What’s your favorite part of the Atlanta culinary scene?
Chris Hall: The camaraderie. Atlanta’s chefs really believe that a “rising tide lifts all boats” and there is a level of camaraderie, care and learning from one another that is inspiring. It’s collaborative and vibrant. The culinary scene here is growing and evolving with more great neighborhood restaurants now than ever before. There are more pop ups, more regionally focused ethnic dining places as well as destination restaurants.
Marvella Castañeda: It’s passionately alive, creatively vibrant, and pushing boundaries everyday. Atlanta is full of passion-driven professionals, whether in food or wine. No one does anything half-way, you can always experience 100 percent intention.
Aaron Phillips: The people. There is so much talent in Atlanta. The people working in restaurants make this an amazing place. Diversity is embraced and we are at the forefront of inclusivity and pushing the needle to embracing all cultures. Hopefully more cities can embrace Atlanta’s philosophy.
What cuisine (and wines) do you specialize in?
Chris Hall: One of my mentors told me something I have adopted as my culinary mantra: “You can’t argue with delicious.” I enjoy cooking many types of food and loathe boundaries so the philosophy of “cook delicious food” resonated with me. That said, I believe firmly in cooking seasonally and using the best ingredients you can find.
Aaron Phillips: I would say global eclectic, I don’t have any real parameters on me as far as what style of cuisine. My technique is clearly French-inspired with modern philosophies and old-school approaches. As far as flavors go; it could be Peruvian, Caribbean, Japanese or from anywhere. I’ll pull inspiration and flavors from all over the world.
Marvella Castañeda: Lazy Betty is a tasting menu restaurant, and since the food is culturally diverse and constantly changing, the wine program features selections from all over the world with the intention of exposing guests to new styles and regions.
Who have been mentors and what have you learnt from them?
Chris Hall: My two most formative mentors are (chefs) Gerry Klaskala and Gary Mennie who taught me about food and its many elements. As a young cook, they helped me with different techniques of cooking that became the metaphorical tools in my toolbox. They also taught leadership, how to run a kitchen, the financial aspects of the restaurant business and, most importantly, hospitality – the backbone of everything we do.
Aaron Phillips: As a young chef in New York, the list is vast: Ronald Hsu, Adam Plitt, Adrienne Cheatham and Éric Ripert have all been influential. A specific dish? Chef David Bouley taught me how to make a seared foie gras when I was 21 and that’s been on my mind ever since.
Marvella Castañeda: The education of wine is an entire language, and I’m fascinated with the history, the laws, the climate and geographical influences. I get to work with such intelligent and helpful sommeliers, wine specialists, representatives, distributors, even influencers. It’s a community that I’m grateful for.