Tuesday, November 29, 7:00 pm
Members $100, guests $125
Most Southerners agree on two things: they love their land and they love their food. Frank Stitt is certainly no exception. A native of Cullman, Alabama, Stitt’s lifelong reverence for fresh local ingredients and culinary traditions influences his homestyle Southern cuisine and has inspired his work as chef and owner of three of Birmingham’s most acclaimed restaurants, Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega Restaurant and Café, and Chez Fonfon.
Though proud of his roots, Stitt is hardly provincial. His horizons first widened when, as a student living in Berkeley, he made the acquaintance of Alice Waters and began to work in the kitchen of her legendary restaurant, Chez Panisse. Waters introduced Stitt to Richard Olney, who hired the young chef as his assistant in writing the Time-Life Good Cooks book series. That chance meeting led to work and European travel alongside legends such as Elizabeth David, Stephen Spurrier, Jeremiah Tower, and Simone Beck.
But Stitt felt the tug of his Southern roots. Upon his return to the United States he settled in Birmingham, where he opened Highlands Bar and Grill in 1982 to immediate and excited acclaim. In 2001 Gourmet magazine ranked Highlands fifth on its list of America’s 50 Best Restaurants, and in 2003 Bon Appétit named Stitt to their impressive list of Culinary Legends (which also included Daniel Boulud, Nobu Matsuhisa, and Thomas Keller), citing his “beautifully crafted cuisine, which mixes ingredients of the American South with classic dishes from the south of France.”
As his influence has grown, Stitt has also committed himself to nurturing a new generation of culinary giants. For this Beard House dinner, Stitt will be joined by the three chefs who head up each of his acclaimed eateries. James Briscione, chef de cuisine at Highlands Bar and Grill, is a five-year veteran of Frank’s kitchens. While working with Stitt, Briscione has gained access to some of the country’s other top kitchens, including New York’s Daniel, where he recently staged. Chef John Rolen began working at Bottega in 1998 after graduating from the University of Birmingham at Alabama with a degree in art. He was promoted to chef de cuisine in 2000.