Photo credit: Emily Hall
Hugh Acheson is my favorite Instagrammer. Okay, I love @fuckjerry (a lot) but Hugh is my favorite food person. See, I didn’t call him “famous person” or “celebrity chef” or “foodie” (I still can’t handle that word…) Certainly, in the food world, he’s pretty well known. As many Top Chef fans know, he has often been a judge on the show and his comments are the best comments. They’re usually entertaining, super dry and best of all, on point. And even when he’s giving a critique, he’s not a jerk.
Also, there is this. Hugh Acheson Makes Nachos Like Kris Jenner
As I followed him on Insta, I began to see this guy not as a celebrity, but a normal regular person. He’s just a guy. A dad. I think having a family keeps your ego in check and also, living in Athens, GA, just has to chill you out a bit. You can’t take yourself too seriously there. Love that. Kinda like Baltimore. No one’s really a big deal here. Everyone knows everyone. When people drop names here it just cracks me up. Stop it.
One day, Hugh commented on a photo that I posted and I looked at my account and realized that he was following me. That made me really happy (big smile) because he was someone I admired…and well, he’s cool. Did that mean I was cool? Okay, probably not…but I was still pretty stoked. So, here we are a year or two later, and I wrote to Hugh asking if he’d mind having me interview him.
HE SAID YES.
Was food a big part of your upbringing? Did you cook when you were a kid?
HA: Not really until I was around 14. I got a job as a dishwasher then and this plunge to the rabbit hole of the hospitality industry began. I was not raised in a very gastronomic household. Single dad fed us yellow wax beans and burnt rice in some shape or form most dinners.
Lots of kids get to choose the meal on their birthday…anything they want (to a point, I suppose.) What would be your birthday meal now? What did you ask for as a kid?
HA: I don’t really remember asking for much specifically when I was a kid. Maybe chicken piccata. Nowadays it would be a big steak with a ton of vegetables and farro. I like farro a lot. And a great Burgundy.
You’re Canadian, pretty famous in your industry…why Athens, GA?
HA: My wife and I moved down here so she could do her Masters. That was about 20 years ago.
What food trends are you over?
HA: Pork on everything. Pork in everything. Burgers as high end food.
What’s your general approach social media? You really do put yourself out there, especially Instagram. It’s refreshing but it must be odd at times, being a ‘celebrity’ on IG. Got any super weirdo followers?
HA: I hate the term celebrity. I am just a guy. I do social media from my point of view and so it’s a little skewed. I have great followers! Some oddballs but no one I can’t talk off the ledge.
You’re often a judge on Top Chef. Every time I watch it, I’m entertained and I also learn something. What do you think the show’s best qualities are? Why do you do it?
HA: Top Chef teaches the world about our industry and gives people a broader base of food knowledge. I do it because its fun, though I don’t do it that much anymore. I got a little busy and they have a plethora of judges to choose from…
What do you love about living in the South?
HA: Food history is in everything. It is an endless topic down here.
Your wife is never seen on your IG, but your girls are. How do you balance privacy?
HA: Mary, my wife, is a pretty private person and I am an extrovert, so that explains that. The girls are just interesting to show how they grow up. They kind of like the odd attention they garner from it but we keep it pretty in check.
What do you love about food?
HA: It’s an endless topic that will never bore me.
What’s your favorite food – like, something you could eat like once a week and be so happy.
HA: Sushi. But we have to learn more about sustainable ways to enjoy it.
What are some of your favorite restaurants around the world? (Fine dining to dive bars.) Also, do you think that having a big name behind a restaurant is mostly helpful or too much pressure?
HA: Schwartz’s in Montreal for smoked meat. Umi sushi in Atlanta. Gramercy Tavern cause it is a special special place. Peche in New Orleans cause Ryan is awesome. And the name behind the restaurant thing don’t matter. Great restaurants matter. Period. It’s the team, not the name.
Okay, obligatory. When you cook at home, what do you like to make? Do you have a ‘go to’ meal at home?
Go to meal is roasted chicken a la Zuni. Tomato and peach and basil salad. Creamed corn. Spinach. Carolina Gold rice. Pan Gravy.