrow -- joined the Top Chef Judges' Table during the show's ninth season in Texas after a stint competing on Top Chef Masters' Season 3. The native Canadian lives in Athens, Georgia with his wife, Mary, and daughters Beatrice and Clementine, and owns two restaurants there -- Five and Ten and The National in Athens. He also owns Empire State South in Atlanta. And while being a chef is Occupation No. 1, Hugh is making a name for himself discovering that the pen can sometimes be mightier than theBo Powell
Bravotv.com: OK -- why are we at Turntable, Hugh?Bo Powell
Hugh Acheson: We’re here because, in a lot of ways when I go out to eat, I don’t actually eat as much as people think I should as a chef. In a lot of instances, I want to go to a place where that happens and no one is concerned about it. I do want to go to a place where I can just relax and have fun, and not go for a nine-course meal for three hours. It’s like, we [chefs] live in restaurants -- how about just a place where I can drop by for 45 minutes, an hour, get a pitcher, meet some friends, and eat some awesome chicken wings? They are awesome chicken wings.
[Turntable fries] these chicken wings in this really long process, and in three different temperatures over the course of about an hour, resting in between, and then finish them, and I think what happens is they really render off a lot of their fat, so they’re really light when you get them. Now, they’re intensely spicy, but they’re almost dry spicy—they’re not sticky, saucy, sweet, or anything. There’s so much good Korean food in Koreatown, but a lot of it’s going to be much more traditional—this is kind of the young hipster haunt of Koreatown. It’s fun to be here. They’re totally weird with the beer pitchers, the light inside of them, and stuff like that. Come on -- who’s doing that?
Bravotv.com: Are you a big wings person? Are there other places you would go?Bo Powell
Hugh: I don’t eat wings that often. I think I would make them for Super Bowl Sundays at my house, things like that.
Bravotv.com: You’re a salad person -- look at you.Bo Powell
Hugh: I’m a salad person. I mean, I like wings. As you can see, when I’m ordering, I order bigger than I am. But I’m done! But it’s good! You know, wings aren’t something you want to eat too often because they’re probably not great for you. But at least they taste awesome, so you can have them once in a while.
Bravotv.com: Do you ever attempt to cook Korean food yourself?Bo Powell
Hugh: I make a lot of kimchee; various kimchee styles. Korean fried chicken, totally; somewhat sweet, very spicy chicken, love that style. We just ate those edamame, finished with pork fat. Weren’t they good?
Bravotv.com: They were really good.Bo Powell
Hugh: Tasty treats! So there’s a ton of stuff. But I think it’s funny, overall, Chinese food, and then Japanese food, kind of usurped for a long time, and I think that Korea, nestled in between, had a lot to offer. And now their stuff is shining through. You see kimchee becoming a ubiquitous staple around younger American restaurants. So it’s fun to see cultures disseminate into the sphere and really break into cultural foods, and they’re doing it because their flavors are so bright and so big and so fun.
Bravotv.com: Do you put any southern twists on your kimchee? Or do you have any tips for people new to it?Bo Powell
Hugh: Not on the kimchee; the kimchee we make is pretty classic. We make a lot of scallion kimchee and collared green kimchee, which is really good. Cabbage kimchee, lettuce kimchee, also radish.
Bravotv.com: Is there one place you always go every time you come to NYC?Bo Powell
Hugh: Yeah --I usually go to Freeman’s Sporting Club for a shave. And I try and get to Blue Bottle Coffee at 30 Rock. Café Grumpy. We’re big coffee fans, so places like that. There’s also a Vietnamese restaurant that I go to called Nha Trang -- it’s on Baxter, right off Canal. There’s two; one’s good and one’s not.
Where else? I mean I went to PDT last time I was here. I don’t think I’ll probably ever go to a cooler bar than that. You know, you want to look at places that get a lot of press and think, "Hey what’s their time to expire?" But I think the new status of super-cool places, iconic places, a place like PDT, is really so cool. And the drinks were so good and they really paid attention—it’s just not temporary. It’s authentic. And Jim Meehan is just so smart with everything he does. And it’s so stylized. That type of authenticity, and that type of pride in what you do, is the new cool thing. And that’s got such legs to it. Because we went through this whole pomp and circumstance, who’s-cooler-than-who type of phase in the last 30 years, and I don’t think we’re that concerned with that anymore, and that’s good.
Bravotv.com: We hear that you enjoy karaoke sometimes.Bo Powell
Hugh: Well, yeah.
Bravotv.com: What are your go-to karaoke places or songs?Bo Powell
Hugh: Last time I did “Hungry Like the Wolf”—that was a really big mistake. And then I think the first time I did “American Pie,” which is like 88 minutes long. So… I’m really looking at my future choices in karaoke, really looking for something I can really do. We’re going to make it work.
Bravotv.com: Do you have any Koreatown confessions?Bo Powell
Hugh: Confessions? Last time we were here, there were like 10 people we were with… we would just get terribly drunk, and then we’d go to Booker and Dax ... there were tears of joy and laughter. Yeah -- it was a mess.
Bravotv.com: Switching gears! How would you describe your style?Bo Powell
Hugh: Oh, my style. Right now I’m cold in NY. It’s cold here! But I think I like to dress in classic style of clothing, clothing that fits relatively well, that’s relatively tailored. I like things that are well-made and last a long time. So that’s really the style. I really appreciate all this old-school style that’s really coming back now. '50s and early '60s, the '40s men’s clothing that’s really in vogue right now. But I think men have gotten a lot more stylish in the last five years than they have been in the last 20. We have a lot of accounting to do for the last 35 years of men’s fashion. It kinds sucks, but we’re back on top now, lookin’ good.
Bravotv.com: Who are your favorites to wear?Bo Powell
Hugh: I like this Atlanta designer, or menswear shop, they make their own sleeves, Sid Mashburn. I like Billy Reid, who’s everywhere in North America right now. I like classic -- I’m wearing GANT Rugger right now, but I also like Levi’s. Levi’s is great fun stuff. Always classic and always well-built, stuff like that.
Details on Hugh's look:Bo Powell
Shirt: Gant Rugger
Pants: Billy Reed
What We Ate:
Pork Fat Edamame
Gourmet Chicken Combo: Soy Ginger (for the less-adventurous palate) and Spicy (Warning: these are very spicy!)
314 5th Avenue, 2nd Floor (between 31st and 32nd Streets)
New York, NY 10001
For more Hugh, go HERE and watch Top Chef Wednesdays at 10/9c.