Atlanta is a city with long-standing traditions. The Georgia capital served as the transportation hub of the American South during the railroad years and maintains a similar status today as the home of the world's busiest airport. But despite the firm grip it has on certain parts of its historical identity, this jewel of the South has recently been renovating its culinary scene with some delicious results.
Atlanta's food roots are in Southern cuisine -- barbecue, grits, cornbread, beans and greens, fried chicken, okra, sweet potatoes and more -- and diners can find this traditional stuff at the four corners of the ATL. Locals and visitors alike delight in a good "meat and three," a plate dinner consisting of fish, pork, chicken or beef alongside three side dishes such as collard greens, corn, string beans, mac 'n' cheese or potato salad.
Yet Atlanta is also a world-class metropolis with a highly cosmopolitan approach to life. Some innovative chefs are taking old Southern staples and transforming them into the fresh, modern delicacies of New Southern cuisine. The wide variety and steadily prodigious harvests of the Atlanta area's agricultural and ranching economies give local chefs one of the broadest bases of regional ingredients in America.
It's not all soul food and reimagined standards in modern Atlanta, however. Buford Highway, for instance, is a long, straight road in northeastern Atlanta with more diversity of ethnic food than maybe any road in the world. From Mexican and South American sandwiches and pastry to Cantonese dim sum, Korean BBQ to Bangladeshi stews and stuffed breads and Vietnamese mainstays like pho and banh mi, local diners with global tastes can find something to scratch any culinary itch.
And then there are the farmers markets four days a week, the vibrant nightlife, and the emerging awareness of fine-tuned technique and fresh ingredients that are keeping the Atlanta culinary scene bubbling at a hot simmer. This diverse Southern metropolis is practically overflowing with opportunities for young chefs to learn the trade and make their mark.
Atlanta offers many paths to a culinary career, both through various academies or from the ground up in the industry. Graduates of culinary schools in Atlanta have access to several benefits that residents of other cities might lack.
While Atlanta is home to fine establishments including Bacchanalia, Restaurant Eugene and others, Atlanta's reputation as an upscale, modern American dining destination is still relatively young. Such a new market allows for plenty of creativity, and those restaurants just beginning their lives might be less pretentious (read: have lower barriers to entry) than those with a sterling status to uphold.
Food trucks are taking off in the area, too, which may be some of the most fertile ground possible for Atlanta culinary school graduates with entrepreneurial ideas. With a relatively small amount of startup capital, an enterprising chef can break into the kitchen trailer business and try his or her hand at starting the next street-food craze.
Atlanta's Southern cuisine heritage of biscuits, fish, grits and gravy harmonizes with the recent upswing in Asian and South American fare to create a marvelous diversity of opportunity for aspiring chefs. Students at culinary schools in Atlanta emerge from their training with the skills and knowledge that may help them in their efforts to be a part of this global village with a local pantry.
"Folklore and Trivia," About Atlanta, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2013, http://www.atlanta.net/visitors/folklore.html
"40 Years of Atlanta Food," Creative Loafing Atlanta, September 19, 2012, http://clatl.com/atlanta/40-years-of-atlanta-food/Content?oid=6357620
"Lardcore: Southern Food with Hard-Core Attitude," TIME Magazine, Josh Ozersky, October 27, 2010, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2027672,00.html
"Southern Dining," Dining in Atlanta, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2013, http://www.atlanta.net/dining/southern.html
"Buford Highway," Dining in Atlanta, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2013, http://www.atlanta.net/dining/buford.html
For information on Culinary Schools in Atlanta, please visit any school below and request more information.
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