Hugh Acheson & A New Turn In The South November 16, 2011

Many of you know Hugh Acheson as the kinda dry & snarky but fierce competitor on Top Chef Masters. For those of us who live in Atlanta – or have had the joy of visiting Athens just north of the city – we know Hugh Acheson as a Canadian transplant turned champion of Southern cooking at now legendary Five & Ten. Fortunately, Hugh took up residence in Atlanta with his latest restaurant venture, Empire State South. His newly released cookbook, A New Turn In The South, is a collection of recipes, photographs and culinary notes. It’s pretty brilliant and one of my favorite cookbooks of this year – I bought this book just to make this beet & carrot salad alone. Hugh was nice enough to answer a few questions about the book – I promised him no Top Chef or unibrow quips as he gets plenty of that on Twitter.


  • With everything you have going on – Empire State South being such a success, the TV gig, etc – what made you want to publish a cookbook?

The book started before all of those things! We started the project about 2 1/2 years ago and its just now in print. Takes a while when you don’t have a ghost writer, or any idea of what you’re doing…I had always wanted to put down on paper why I loved being a Canadian immersed in Southern food, and to explain my idea of community through food. It’s been a fun thing to get down on paper.

  • As a stylist, I love the look and feel of the book. It has such an heirloom, personal feel to it. Can you talk at all about the team you worked with to produce the book – stylists, photographers, artists?

It was meant to evoke the idea of a notebook. I jot down a lot of ideas, and doodle a lot so we wanted to make that clear in the book. The team was essential. Rinne Allen, the photographer, who lives in Athens, was key in determining the style of the book and packaging the idea into a proposal. My assistant, Lauren Johnson, was also really important to the project. From there we brought on friends to fill in the blanks, like the textile designer Susan Hable and the medical illustrator Carolyn Holmes. The book feels like a heavyweight culinary diary.

  • The book is going to be huge this holiday season – we’ve already consulted it for several of the dishes we’re making for Thanksgiving. If you had to make a menu of three recipes from the book, which ones would they be?

Depends on the season, but right now: Roasted Beet and Carrot salad with feta and cumin vinaigrette, Duck Choucroute Garnie, and pear & pecan upside down cake with sorghum ice cream

We’ve all had roasted carrots & roasted beets. Putting the two together and pairing them with this cumin vinaigrette transported them to a whole new level. For my version, I used full sized rainbow carrots and roasted them a bit longer. You could easily make just the beets this way, too – the dressing of the spice and mint pairs super well with golden beets. With a bit of red quinoa or a spoonful of couscous, this is also a hearty vegetarian meal.

Roasted Carrot & Beet Salad with Feta – serves 6 – recipe originally published in A New Turn in The South by Hugh Acheson

For the salad:

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound baby carrots, peeled, ½ inch of green top left on
  • 1 pound baby beets, cleaned but not peeled
  • ¼ pound feta
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup Cumin Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  • 1 cup pulled fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

– Preheat the oven to 450°F.

– Bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil, add ½ teaspoon of the salt, then add the carrots. Blanch for 1 minute and remove to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Once cool, remove and set aside.

– Place the beets in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil, add the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and simmer until the beets are tender. Strain the beets and peel them using paper towels to rub off the skin. This is easier when they are still warm. Crumble the feta and set aside.

– Toss the carrots with ½ tablespoon of the olive oil and place them on half of a rimmed baking sheet. Toss the beets with the remaining olive oil and place on the other half of the baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes.

– Remove the beets and carrots from the oven and place in separate bowls. Add 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette and ½ cup of the parsley to the beets and toss. Add 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette, the remaining parsley, and the feta to the carrots and toss. Divide the carrots evenly among 6 plates. Then divide the beets evenly among the plates and gently mix with the carrots. Drizzle with a touch more of the vinaigrette.

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted in a dry pan and then pulverized
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

– Place the Dijon mustard in a bowl and whisk in the olive oil, then the lemon juice and the sherry vinegar. Add the cumin and the mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The vinaigrette will last for 10 days in the fridge.


Lynn Nov 16, 2011 12:11 pm

I never see baby beets or baby carrots – probably they have them at the DeKalb Farmers Market? I’m so making this. Thanks for sharing – I love seeing Hugh on Top Chef and feel as if I know him. :)

Hugh Acheson Nov 16, 2011 02:11 pm

Thanks for this piece! Lynn: you can surely find small carrots at Peachtree Road FM or at Grant Park FM these days… and certainly at the Morningside FM on Saturdays. That’s where Nicolas from Crystal Organics and Celia from Woodland Gardens sell on the weekends.

amelia from z tasty life Nov 16, 2011 03:11 pm

love everything about this: you, Hugh, the interview, the baby vegs, the styling, the flavor combinations, the bright colors,…

Pam Rauber Nov 16, 2011 04:11 pm

This was a nice article. I watched Hugh on Top Chef. Was very impressed. I just viewed Hugh’s blog (menu)…I’m buying his book.

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Lucy@acookandherbooks Nov 16, 2011 08:11 pm

Lovely. And just what I want to eat right now.

marla Nov 16, 2011 08:11 pm

A vibrant & gorgeous salad!

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Amy Nov 17, 2011 09:11 am

I am obsessed with toasted cumin seeds in my rice, but have never thought to put them in a salad, yum!

@Lynn. I have picked up the small rainbow carrots at Dekalb Farmers Market several times. Haven’t hunted for the beets though… I know they have the larger bunches.

Kathy - Panini Happy Nov 18, 2011 01:11 am

This is SUCH a beautiful salad! I’m watching chef Hugh as a guest judge on Top Chef at this very moment, he’s quite a character. :-)

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Magic of Spice Dec 1, 2011 11:12 am

Great interview and beautiful recipe…the vinaigrette is lovely!

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