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5 Questions with … Hugh Acheson

We talk holiday traditions, birthday cakes and getting kids in the kitchen with the James Beard Award-winning chef and author (“A New Turn in the South”) and “Top Chef” judge.

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Executive Editor
5 Questions with … Hugh Acheson
  1. The new season of “Top Chef” premiered Oct. 3 which we’re thrilled about. Without giving too much away, what are you most excited about this season?
    For me the show becomes more and more about location, and we want to celebrate the cities that we’re in. Being in New Orleans this year was just utterly amazing to be surrounded by all that food in such an amazingly historic food culture. It kind of reminded me of home in a lot of ways. It’s so rich in color and the flavors are so good, and there are so many young restaurants right now. But then the chefs are really good too. It’s a dramatic and fun season. … There are some tears here and there but, you know, that’s Top Chef!
  2. The holidays are fast approaching. What’s your family’s favorite holiday tradition?
    Christmas Eve we always have lamb, and I don’t know why. And then Christmas we usually have roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. It’s kind of British sensibilities matched with Southern agrarianism. So the night before, I’ll do a very nice leg of lamb, shaved down, and serve it with some salsa rosa and some salsa verde, and roasted potatoes sort of in a Greek style, and then collard greens. It’s a big spread, but it’s good. 
  3. What was your first cookbook and the first thing you made from it?
    That’s a really good question! I think the most general cookbook I ever bought was a first edition, soon after it came out, of “Chez Panisse Cooking.” It was written by Paul Bertolli when he was there and Paul is such a chef’s chef and he is just so talented. And I remember his recipe for risotto from start to finish. It was just so pure and beautiful. It was more about feeling and touch and the idea of food and the finished result more than any other recipe I had ever read. And so that meant a lot to me and really made you understand the rice and what it was doing. 
  4. How do you get your kids involved in the kitchen?
    I have two kids: Beatrice is 11 and Clementine is 9. They get involved in the kitchen in a lot of different ways. Both are avid cooks, Beatrice probably a little more so. She just gets into all sorts of stuff and enjoys making breakfast with me or sometimes making more in-depth dishes with me at night, working on fried chicken and stuff like that. So just seeing stuff is the key for kids learning more about food—and integrating them into the conversation about how food appears on the table each day.  
  5. At Betty Crocker, with our cake mixes and parties, we’re obviously big into birthdays. Are you a big birthday family?
    We like our birthdays! The girls are separated in birthdays by four days so they like separation now of birthday parties to make sure they are identifiable. It’s like being born on the 24th of December, it’s not the greatest thing in the world. But they love their birthdays and making a good cake and cupcakes at home. 

Photo by Sarah Dorio

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