The Innovators: Joshua Hopkins vs. Ryan Smith

All this week we are giving sidelong loving glances at all 16 of the chefs featured in our Innovators bracket vote. (Hey, have you voted today? Vote now!) So far we've covered Anita Lo vs. John Fraser, Michael Voltaggio vs. Ludo Lefebvre, and Matt Dillon vs. Ethan Stowell. Now we present Joshua Hopkins and Ryan Smith.

Joshua Hopkins: At Abattoir—which is the pretty French word for "slaughterhouse"—he cooks seriously meat-centric cuisine. Atlanta super-restaurateurs Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison hired him as a line cook at high-end Bacchanalia in 2005 (he worked his way up to chef de cuisine), and then brought him on as chef and business partner when they opened Abattoir in 2009. Food critics went giddy over things like lamb liver fritters ("irresistible"), lamb sweetbreads in plum sauce and rosemary ("celestial"), and potted chicken liver and foie gras ("remarkable"), cautiously advising their readers that nose-to-tail eating was not as terrifying as it seemed, simultaneously reinforcing the idea that nose-to-tail eating is TERRIFYING (or, as one critic admitted, repulsive).

Ryan Smith: He took over as executive chef at Hugh Acheson's Empire State South last year, when the restaurant was a mere six weeks old, and was thrust into the Sturm und Drang of a three-meal-a-day restaurant (the terms of the lease require that Empire State South be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Atlantans, breathy for a taste of the laid-back vibe that Acheson created in Athens, Georgia, with Five and Ten and the National, flocked there. And while Smith is no stranger to the stranger parts of pigs and cows, he's been called out for making vegetables the centerpiece of a plate that also just happens to have some pork loin or a piece of prime New York strip on it. He does the classic meat and three, but in this case the three are the stars.


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