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A tale of love and chocolate

In honor of Valentine's Day, Xocolatl's founders share the story behind Atlanta's smallest chocolate factory

Back in 2004, Elaine Read and Matt Weyandt were working with the Democratic National Committee. He was on the West Coast, she was on the East, but when the two met at an organizing event, sparks flew. “Within the year, we knew we wanted to travel the world together, or at least start off with a chunk of it,” Read says. Despite spending only a few weeks in the same city, they got engaged and after the election went traveling together through Central America. “We kept each other up under reed roofs and in rain-drenched shacks dreaming big, vague dreams.”

The pair got married in Nicaragua and soon had their first child, a son named Ronan. After returning to Atlanta, Read started a career in international aid and Weyandt went to work as campaign manager for U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ 2012 reelection run. But eventually, both realized they were ready for a change.

“We felt we wanted to mix it up a little bit,” Weyandt says. “We had been doing these jobs and yet we were marching down this path. We talked about living outside the States again, but kept putting it off until we discovered that it will never be the right time. You just have to do it.”
And so, in 2013, right after their second child was born, they quit their jobs and moved to Costa Rica with 3-year-old Ronan and 4-month-old Eva. The family of four rented a little house in the rainforest, just up the hill from the beach. They hoped “to get away from work pressure and get into the rhythm of life,” Read says. “It’s much easier when you are not so concerned about the things that you need to be doing while being mentally checked out somewhere else.”

The family plan was open-ended: maybe they’d live in Costa Rica for six months, maybe a couple of years. Even on a tight budget, though, they couldn’t help but indulge in Costa Rica’s famous chocolate bars, best shared while swaying lazily in a hammock. Soon, they became curious about the chocolate’s origins.

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LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE: Behind the scenes at Atlanta's tiniest chocolate factory. Photo credit: Joeff Davis


“We went on a tour of one of the cacao farms which was just cacao growing on a hillside and a little shack with chocolate-making equipment,” Weyandt says. “It was eye-opening that there wasn’t just one chocolate flavor. Different beans have different flavors and this whole world opened up.”

The couple befriended local farmers and started researching the chocolate-making process, from beans growing on trees to harvesting to the fermentation process. Along the way, they learned more about the economics of cacao farming, and realized they could pay the farmers a fairer price than the industrial chocolate market for high-quality beans.

Seizing an opportunity, they quickly developed the concept of Xocolatl, a small-batch chocolate factory named for the Aztec word for a bitter drink brewed with cacao beans, said to be the etymological origin of chocolate (also, it conveniently has ATL at the end). Weyandt pitched the idea to Krog Street Market’s developer from Costa Rica over Skype.

The call was a success; by 2014, Xocolatl was up and running. Today, it’s one of the smallest chocolate factories in the country, converting raw beans to finished chocolate bars in about 250 square feet. Next door, a 100-square-foot storage room houses three tons of cacao beans, waiting to be stone-ground into smooth chocolate.

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FINISHED PRODUCT: Xocolatl's chocolate bars come in a wide variety of flavors. Photo credit: Joeff Davis


Xocolatl’s bars are single origin with a base of just cacao and cane sugar. Added ingredients like coconut milk and vanilla-infused sea salt create more than a dozen varieties. “The way we make chocolate is more difficult because we do not include emulsifiers like soy bean oil,” Read says, “but we are happy to go through the harder process if it means it’s a food product we would be proud of making, selling and feeding our own kids.”

Weyandt and Read still travel to Central and South America often to source beans and visit farmers. Last summer, they went to the Peruvian Amazon with a group of craft chocolate-makers from around to world to take part in director Tim Shephard’s documentary Setting the Bar: A Craft Chocolate Origin Story. The forthcoming film delves into the economic realities of cacao farmers and the impact of deforestation in the Amazon.

Sourcing trips have usually been a couple’s vacation for Weyandt and Read, but in a few weeks they’ll head back to Nicaragua with both Ronan and Eva in tow — their first sourcing trip as a family. “In Costa Rica, Eva was growing up to be a jungle baby and by the time we left, Ronan was essentially swinging off rope vines,” Read says with a laugh. “This Nicaraguan trip will be a more low-key return to the jungle.”

99 Krog St. N.E. 404-604-9642. www.xocolatlchocolate.com



More By This Writer

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Pastries were Victoria Shore’s first passion. While studying history and anthropology at the University of Georgia, the Alpharetta native taught herself how to bake. “Food was the one thing I was consistently interested in while I was in college,” the now 26-year-old chef says. “I spent way too much time and money in a grocery store to make food for myself.”

She recalls hauling her enormous cookbook collection to each new destination whenever she’d move, even to a semester across the pond in England. It was a pain, to be sure, but the books—Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential among them—inspired and pushed her forward. Upon graduation, she decided to pursue food full-time. “I didn't have any positive direction with what I was doing with my degrees, so I figured I would try to find an internship in a kitchen or on a farm with something food-related.” Shore ended up moving to Maine (cookbooks and all) for an internship at a bed and breakfast. There, she spent six months honing her pastry skills, tending to a little vegetable garden, and cooking breakfast for guests. When a pastry position opened at Cooks & Soldiers back on her home turf, Shore cold-emailed Fred Castellucci on a whim. She got the job.

“A large part of being a chef is opening yourself up to as many food and restaurant experiences as you can, and picking and choosing what to keep, recycle, or hold onto,” Shore says. “None of us are operating in a vacuum and sitting in a dark room with great ideas. It's a process of curation more than anything.”

A loyal employee of Castellucci Hospitality Group ever since her Cooks & Soldiers gig, Shore has learned to love the hustle and bustle of a working kitchen, moving seamlessly through positions ranging from garde manger to line cook. Through it all, she’s continued her pastry education by double-timing with overnight shifts at Inman Park’s Proof Bakeshop to learn more about baking bread. When Double Zero reopened in Emory Village back in the fall of 2016, she became sous chef, running the pastry program and making ice cream. But now, she’s embarking on something entirely new: running her own restaurant.

This spring, Shore introduces the Castelluccis’ first fast casual concept: a food stall called Recess that will join the group’s newly opened tapas spot Bar Mercado at Krog Street Market. Driven by fresh salads, hearty sandwiches, grain bowls, and other healthy, veggie-forward dishes, the concept’s mission statement is quite simple: “food that makes you feel good.”

“We don't want to take ourselves too seriously,” Shore says. “It's going to be delicious, but not fussy and unapproachable.”

Of course, running a restaurant also means plenty of not-so-fun details like dealing with vendors, plumbing, and ADA requirements for permits and plans. But Shore has handled the challenges with aplomb, despite a series of delays that pushed back the stall’s opening date. She credits John Castellucci for seeing her potential and promoting her from within the hospitality group. “He's been supportive of me from day one,” she says. “He pushes me to do more than I think I am capable of doing.”

Shore and her team built Recess’s menu over weeks of tastings with the ever-discerning Fred Castellucci. The goal is to keep things fresh and seasonal, blending textures and toppings at various temperatures. She’ll harken back to her love of pastries with a robust yet health-conscious sweets program, featuring paleo-friendly, gluten-free, and vegan baked goods. More decadent biscuits and banana bread will be offered during brunch on the weekends.

“Every time you take a bite you get something a little new and different to keep it interesting,” she says. “Enjoyment in food comes from being thoughtfully engaged with it.” This is what she hopes to provide to her future diners — a recess of sorts from typical restaurant fare; a lighter, plant-based alternative to the heaviness that has long permeated the restaurant scene. But she’s not holding herself to any hard-and-fast rules. Much of what she cooks is mood-based. Shore cooks and eats with intuition. “It’s very important that food is nutritious and nourishing to your body, but for me it's about mental health as well,” she says. “Food can put you in a good mood. Good food is soul-satisfying.”

Recess, Krog Street Market, 99 Krog St. N.E. www.recessatl.com.

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Tuesday February 27, 2018 05:07 pm EST
Victoria Shore brings a love of pastries and a playful spirit to Krog Street Market newcomer Recess | more...
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  string(6115) "Alexis Edwards calls herself the “Lettuce Lady.” She and her husband Colby have grown Bibb lettuce in a hydroponic greenhouse for over a decade, selling their produce to farmers’ markets in middle Georgia and upscale Macon restaurants. It’s tough for small family farms like the Edwards’ to distribute their produce in the Atlanta food system, but a new CSA is trying to change that.

Atlanta’s newest food distributor, the Common Market Georgia, is an ideal partner for farm-to-institution endeavors. The nonprofit picks up fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meats from farms and delivers their goods to hospitals, universities, and schools around the metro Atlanta area. All of these farms are within a 250-mile radius of the new Common Market warehouse and distribution facility in East Point. 

“Food touches every part of our lives,” says Georgia director Lily Rolader. “It’s reaching you at the hospital down the road or where you drop your kids off at school. We want to create the infrastructure to make it possible for farmers to move food and make it easy for our customers to get good food.”

The Common Market has been distributing food for nearly 10 years and has moved more than $18 million in food from 150 small family farms between New York, Virginia, and the mid-Atlantic. They’re now continuing down south in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Local food systems champion Susan Pavlin founded the Common Market Georgia in 2016 and ran the CSA out of Sweet Auburn Market. Now, Rolader has stepped up to the role of director to oversee the new Atlanta warehouse and draw in more farmers like Edwards.

TRUCKIN': The Common Market Georgia picks up produce from local farms and delivers them to hospitals, universities, and schools around the metro Atlanta area.Corryn LytleTen years ago, inspired by a friend who grew tomatoes, Alexis Edwards decide to try her own thumb at hydroponic farming. She contacted Crop King, a greenhouse manufacturer, who suggested she and her family start off with lettuce. Next thing they knew, an 18-wheeler full of the ingredients needed for a commercial sized hydroponic greenhouse was delivered to their Dublin, Georgia, home.

Edwards named the farm R&G, after her two children, Riley and Grace. She and her family got started by simply inviting members of the community to stop into the greenhouse and select their own organic lettuce, sold at just $2 a head. “They will just walk in, pick their lettuce, and leave money in the sink,” Edwards says. “It’s on the honor system.”

A rustic sink serving as a cash register may be charming, but the truth is small and midscale family farms often struggle to make ends meet. In a food system that has evolved to favor low prices and convenience, Edwards said partnering with a CSA like the Common Market is crucial to reaching a wider Atlanta market. “It has been a huge confidence builder to be able to start something from the ground up and watch it grow,” she continues. “It's hard to do that nowadays.” 

Thanks to better distribution partnerships forged through the Common Market, R&G Farms currently supplies Emory Hospital with leafy greens. As an independent farm, Edwards says they normally wouldn’t have even been on the hospital’s radar. “The Common Market opened doors for us that we were not able to and other companies just haven't been able to do. They’re big on fresh. They don't hold it in their cooler, they get produce from us and they are pretty much delivering it the next day.” Other big wholesale produce companies in Atlanta let veggies sit in coolers up to a week — allowing nutrients to break down before even reaching consumers.

WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Employees celebrate the grand opening of The Common Market Georgia in East Point.Corryn LytleThe Common Market’s new warehouse in East Point is over 60,000 square feet. As soon as the distributor purchased the warehouse in December 2016, they got to work building out their cooler space, upgrading from their three-cooler rental agreement at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Today, they have 6,500 square feet of cold storage with zones to separate foods that naturally produce ethylene, the gas emitted during ripening, and products that are sensitive to ethylene. Refrigerated shipping containers have allowed them to distribute more frozen products.

Most of the produce is boxed up and driven to large institutions including Morrison Healthcare and the 11 hospitals in their network, including Grady and Emory. Sage Dining represents many private schools and even more Atlanta public schools; early childcare providers and community organizations are included in the Common Market partnerships. Services are not limited to large groups, though. Farm share members can also be individuals and families who can pick up pre-selected, seasonal items at participating spaces such as workplaces, schools, and community centers.

The Common Market Georgia’s procurement manager, Katie Chatham, spends most of her day donning and shedding layers of clothing as she steps inside the cooler to take detailed inventory. But she also thinks big picture for the farmers. Her job is to run reports of cases of food sold month by month, identify new areas of growth, and estimate projected amounts for products for the upcoming season. Chatham personally drives to each farm to chat with growers face-to-face about the needs of the upcoming season and to plot where they should distribute next.

At this month’s vision meeting, Edwards said she hopes to sell R&G Farms greens to Grady Hospital. Regardless, she knows the Common Market will find her a good fit in Atlanta. “They are an incredible company full of the most wonderful, honest, and organized people we have ever dealt with in produce,” she says. “They have reached out and have done so much more than we could have ever possibly done on our own.”



The Common Market Georgia, 1050 Oakleigh Drive, East Point. 678-343-9525 ext. 21. www.thecommonmarket.org"
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Atlanta’s newest food distributor, the Common Market Georgia, is an ideal partner for farm-to-institution endeavors. The nonprofit picks up fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meats from farms and delivers their goods to hospitals, universities, and schools around the metro Atlanta area. All of these farms are within a 250-mile radius of the new Common Market warehouse and distribution facility in East Point. 

“Food touches every part of our lives,” says Georgia director Lily Rolader. “It’s reaching you at the hospital down the road or where you drop your kids off at school. We want to create the infrastructure to make it possible for farmers to move food and make it easy for our customers to get good food.”

The Common Market has been distributing food for nearly 10 years and has moved more than $18 million in food from 150 small family farms between New York, Virginia, and the mid-Atlantic. They’re now continuing down south in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Local food systems champion Susan Pavlin founded the Common Market Georgia in 2016 and ran the CSA out of Sweet Auburn Market. Now, Rolader has stepped up to the role of director to oversee the new Atlanta warehouse and draw in more farmers like Edwards.

{img src="https://cdn.creativeloafing.com/files/base/scomm/clatl/image/2018/01/640w/CommonMarket_GrandOpening_1975.5a67a16eaa781.jpg"}TRUCKIN': The Common Market Georgia picks up produce from local farms and delivers them to hospitals, universities, and schools around the metro Atlanta area.Corryn LytleTen years ago, inspired by a friend who grew tomatoes, Alexis Edwards decide to try her own thumb at hydroponic farming. She contacted Crop King, a greenhouse manufacturer, who suggested she and her family start off with lettuce. Next thing they knew, an 18-wheeler full of the ingredients needed for a commercial sized hydroponic greenhouse was delivered to their Dublin, Georgia, home.

Edwards named the farm R&G, after her two children, Riley and Grace. She and her family got started by simply inviting members of the community to stop into the greenhouse and select their own organic lettuce, sold at just $2 a head. “They will just walk in, pick their lettuce, and leave money in the sink,” Edwards says. “It’s on the honor system.”

A rustic sink serving as a cash register may be charming, but the truth is small and midscale family farms often struggle to make ends meet. In a food system that has evolved to favor low prices and convenience, Edwards said partnering with a CSA like the Common Market is crucial to reaching a wider Atlanta market. “It has been a huge confidence builder to be able to start something from the ground up and watch it grow,” she continues. “It's hard to do that nowadays.” 

Thanks to better distribution partnerships forged through the Common Market, R&G Farms currently supplies Emory Hospital with leafy greens. As an independent farm, Edwards says they normally wouldn’t have even been on the hospital’s radar. “The Common Market opened doors for us that we were not able to and other companies just haven't been able to do. They’re big on fresh. They don't hold it in their cooler, they get [produce] from us and they are pretty much delivering it the next day.” Other big wholesale produce companies in Atlanta let veggies sit in coolers up to a week — allowing nutrients to break down before even reaching consumers.

{img src="https://cdn.creativeloafing.com/files/base/scomm/clatl/image/2018/01/640w/CommonMarket_GrandOpening_2535.5a67a2f796113.jpg"}WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Employees celebrate the grand opening of The Common Market Georgia in East Point.Corryn LytleThe Common Market’s new warehouse in East Point is over 60,000 square feet. As soon as the distributor purchased the warehouse in December 2016, they got to work building out their cooler space, upgrading from their three-cooler rental agreement at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Today, they have 6,500 square feet of cold storage with zones to separate foods that naturally produce ethylene, the gas emitted during ripening, and products that are sensitive to ethylene. Refrigerated shipping containers have allowed them to distribute more frozen products.

Most of the produce is boxed up and driven to large institutions including Morrison Healthcare and the 11 hospitals in their network, including Grady and Emory. Sage Dining represents many private schools and even more Atlanta public schools; early childcare providers and community organizations are included in the Common Market partnerships. Services are not limited to large groups, though. Farm share members can also be individuals and families who can pick up pre-selected, seasonal items at participating spaces such as workplaces, schools, and community centers.

The Common Market Georgia’s procurement manager, Katie Chatham, spends most of her day donning and shedding layers of clothing as she steps inside the cooler to take detailed inventory. But she also thinks big picture for the farmers. Her job is to run reports of cases of food sold month by month, identify new areas of growth, and estimate projected amounts for products for the upcoming season. Chatham personally drives to each farm to chat with growers face-to-face about the needs of the upcoming season and to plot where they should distribute next.

At this month’s vision meeting, Edwards said she hopes to sell R&G Farms greens to Grady Hospital. Regardless, she knows the Common Market will find her a good fit in Atlanta. “They are an incredible company full of the most wonderful, honest, and organized people we have ever dealt with in produce,” she says. “They have reached out and have done so much more than we could have ever possibly done on our own.”



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  string(6663) " R GFarms Edwardsfamily.5a67a16f16f5e  2018-02-05T03:47:49+00:00 R_GFarms_Edwardsfamily.5a67a16f16f5e.jpg     The Common Market Georgia helps small-scale farmers into large-scale kitchens 2508  2018-01-27T03:06:00+00:00 Easy being green ben.eason@creativeloafing.com Ben Eason Grace Huseth  2018-01-27T03:06:00+00:00  Alexis Edwards calls herself the “Lettuce Lady.” She and her husband Colby have grown Bibb lettuce in a hydroponic greenhouse for over a decade, selling their produce to farmers’ markets in middle Georgia and upscale Macon restaurants. It’s tough for small family farms like the Edwards’ to distribute their produce in the Atlanta food system, but a new CSA is trying to change that.

Atlanta’s newest food distributor, the Common Market Georgia, is an ideal partner for farm-to-institution endeavors. The nonprofit picks up fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meats from farms and delivers their goods to hospitals, universities, and schools around the metro Atlanta area. All of these farms are within a 250-mile radius of the new Common Market warehouse and distribution facility in East Point. 

“Food touches every part of our lives,” says Georgia director Lily Rolader. “It’s reaching you at the hospital down the road or where you drop your kids off at school. We want to create the infrastructure to make it possible for farmers to move food and make it easy for our customers to get good food.”

The Common Market has been distributing food for nearly 10 years and has moved more than $18 million in food from 150 small family farms between New York, Virginia, and the mid-Atlantic. They’re now continuing down south in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Local food systems champion Susan Pavlin founded the Common Market Georgia in 2016 and ran the CSA out of Sweet Auburn Market. Now, Rolader has stepped up to the role of director to oversee the new Atlanta warehouse and draw in more farmers like Edwards.

TRUCKIN': The Common Market Georgia picks up produce from local farms and delivers them to hospitals, universities, and schools around the metro Atlanta area.Corryn LytleTen years ago, inspired by a friend who grew tomatoes, Alexis Edwards decide to try her own thumb at hydroponic farming. She contacted Crop King, a greenhouse manufacturer, who suggested she and her family start off with lettuce. Next thing they knew, an 18-wheeler full of the ingredients needed for a commercial sized hydroponic greenhouse was delivered to their Dublin, Georgia, home.

Edwards named the farm R&G, after her two children, Riley and Grace. She and her family got started by simply inviting members of the community to stop into the greenhouse and select their own organic lettuce, sold at just $2 a head. “They will just walk in, pick their lettuce, and leave money in the sink,” Edwards says. “It’s on the honor system.”

A rustic sink serving as a cash register may be charming, but the truth is small and midscale family farms often struggle to make ends meet. In a food system that has evolved to favor low prices and convenience, Edwards said partnering with a CSA like the Common Market is crucial to reaching a wider Atlanta market. “It has been a huge confidence builder to be able to start something from the ground up and watch it grow,” she continues. “It's hard to do that nowadays.” 

Thanks to better distribution partnerships forged through the Common Market, R&G Farms currently supplies Emory Hospital with leafy greens. As an independent farm, Edwards says they normally wouldn’t have even been on the hospital’s radar. “The Common Market opened doors for us that we were not able to and other companies just haven't been able to do. They’re big on fresh. They don't hold it in their cooler, they get produce from us and they are pretty much delivering it the next day.” Other big wholesale produce companies in Atlanta let veggies sit in coolers up to a week — allowing nutrients to break down before even reaching consumers.

WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Employees celebrate the grand opening of The Common Market Georgia in East Point.Corryn LytleThe Common Market’s new warehouse in East Point is over 60,000 square feet. As soon as the distributor purchased the warehouse in December 2016, they got to work building out their cooler space, upgrading from their three-cooler rental agreement at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Today, they have 6,500 square feet of cold storage with zones to separate foods that naturally produce ethylene, the gas emitted during ripening, and products that are sensitive to ethylene. Refrigerated shipping containers have allowed them to distribute more frozen products.

Most of the produce is boxed up and driven to large institutions including Morrison Healthcare and the 11 hospitals in their network, including Grady and Emory. Sage Dining represents many private schools and even more Atlanta public schools; early childcare providers and community organizations are included in the Common Market partnerships. Services are not limited to large groups, though. Farm share members can also be individuals and families who can pick up pre-selected, seasonal items at participating spaces such as workplaces, schools, and community centers.

The Common Market Georgia’s procurement manager, Katie Chatham, spends most of her day donning and shedding layers of clothing as she steps inside the cooler to take detailed inventory. But she also thinks big picture for the farmers. Her job is to run reports of cases of food sold month by month, identify new areas of growth, and estimate projected amounts for products for the upcoming season. Chatham personally drives to each farm to chat with growers face-to-face about the needs of the upcoming season and to plot where they should distribute next.

At this month’s vision meeting, Edwards said she hopes to sell R&G Farms greens to Grady Hospital. Regardless, she knows the Common Market will find her a good fit in Atlanta. “They are an incredible company full of the most wonderful, honest, and organized people we have ever dealt with in produce,” she says. “They have reached out and have done so much more than we could have ever possibly done on our own.”



The Common Market Georgia, 1050 Oakleigh Drive, East Point. 678-343-9525 ext. 21. www.thecommonmarket.org    Courtesy Alexis Edwards FARMING FAM: The Edwards family grow hydroponic lettuce at R&G Farms, which is distributed to local institutions by The Common Market Georgia.        20989824                           Easy being green "
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Article

Friday January 26, 2018 10:06 pm EST
The Common Market Georgia helps small-scale farmers into large-scale kitchens | more...
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  string(110) "Once needed for times of scarcity, canning and pickling are now some of the hottest ways to prepare fresh food"
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  string(6246) "Attitudes about food preservation have changed. Once a seasonal necessity to prepare for times of scarcity, then mostly forgotten at the midcentury outset of industrialized food production, chefs today are returning to canning and pickling as creative ways to prepare fresh food.
Chef Zeb Stevenson of Watershed on Peachtree is one such canning aficionado. “I do it, and I do it a lot, because it’s responsible and smart, but also because I just plain love the work,” he says. “You are serving something that has been transformed. It's texturally different, the flavor is different, and it’s a different eating experience. For the Watershed, it’s taking the best things and making sure we have them for as long as we possibly can.” (No pun intended.)

Stevenson has been fermenting vinegars for over six years and is USDA certified in canning. Over the past few years, he’s watched his once niche hobby spread across the city’s dining scene. Call it inspiration, or competition; Atlanta chefs tend to do the same things around the same times. “It means we live in a community where people are inspired by each other and that drives quality upwards,” says Stevenson, who welcomes the trend. “The quality of pickled and canned goods that chefs in Atlanta are offering now is far greater than what it was three or four years ago because we are all learning together and sharing techniques.”

There are key scientific differences between the most popular processes of preservation. In pickling, high acid is used to render food shelf-stable, while canning uses high heat and pressure to do the same thing. The two are only similar in the fact that they both get sealed in a glass jar. Preserving usually takes 30 minutes prep time, 20 minutes of pressure canning, and then as much as two hours to cool properly. It’s a serious commitment, but for canners like Stevenson it’s often paired with other prep work or turned into a soothing Sunday evening activity.

If canning is pure preservation, pickling is its playful cousin. Each time he pickles, Stevenson says he feels like he’s conducting a little science experiment, or creating in a way that reminds him of his days as an art student at Cornell. In the spring, he jumps at the short bamboo season (10 days this year!) and goes into hyperactive pickling mode. This season he bought 200 pounds of fresh bamboo and spent two weeks cleaning, prepping, and pickling it in half-gallon glass jars. “I've somehow become Atlanta's bamboo whisperer and ambassador,” he laughs, “because I buy more of it than any other chef in the city.”

YES WE CAN: Zeb Stevenson of Watershed pickles more bamboo than any other chef in the city.Courtesy WatershedOf course, Stevenson is by no means the only master pickler in town. Once a chef understands the mechanics, he or she can add in an array of flavors and ingredients to personalize the process. South City Kitchen chef Jason Starnes makes jumbo lump crab cake with pickled cherry; Ecco’s Brent Banda tops foie gras torchon with saffron-pickled fennel; Chris Edwards of Restaurant Eugene cans a “winter picnic” featuring spring and summer preserves with strawberries, blackberries, and more.

Lyn Deardorff of Preserving Now has made a twilight career out of preserving the very process of food preservation. A home canner for more than four decades, she retired from her corporate career in 2010 and spent the summer canning, eventually teaching friends how to do it once she realized how few resources there were for learning the “lost art.” Courses in food preservation from Cornell University and UGA led to more official classes and workshops, and recently she found a home at Sweet Auburn Curb Market’s the Learning Kitchen, where she and several other instructions offer crash courses in canning and other classic culinary arts. Workshops such as Canning 101 Immersion teach the basics of preserving fruits, pickling, and canning tomatoes. 

“A lot of chefs have no background in canning — and it scares me,” Deardorff says. “Culinary schools don't necessarily train anything in canning, and it's never been curriculum that's popular enough.” But she hopes the tide is turning. “There are some good restaurants in town that are doing preserved foods, and I think they have gone the extra mile to learn.”

Drew Van Leuven, co-owner and executive chef of Seven Lamps, is one chef who has educated himself on the world of pickling. His restaurant in Buckhead not only pops a pickle on just about every plate, but has also replaced traditional bread service at the start of the dining experience with a charcuterie board, packed with pickled veggies and crème fraiche. It’s a lighter way to begin dinner, rather than filling up on carbs, says Van Leuven. “It's served as a way to wake up your palate, get your taste buds moving and ready your mouth for dinner.”

There's no doubt summer is the strongest season for canning, but fall and winter keep things going with seasonal produce like cranberries, apples, pears, squash, and root vegetables. In October, Seven Lamps pickled its last batch of tomatoes for the season, 100 or so pounds that Van Leuven hopes will last throughout the winter. “Our process is essentially canning, but we will put in a ginger and thyme pickle. It's not to overly flavor the tomatoes, but give them a little hint,” he says. “Pickles have the potential to add so much flavor that food calls out for, in many ways more than salt.”

If a restaurant is lucky enough to keep jars on the shelves, canned food tends to only get better with age. Watershed plans the year ahead in relation to the preserved foods Stevenson expects to have on hand. It's hard to lay down a hard rule for how long foods should be canned, but on average a softer vegetable usually requires a week to reach peak flavor, while firmer vegetables, such as carrots, could take months for the brine to fully penetrate.
“It’s a lot of trial and error, but the beauty of it is that there is no real error,” Stevenson says. “You still get to enjoy something delicious, and you are taking some knowledge away from what you would do different next time.”"
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Chef Zeb Stevenson of Watershed on Peachtree is one such canning aficionado. “I do it, and I do it a lot, because it’s responsible and smart, but also because I just plain love the work,” he says. “You are serving something that has been transformed. It's texturally different, the flavor is different, and it’s a different eating experience. For the Watershed, it’s taking the best things and making sure we have them for as long as we possibly can.” (No pun intended.)

Stevenson has been fermenting vinegars for over six years and is USDA certified in canning. Over the past few years, he’s watched his once niche hobby spread across the city’s dining scene. Call it inspiration, or competition; Atlanta chefs tend to do the same things around the same times. “It means we live in a community where people are inspired by each other and that drives quality upwards,” says Stevenson, who welcomes the trend. “The quality of pickled and canned goods that chefs in Atlanta are offering now is far greater than what it was three or four years ago because we are all learning together and sharing techniques.”

There are key scientific differences between the most popular processes of preservation. In pickling, high acid is used to render food shelf-stable, while canning uses high heat and pressure to do the same thing. The two are only similar in the fact that they both get sealed in a glass jar. Preserving usually takes 30 minutes prep time, 20 minutes of pressure canning, and then as much as two hours to cool properly. It’s a serious commitment, but for canners like Stevenson it’s often paired with other prep work or turned into a soothing Sunday evening activity.

If canning is pure preservation, pickling is its playful cousin. Each time he pickles, Stevenson says he feels like he’s conducting a little science experiment, or creating in a way that reminds him of his days as an art student at Cornell. In the spring, he jumps at the short bamboo season (10 days this year!) and goes into hyperactive pickling mode. This season he bought 200 pounds of fresh bamboo and spent two weeks cleaning, prepping, and pickling it in half-gallon glass jars. “I've somehow become Atlanta's bamboo whisperer and ambassador,” he laughs, “because I buy more of it than any other chef in the city.”

{img src="https://cdn.creativeloafing.com/files/base/scomm/clatl/image/2017/12/640w/ChefZebStevenson_Headshot___Copy.58474a08aa2f8.5a32cc6a62b8f.jpg"}YES WE CAN: Zeb Stevenson of Watershed pickles more bamboo than any other chef in the city.Courtesy WatershedOf course, Stevenson is by no means the only master pickler in town. Once a chef understands the mechanics, he or she can add in an array of flavors and ingredients to personalize the process. South City Kitchen chef Jason Starnes makes jumbo lump crab cake with pickled cherry; Ecco’s Brent Banda tops foie gras torchon with saffron-pickled fennel; Chris Edwards of Restaurant Eugene cans a “winter picnic” featuring spring and summer preserves with strawberries, blackberries, and more.

Lyn Deardorff of Preserving Now has made a twilight career out of preserving the very process of food preservation. A home canner for more than four decades, she retired from her corporate career in 2010 and spent the summer canning, eventually teaching friends how to do it once she realized how few resources there were for learning the “lost art.” Courses in food preservation from Cornell University and UGA led to more official classes and workshops, and recently she found a home at Sweet Auburn Curb Market’s the Learning Kitchen, where she and several other instructions offer crash courses in canning and other classic culinary arts. Workshops such as Canning 101 Immersion teach the basics of preserving fruits, pickling, and canning tomatoes. 

“A lot of chefs have no background in canning — and it scares me,” Deardorff says. “Culinary schools don't necessarily train anything in canning, and it's never been curriculum that's popular enough.” But she hopes the tide is turning. “There are some good restaurants in town that are doing preserved foods, and I think they have gone the extra mile to learn.”

Drew Van Leuven, co-owner and executive chef of Seven Lamps, is one chef who has educated himself on the world of pickling. His restaurant in Buckhead not only pops a pickle on just about every plate, but has also replaced traditional bread service at the start of the dining experience with a charcuterie board, packed with pickled veggies and crème fraiche. It’s a lighter way to begin dinner, rather than filling up on carbs, says Van Leuven. “It's served as a way to wake up your palate, get your taste buds moving and ready your mouth for dinner.”

There's no doubt summer is the strongest season for canning, but fall and winter keep things going with seasonal produce like cranberries, apples, pears, squash, and root vegetables. In October, Seven Lamps pickled its last batch of tomatoes for the season, 100 or so pounds that Van Leuven hopes will last throughout the winter. “Our process is essentially canning, but we will put in a ginger and thyme pickle. It's not to overly flavor the tomatoes, but give them a little hint,” he says. “Pickles have the potential to add so much flavor that food calls out for, in many ways more than salt.”

If a restaurant is lucky enough to keep jars on the shelves, canned food tends to only get better with age. Watershed plans the year ahead in relation to the preserved foods Stevenson expects to have on hand. It's hard to lay down a hard rule for how long foods should be canned, but on average a softer vegetable usually requires a week to reach peak flavor, while firmer vegetables, such as carrots, could take months for the brine to fully penetrate.
“It’s a lot of trial and error, but the beauty of it is that there is no real error,” Stevenson says. “You still get to enjoy something delicious, and you are taking some knowledge away from what you would do different next time.”"
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  string(6922) " Lyn Deardorff 042 Low Res.5a32cb7f6350c  2018-02-05T01:32:16+00:00 Lyn_Deardorff_042_Low_Res.5a32cb7f6350c.jpg     Once needed for times of scarcity, canning and pickling are now some of the hottest ways to prepare fresh food 2496  2017-12-14T23:50:00+00:00 The art of preservation ben.eason@creativeloafing.com Ben Eason Grace Huseth  2017-12-14T23:50:00+00:00  Attitudes about food preservation have changed. Once a seasonal necessity to prepare for times of scarcity, then mostly forgotten at the midcentury outset of industrialized food production, chefs today are returning to canning and pickling as creative ways to prepare fresh food.
Chef Zeb Stevenson of Watershed on Peachtree is one such canning aficionado. “I do it, and I do it a lot, because it’s responsible and smart, but also because I just plain love the work,” he says. “You are serving something that has been transformed. It's texturally different, the flavor is different, and it’s a different eating experience. For the Watershed, it’s taking the best things and making sure we have them for as long as we possibly can.” (No pun intended.)

Stevenson has been fermenting vinegars for over six years and is USDA certified in canning. Over the past few years, he’s watched his once niche hobby spread across the city’s dining scene. Call it inspiration, or competition; Atlanta chefs tend to do the same things around the same times. “It means we live in a community where people are inspired by each other and that drives quality upwards,” says Stevenson, who welcomes the trend. “The quality of pickled and canned goods that chefs in Atlanta are offering now is far greater than what it was three or four years ago because we are all learning together and sharing techniques.”

There are key scientific differences between the most popular processes of preservation. In pickling, high acid is used to render food shelf-stable, while canning uses high heat and pressure to do the same thing. The two are only similar in the fact that they both get sealed in a glass jar. Preserving usually takes 30 minutes prep time, 20 minutes of pressure canning, and then as much as two hours to cool properly. It’s a serious commitment, but for canners like Stevenson it’s often paired with other prep work or turned into a soothing Sunday evening activity.

If canning is pure preservation, pickling is its playful cousin. Each time he pickles, Stevenson says he feels like he’s conducting a little science experiment, or creating in a way that reminds him of his days as an art student at Cornell. In the spring, he jumps at the short bamboo season (10 days this year!) and goes into hyperactive pickling mode. This season he bought 200 pounds of fresh bamboo and spent two weeks cleaning, prepping, and pickling it in half-gallon glass jars. “I've somehow become Atlanta's bamboo whisperer and ambassador,” he laughs, “because I buy more of it than any other chef in the city.”

YES WE CAN: Zeb Stevenson of Watershed pickles more bamboo than any other chef in the city.Courtesy WatershedOf course, Stevenson is by no means the only master pickler in town. Once a chef understands the mechanics, he or she can add in an array of flavors and ingredients to personalize the process. South City Kitchen chef Jason Starnes makes jumbo lump crab cake with pickled cherry; Ecco’s Brent Banda tops foie gras torchon with saffron-pickled fennel; Chris Edwards of Restaurant Eugene cans a “winter picnic” featuring spring and summer preserves with strawberries, blackberries, and more.

Lyn Deardorff of Preserving Now has made a twilight career out of preserving the very process of food preservation. A home canner for more than four decades, she retired from her corporate career in 2010 and spent the summer canning, eventually teaching friends how to do it once she realized how few resources there were for learning the “lost art.” Courses in food preservation from Cornell University and UGA led to more official classes and workshops, and recently she found a home at Sweet Auburn Curb Market’s the Learning Kitchen, where she and several other instructions offer crash courses in canning and other classic culinary arts. Workshops such as Canning 101 Immersion teach the basics of preserving fruits, pickling, and canning tomatoes. 

“A lot of chefs have no background in canning — and it scares me,” Deardorff says. “Culinary schools don't necessarily train anything in canning, and it's never been curriculum that's popular enough.” But she hopes the tide is turning. “There are some good restaurants in town that are doing preserved foods, and I think they have gone the extra mile to learn.”

Drew Van Leuven, co-owner and executive chef of Seven Lamps, is one chef who has educated himself on the world of pickling. His restaurant in Buckhead not only pops a pickle on just about every plate, but has also replaced traditional bread service at the start of the dining experience with a charcuterie board, packed with pickled veggies and crème fraiche. It’s a lighter way to begin dinner, rather than filling up on carbs, says Van Leuven. “It's served as a way to wake up your palate, get your taste buds moving and ready your mouth for dinner.”

There's no doubt summer is the strongest season for canning, but fall and winter keep things going with seasonal produce like cranberries, apples, pears, squash, and root vegetables. In October, Seven Lamps pickled its last batch of tomatoes for the season, 100 or so pounds that Van Leuven hopes will last throughout the winter. “Our process is essentially canning, but we will put in a ginger and thyme pickle. It's not to overly flavor the tomatoes, but give them a little hint,” he says. “Pickles have the potential to add so much flavor that food calls out for, in many ways more than salt.”

If a restaurant is lucky enough to keep jars on the shelves, canned food tends to only get better with age. Watershed plans the year ahead in relation to the preserved foods Stevenson expects to have on hand. It's hard to lay down a hard rule for how long foods should be canned, but on average a softer vegetable usually requires a week to reach peak flavor, while firmer vegetables, such as carrots, could take months for the brine to fully penetrate.
“It’s a lot of trial and error, but the beauty of it is that there is no real error,” Stevenson says. “You still get to enjoy something delicious, and you are taking some knowledge away from what you would do different next time.”    Joeff Davis THE PRESERVATIONIST: Lyn Deardorff of Preserving Now teaches canning and pickling classes at Sweet Auburn Curb Market's the Learning Kitchen.        20986054         http://dev.creativeloafing.com/image/2017/12/Lyn_Deardorff_042_Low_Res.5a32cb7f6350c.png                  The art of preservation "
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Once needed for times of scarcity, canning and pickling are now some of the hottest ways to prepare fresh food | more...
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The shop's name is a nod to the former baseball stadium on Ponce de Leon Avenue, Spiller Park, where the minor league Atlanta Crackers once played. Baseball lover Donchey has thrown into the design many details that reflect America's favorite pastime: illustrated trading card style business cards; walls covered in yellow pine paneling burnt with a slight ombre effect to resemble pine tar on a bat; multiple references to Hoolie, the baseball playing bear mascot of the champion 1933 Spiller Park Hooligans.

Spiller Park Coffee was born when Ponce City Market developer Jamestown Properties approached Donchey about opening a Steady Hand stall in the food hall. Instead, Empire State South's Acheson challenged him to come up with a new brand that better reflected Atlanta. As Donchey researched the city, he learned about R.J. Spiller, a noteworthy club owner who bought the former site of Ponce de Leon Field in 1924 and erected a concrete and steel stadium for the Crackers, dubbing it Spiller Park. The state-of-the-art stadium brought a lot of exhibition games, like the one where Babe Ruth hit a home run, but was also an important place to see and be seen in Atlanta, boasting other attractions such as a swimming pool, bowling alley, and gambling in the grandstands.

"I got fascinated with the idea that Atlanta does not hold onto its history very well," Donchey says. "It was about R.J. Spiller creating an environment. It was important to him to have equal seating in the stadium, even during a time of segregation, for black and white patrons. It was about connecting with the community and for families to come together along with different kinds of people. That's what really caught me about the story."

Now something of a history fanatic, Donchey has turned his attention to Toco Hills. The new Spiller Park Coffee stands in what is likely one of the oldest shopping centers in Atlanta. Neighbor Toco Giant Package Store has been operating for decades and the Bagel Palace has been there since 1993. "Toco Hills is going through a unique time where it is starting to change over," Donchey said. "No one has pushed the envelope here outside of a few places but Toco Hills deserves good things and people who stand for good things."

With his long history in coffee, from a first gig at Starbucks to opening the erstwhile Steady Hand Pour House in Emory Village to running the coffee program at Empire State South, Donchey has become very intentional about flavors and sourcing. The new Toco Hills location includes two George Howell varieties from Guatemala and Colombia as well as Ethiopian beans from Intelligentsia. "It's like growing a friend base," he says. "We know and love the roasters that we work with and want you to as well. The fact sheet on varieties, sustainability, and price are great; but we're here to spread the love of coffee."

Perhaps the shop's most Atlanta offering is the Cola-Cocktail ($5.50), a tumbler of assam tea syrup made in-house then filled with Coke and spiked with a shot of espresso. The caffeine bomb is then poured into a mason jar and finished off with coconut cr̬me infused with star anise to create a Milky Way effect. Toast by Hugh Acheson is not a side item, but MVP of the menu, whether it's served with jam or nut butter and figs.

On its soft opening day back in September, the new Spiller Park donated all proceeds to the Houston Food Bank in support of Hurricane Harvey relief, raising over $1,000 in just five hours. That's just the kind of business model Donchey believes in. "Part of connecting with the community is always being active in charity work and giving our time to the public," he says. "That's part of being gracious for someone paying for a cup of coffee."


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The shop's name is a nod to the former baseball stadium on Ponce de Leon Avenue, Spiller Park, where the minor league Atlanta Crackers once played. Baseball lover Donchey has thrown into the design many details that reflect America's favorite pastime: illustrated trading card style business cards; walls covered in yellow pine paneling burnt with a slight ombre effect to resemble pine tar on a bat; multiple references to Hoolie, the baseball playing bear mascot of the champion 1933 Spiller Park Hooligans.
{HTML()}Spiller Park DaleJAVA LORD: Spiller Park Coffee's co-owner Dale Donchey sits outside his new Toco Hills coffeehouse.Robby Simon{HTML}
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Now something of a history fanatic, Donchey has turned his attention to Toco Hills. The new Spiller Park Coffee stands in what is likely one of the oldest shopping centers in Atlanta. Neighbor Toco Giant Package Store has been operating for decades and the Bagel Palace has been there since 1993. "Toco Hills is going through a unique time where it is starting to change over," Donchey said. "No one has pushed the envelope here outside of a few places [but] Toco Hills deserves good things and people who stand for good things."

With his long history in coffee, from a first gig at Starbucks to opening the erstwhile Steady Hand Pour House in Emory Village to running the coffee program at Empire State South, Donchey has become very intentional about flavors and sourcing. The new Toco Hills location includes two George Howell varieties from Guatemala and Colombia as well as Ethiopian beans from Intelligentsia. "It's like growing a friend base," he says. "We know and love the roasters that we work with and want you to as well. The fact sheet on varieties, sustainability, and price are great; but we're here to spread the love of coffee."
{HTML()}Spiller Park Pour OverSLOW PITCH: Spiller Park serves carefully-sourced pour over coffee and a number of other locally-inspired treats.Robby Simon{HTML}
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Now something of a history fanatic, Donchey has turned his attention to Toco Hills. The new Spiller Park Coffee stands in what is likely one of the oldest shopping centers in Atlanta. Neighbor Toco Giant Package Store has been operating for decades and the Bagel Palace has been there since 1993. "Toco Hills is going through a unique time where it is starting to change over," Donchey said. "No one has pushed the envelope here outside of a few places but Toco Hills deserves good things and people who stand for good things."

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Perhaps the shop's most Atlanta offering is the Cola-Cocktail ($5.50), a tumbler of assam tea syrup made in-house then filled with Coke and spiked with a shot of espresso. The caffeine bomb is then poured into a mason jar and finished off with coconut cr̬me infused with star anise to create a Milky Way effect. Toast by Hugh Acheson is not a side item, but MVP of the menu, whether it's served with jam or nut butter and figs.

On its soft opening day back in September, the new Spiller Park donated all proceeds to the Houston Food Bank in support of Hurricane Harvey relief, raising over $1,000 in just five hours. That's just the kind of business model Donchey believes in. "Part of connecting with the community is always being active in charity work and giving our time to the public," he says. "That's part of being gracious for someone paying for a cup of coffee."


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Tuesday November 14, 2017 10:54 pm EST
Spiller Park Coffee was batting a thousand. The Ponce City Market stall, co-owned by James Beard award-winning chef Hugh Acheson and barista extraordinaire Dale Donchey, was bustling, the accolades rolling in. But Donchey wanted to grow further, to open a brick-and-mortar location in which to hang his proverbial cap. And this fall, he and Acheson have done just that, with a standalone spot in... | more...
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  string(4698) "Enter Nakato and you have to choose: left or right. To the left, a tranquil, elegant space with a sushi bar opens out to traditional dining rooms, lined with rice straw mats and separated by silent sliding wooden doors. To the right, boisterous clapping cheers on hibachi chefs in a circus of cooking.

In the middle is Sachiyo Nakato Takahara, the third generation owner of the 45-year-old restaurant. Sachi knows one can't go wrong with either dining experience; instead, she celebrates both: ritualistic tradition and playful kitsch. After all, it's the combination of both these worlds that has kept Nakato in Atlanta for so many decades.

The Cheshire Bridge restaurant has long served as a Japanese cultural center of sorts for Atlanta run by three generations of Nakato women. Nakato hires Japanese-born and trained chefs and supports their immigration processes. It regularly hosts Japanese tea ceremonies and flower arranging classes and celebrates annual customs, such as Osechi boxes, special bento boxes for the new year. The private tatami rooms with the straw mats, Sachi says, are the only ones of their kind in the state of Georgia.

Nakato's story stretches back to November 1972, when matriarch Testuko Nakato opened her first restaurant in Atlanta after immigrating to the states. She purchased a former Italian restaurant on Piedmont Road and enlisted the help of Japanese contractors, architects, and designers that she brought in from Japan to restore the building and make it as culturally accurate as possible. She then handpicked a team of chefs from Japan, a tradition still held at Nakato.

Though she had no background in the restaurant world, Testuko's love for Japanese culture and great personal warmth made up for whatever she lacked in experience. "She appreciated the details of the culture," says her granddaughter, Sachi. "When you are a first-generation immigrant, you do what you know best. For our family, it was food."


In 1991, Testuko's daughter Hiroe Nakato moved the restaurant to its current location on Cheshire Bridge Road and opened a second location in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Hiroe's brother expanded the family business further, adding two locations in Charlotte, North Carolina, and one in Springfield, Missouri. "This 45anniversary honors the second generation that brought us here," says Sachi, "my aunt and uncles and mom and dad who built it from zero."

Fourteen years ago, Sachi took over as Atlanta's general manager. Her mother, Hiroe, acts as a consultant, providing guidance on all Nakato matters. Knowledge is passed down and blended with newfangled technology. Each week, Sachi chats with her mother in Japan over Skype about business, visions for the future, and family. But as she enters the later stages of life, Hiroe has begun to worry about the limitations of time.

"She wants to make sure she's doing her best to pass that knowledge down to the third generation," Sachi says. "I've cried at these Skype meetings. I've laughed at these Skype meetings. They are halfway across the world and I understand where she's coming from in terms of feeling the need to pass down as much information as possible. I want to be that listening ear."

Today, Nakato offers a wide variety of Japanese cuisine, but Sachi is most proud of the sushi and sashimi menus. She recommends ordering the omakase, which tells Nakato's excutive chef, Yoshi Kinjo, "I'll leave it to you," therefore guaranteeing all the freshest cuts. Of course, such dining now is popular across the city, but Sachi says that back when her grandmother first arrived on the scene, eating raw seafood was a totally new concept. "It was considered fish bait!" she laughs.

This year, Sachi will begin renovating Nakato to better reflect her personal style, while staying true to her family's Japanese tradition. She will pay tribute to her grandmother, Testuko, and her love for centuries-old, flower-printed Hanafuda playing cards by incorporating them into the design of the restaurant. Just like the delicately detailed cards, Nakato's menu reflects the intricacies of each season. Dishes are served on seasonal dinnerware imported from Japan.

Nakato now is in a season of change, but Sachi is in no rush to push her vision for the restaurant. In the meantime, her nine-year-old daughter, Naomi, and five-year-old Ellie are being groomed as the fourth generation to share the art of Japanese dining with Atlanta. "It's a milestone to be passing down a new tradition from my parent's generation to my generation," Sachi says. "Now it's my turn to make it mine."

Nakato, 1776 Cheshire Bridge Road N.E. 404-873-6582. www.nakatorestaurant.com. "
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  string(6950) "{HTML()}Sachi With Daughters In Kimono(1)FAMILY TIES: Nakato's third generation owner, Sachi Nakato, will eventually pass down her legacy to her two young daughters, Ellie and Naomi.Courtesy Nakato{HTML}Enter Nakato and you have to choose: left or right. To the left, a tranquil, elegant space with a sushi bar opens out to traditional dining rooms, lined with rice straw mats and separated by silent sliding wooden doors. To the right, boisterous clapping cheers on hibachi chefs in a circus of cooking.

In the middle is Sachiyo Nakato Takahara, the third generation owner of the 45-year-old restaurant. Sachi knows one can't go wrong with either dining experience; instead, she celebrates both: ritualistic tradition and playful kitsch. After all, it's the combination of both these worlds that has kept Nakato in Atlanta for so many decades.

The Cheshire Bridge restaurant has long served as a Japanese cultural center of sorts for Atlanta run by three generations of Nakato women. Nakato hires Japanese-born and trained chefs and supports their immigration processes. It regularly hosts Japanese tea ceremonies and flower arranging classes and celebrates annual customs, such as Osechi boxes, special bento boxes for the new year. The private tatami rooms with the straw mats, Sachi says, are the only ones of their kind in the state of Georgia.

Nakato's story stretches back to November 1972, when matriarch Testuko Nakato opened her first restaurant in Atlanta after immigrating to the states. She purchased a former Italian restaurant on Piedmont Road and enlisted the help of Japanese contractors, architects, and designers that she brought in from Japan to restore the building and make it as culturally accurate as possible. She then handpicked a team of chefs from Japan, a tradition still held at Nakato.

Though she had no background in the restaurant world, Testuko's love for Japanese culture and great personal warmth made up for whatever she lacked in experience. "She appreciated the details of the culture," says her granddaughter, Sachi. "When you are a first-generation immigrant, you do what you know best. For our family, it was food."
{HTML()}BA Governor Jimmy CarterBACK IN THE DAY: The Nakato family dines with then-governor Jimmy Carter back in the early 1970s.Courtesy Nakato{HTML}

In 1991, Testuko's daughter Hiroe Nakato moved the restaurant to its current location on Cheshire Bridge Road and opened a second location in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Hiroe's brother expanded the family business further, adding two locations in Charlotte, North Carolina, and one in Springfield, Missouri. "This 45{SUP()}th {SUP}anniversary [honors] the second generation that brought us here," says Sachi, "my aunt and uncles and mom and dad who built it from zero."

Fourteen years ago, Sachi took over as Atlanta's general manager. Her mother, Hiroe, acts as a consultant, providing guidance on all Nakato matters. Knowledge is passed down and blended with newfangled technology. Each week, Sachi chats with her mother in Japan over Skype about business, visions for the future, and family. But as she enters the later stages of life, Hiroe has begun to worry about the limitations of time.
{HTML()}KA Rooms View Copy3BIG IN JAPAN: Nakato's traditional tatami rooms are the only ones of their kind in the state of Georgia.Courtesy Nakato{HTML}
"She wants to make sure she's doing her best to pass that knowledge down to the third generation," Sachi says. "I've cried at these Skype meetings. I've laughed at these Skype meetings. They are halfway across the world and I understand where she's coming from in terms of feeling the need to pass down as much information as possible. I want to be that listening ear."

Today, Nakato offers a wide variety of Japanese cuisine, but Sachi is most proud of the sushi and sashimi menus. She recommends ordering the omakase, which tells Nakato's excutive chef, Yoshi Kinjo, "I'll leave it to you," therefore guaranteeing all the freshest cuts. Of course, such dining now is popular across the city, but Sachi says that back when her grandmother first arrived on the scene, eating raw seafood was a totally new concept. "It was considered fish bait!" she laughs.
{HTML()}Dining Room And Sushi Bar For Anniversary Party(1)PARTY TIME: Nakato prepares for a private celebration of their 45th anniversary this weekend with origami hanging from the ceiling.Courtesy Nakato{HTML}
This year, Sachi will begin renovating Nakato to better reflect her personal style, while staying true to her family's Japanese tradition. She will pay tribute to her grandmother, Testuko, and her love for centuries-old, flower-printed Hanafuda playing cards by incorporating them into the design of the restaurant. Just like the delicately detailed cards, Nakato's menu reflects the intricacies of each season. Dishes are served on seasonal dinnerware imported from Japan.

Nakato now is in a season of change, but Sachi is in no rush to push her vision for the restaurant. In the meantime, her nine-year-old daughter, Naomi, and five-year-old Ellie are being groomed as the fourth generation to share the art of Japanese dining with Atlanta. "It's a milestone to be passing down a new tradition from my parent's generation to my generation," Sachi says. "Now it's my turn to make it mine."

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  string(4876) "       2017-11-10T21:01:00+00:00 Nakato celebrates 45 years   Grace Huseth  2017-11-10T21:01:00+00:00  Enter Nakato and you have to choose: left or right. To the left, a tranquil, elegant space with a sushi bar opens out to traditional dining rooms, lined with rice straw mats and separated by silent sliding wooden doors. To the right, boisterous clapping cheers on hibachi chefs in a circus of cooking.

In the middle is Sachiyo Nakato Takahara, the third generation owner of the 45-year-old restaurant. Sachi knows one can't go wrong with either dining experience; instead, she celebrates both: ritualistic tradition and playful kitsch. After all, it's the combination of both these worlds that has kept Nakato in Atlanta for so many decades.

The Cheshire Bridge restaurant has long served as a Japanese cultural center of sorts for Atlanta run by three generations of Nakato women. Nakato hires Japanese-born and trained chefs and supports their immigration processes. It regularly hosts Japanese tea ceremonies and flower arranging classes and celebrates annual customs, such as Osechi boxes, special bento boxes for the new year. The private tatami rooms with the straw mats, Sachi says, are the only ones of their kind in the state of Georgia.

Nakato's story stretches back to November 1972, when matriarch Testuko Nakato opened her first restaurant in Atlanta after immigrating to the states. She purchased a former Italian restaurant on Piedmont Road and enlisted the help of Japanese contractors, architects, and designers that she brought in from Japan to restore the building and make it as culturally accurate as possible. She then handpicked a team of chefs from Japan, a tradition still held at Nakato.

Though she had no background in the restaurant world, Testuko's love for Japanese culture and great personal warmth made up for whatever she lacked in experience. "She appreciated the details of the culture," says her granddaughter, Sachi. "When you are a first-generation immigrant, you do what you know best. For our family, it was food."


In 1991, Testuko's daughter Hiroe Nakato moved the restaurant to its current location on Cheshire Bridge Road and opened a second location in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Hiroe's brother expanded the family business further, adding two locations in Charlotte, North Carolina, and one in Springfield, Missouri. "This 45anniversary honors the second generation that brought us here," says Sachi, "my aunt and uncles and mom and dad who built it from zero."

Fourteen years ago, Sachi took over as Atlanta's general manager. Her mother, Hiroe, acts as a consultant, providing guidance on all Nakato matters. Knowledge is passed down and blended with newfangled technology. Each week, Sachi chats with her mother in Japan over Skype about business, visions for the future, and family. But as she enters the later stages of life, Hiroe has begun to worry about the limitations of time.

"She wants to make sure she's doing her best to pass that knowledge down to the third generation," Sachi says. "I've cried at these Skype meetings. I've laughed at these Skype meetings. They are halfway across the world and I understand where she's coming from in terms of feeling the need to pass down as much information as possible. I want to be that listening ear."

Today, Nakato offers a wide variety of Japanese cuisine, but Sachi is most proud of the sushi and sashimi menus. She recommends ordering the omakase, which tells Nakato's excutive chef, Yoshi Kinjo, "I'll leave it to you," therefore guaranteeing all the freshest cuts. Of course, such dining now is popular across the city, but Sachi says that back when her grandmother first arrived on the scene, eating raw seafood was a totally new concept. "It was considered fish bait!" she laughs.

This year, Sachi will begin renovating Nakato to better reflect her personal style, while staying true to her family's Japanese tradition. She will pay tribute to her grandmother, Testuko, and her love for centuries-old, flower-printed Hanafuda playing cards by incorporating them into the design of the restaurant. Just like the delicately detailed cards, Nakato's menu reflects the intricacies of each season. Dishes are served on seasonal dinnerware imported from Japan.

Nakato now is in a season of change, but Sachi is in no rush to push her vision for the restaurant. In the meantime, her nine-year-old daughter, Naomi, and five-year-old Ellie are being groomed as the fourth generation to share the art of Japanese dining with Atlanta. "It's a milestone to be passing down a new tradition from my parent's generation to my generation," Sachi says. "Now it's my turn to make it mine."

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Article

Friday November 10, 2017 04:01 pm EST

Enter Nakato and you have to choose: left or right. To the left, a tranquil, elegant space with a sushi bar opens out to traditional dining rooms, lined with rice straw mats and separated by silent sliding wooden doors. To the right, boisterous clapping cheers on hibachi chefs in a circus of cooking.

In the middle is Sachiyo Nakato Takahara, the third generation owner of the 45-year-old...

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