Georgia Tech serves up Southern small plates

Small plates starring flavors of the South were the feature at the Meet The Chefs event at Georgia Tech University, in Atlanta, held at the end of the spring semester.

Following the success of a Meet The Chefs event highlighting international flavors, the team at Georgia Tech decided to focus on flavors closer to home for the spring event. “Being in Atlanta, it’s just like a melting pot for modern Southern cuisine,” says Ericlee Reed, residential dining executive chef with Sodexo at Georgia Tech.

Meet The Chefs events provide an opportunity for university chefs to showcase their talents in a restaurant-style format, while getting face time with the students they serve each day, according to dining services.

Taking a modern approach to Southern classics, the team incorporated fresh, healthy Southern flavors—swapping in kale for collard greens, pan-seared sustainable Atlantic salmon for fried fish and a housemade dried peach tamarind barbecue sauce for traditional barbecue sauce—and utilized local ingredients wherever possible, such as a grits from a local mill and lettuce from a company that grows its product in pods at the Atlanta airport. Forty-eight percent of the produce used at the event was local, which is defined as being within a 250-mile radius of campus.

The team took a restaurant-style approach to service for the event, a style it plans to incorporate more moving forward. “At each station, “everything was prepared à la minute and delivered [as a] small plate,” Reed says. “Each plate got the same attention that a restaurant would do if you were running it through a micro-system [Reed’s term for a small operation serving a limited menu], putting it in a window and a server was to deliver it. The only difference was the culinarian or one of our line attendants was bringing that same plate to our customers one-on-one.

“The best part is it caused a lot of interaction with the four chefs that we have from all of the restaurants we have across campus,” Reed adds. “So we’re able to engage with our students, find out likes, dislikes and what they want in the future. And what they want to see is more of that—more fresh, more vibrant, not these huge plates, not these huge lines. [And] we want to be able to streamline, do more tapas-style portions, fresher and more natural—that’s what the consumer is looking for.”

The event menu included:

  • Priscilla’s “Baby” Wedge Salad: wedged iceberg lettuce, pickled celery and red onion salad, hard-cooked eggs, Point Reyes blue cheese dressing;
  • Marinated Shrimp with Grapefruit: herb-marinated shrimp and Indian River flame pink grapefruit wedges seared and served over baby rocket and red watercress;
  • Grilled Breast of Chicken: basted in dried peach tamarind barbecue sauce over greens with coastal-style basmati rice with a balsamic and lavender glaze;
  • Seared Salmon with Black-eyed Pea Relish: Pan-seared red salmon served with spicy mustard greens, fresh sweet potato fries and black-eyed pea chow chow with a benne seed vinaigrette;
  • Chocolate-dipped waffles topped with Greenwood Creamery maple bacon ice cream with brandy chantilly;
  • Strawberry Green Tea Panna Cotta: creamy panna cotta flavored with fresh field strawberries, Chinese green tea and drizzled with fruit purée.