If you don’t recognize Hugh Acheson from either around town (if you live in Athens) or Top Chef,  THEN HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING UNDER A ROCK?

Jokes aside, for those of you who don’t know Hugh (I know, I know just call me Dr. Seuss), the chef is a six-time James Beard nominee for Best Chef Southeast, and Food & Wine’s 2002 winner of their Best New Chef award.

Acheson is also the owner of four Georgia-based restaurants (Athens’s 5&10, Athens’s The National, Atlanta’s Empire State South, and Savannah’s The Florence).

The current Top Chef Season 12 guest judge talked to Spoon UGA about all of his favorites and what it’s really like to be in the realm of Top Chef:

Spoon University: Favorite midnight snack?

Hugh Acheson: A simple sandwich of buttered rye bread, mustard, and ham.

SU: Favorite fast food restaurant?

HA: Popeye’s Fried Chicken.

SU: Favorite hometown restaurant? Favorite item on their menu?

HA: A Mexican grocery store down Chase Street called Los Amigos. My favorite is their Tacos al Pastor.

SU: Favorite restaurant in Athens? Favorite item on their menu?

HA: Pork Pupusas from Tlaloc.

SU: Favorite ingredient to work with?

HA: Miso.

A photo posted by Hugh Acheson (@hughacheson) on

SU: Least favorite ingredient to consume/work with?

HA: Green peppers.

SU: Favorite kitchen appliance(s)?

HA: Vitamix blenders, strainers, and tweezers are really useful.

SU: The best piece of culinary advice anyone has ever given you?

HA: “Clean as you go.”

hugh acheson

Photo by Sarah B. Hall

SU: Culinary idol?

HA: There’s a chef in Birmingham who I’ve always revered. His name is Frank Stitt.

SU: One food item that you would consider your “weakness”/guilty pleasure?

HA: Carrots. They’re not really guilty but they’re definitely pleasure. I always have them on hand as a snack.

SU: One Southern staple we can find year-round in your pantry at home?

HA: Stone-Ground Grits.

SU: One culinary specialty of yours that your daughters can’t get enough of?

HA: Charred cabbage.

SU: One culinary specialty of yours that is a definite crowd-pleaser?

HA: A really good Caesar Salad.

SU: One superfood you find underrated/that you think everyone should get on board with?

HA: Farro.

SU: One superfood you find overrated?

HA: Chia seeds.

SU: One food trend that you think needs to make a comeback?

HA: Americanized Chinese food like Lo Mein.

A photo posted by Five & Ten (@fiveandten) on

SU: One Top Chef (behind-the-scenes) secret you can share with us?

HA: There’s not much really. They’re all very similar to as they’re shown on TV. Tom’s a serious man, Padma’s pretty aloof, and Gale is very sweet.

SU: Something the Top Chef cast/crew snacked on while on set?

HA: There’s a lot of gummy bears being consumed.

hugh acheson

Photo courtesy of Jason Travis

SU: If you could have a meal with anyone (dead or alive) would it be, what would you serve, and which meal would you serve it at (i.e. breakfast, lunch, dinner)?

HA: Mid-afternoon/lunch is a good time to have it with an eclectic group of humans such as Mark Twain, Tom Waits, Joe Strummer (from The Clash), and throw in a crazy weirdo like Napoleon. The menu would be casual food like oysters, caviar, and white wine.

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