Destination 2016: Atlanta

it seems like an easy formula for a chef: create a restaurant you would want to eat in, and watch the culinary scene grow around it. To hear Atlantans tell the story of their city’s rise in foodie circles, you’d think that’s all it takes. But where many cities have tried that Field of Dreams approach with mixed results, Atlanta possesses other factors—community engagement, a drive to champion the region’s farmers and a touch of competitiveness to keep pushing boundaries—that have made its dining scene flourish, feeding an impressive 50 million visitors annually.

The chef community nationally has taken notice: Over the last five years, chefs in Atlanta earned 56 nominations for the James Beard Awards, the “Oscars” of cooking that celebrate both artistry and technique. Atlanta’s endemic culinary style—a mix of Southern and Appalachian that draws on the traditions of the working-class Scottish immigrants and African American slaves who historically made up much of the population—is being elevated to haute cuisine standards by technically proficient chefs. Fried chicken, potlikker, greens and beans, and buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy are all routinely reimagined, providing diners both the cultural authenticity they seek and the gourmet experience they crave. Meanwhile newer immigrant communities—Vietnamese, Latino, Korean and Bangladeshi among them—are bringing fresh influences to local dishes.
From Great restaurants to some of the South’s top art museums, Atlanta has it all.
With a burgeoning middle class and vibrant neighborhoods, Atlanta is a prime city opening a restaurant.
Large numbers of educated workers, a top airport, and reasonably priced real estate make Atlanta a great place to be in a business.
[/one_third][two_third]The presence of major international companies and research universities has also driven this mix of cultures and increase in diners. Coca-Cola, Turner Broadcasting, Delta Air Lines, UPS and Equifax are just some of the companies that have their global headquarters in Atlanta, while Georgia Tech and Emory University attract and create highly educated professionals. Employment has grown steadily since the recession ended, with 69,600 jobs expected to be added this year, helping to propel entrepreneurship—including new dining ventures—while increasing disposable income. In 2015 alone, more than 80 restaurants opened their doors in the city. “Atlanta’s culinary scene is booming,” says William Pate, president and CEO of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Southern staples, authentic international fare and chef-driven experiences all make dining one of the most popular pastimes for our visitors.”
What jumpstarted this revolution? Chefs cite a variety of milestones over the last 25 years, but there’s a general consensus about the transformative effect of the 1996 Summer Olympics, when 5 million spectators took in Atlanta over a 17-day period. “We knew that Atlanta had been chosen for the games,” says Anne Quatrano, a chef/restaurateur called the godmother of Atlanta’s food scene because of her longtime visionary presence. “Looking ahead, we thought this might be a boost for the city.”[/two_third][/full_width]

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