In case you haven’t guessed it already, Spoon University UGA is full of a few Top Chef fanatics. So of course we jumped at the opportunity to interview Season 6 finalist and Georgia native chef Kevin Gillespie.

Aside from his work on Top Chef, Gillespie was a James Beard semifinalist in 2009 for the Rising Star Chef of the Year category, a James Beard finalist again in 2013 for his debut cookbook Fire in my Belly, and received a James Beard nomination this year in the Best Chef: Southeast category. And to top off his litany of accolades, in November 2014 Gillespie received the GRACE Innovator Award on behalf of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

Gillespie is currently the owner of Atlanta’s Gunshow (which is frequented by many- including comedienne Mindy Kaling), is touring the nation promoting his book Pure Pork Awesomeness: Totally Cookable Recipes from Around the World, will be a headliner at this year’s Atlanta Food and Wine Festival , and plans to open a second restaurant in Decatur, GA this summer.

This week Spoon University UGA had the opportunity to talk to Gillespie about all his favorites:

Spoon University: What is your favorite midnight snack?

Kevin Gillespie: I don’t usually eat at midnight but if I had a favorite it would be Krystal’s cheeseburgers.

SU: Favorite fast food restaurant?

KG: Chick-Fil-A. Doesn’t everyone love them?

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

KG: Buckner’s in Jackson, GA. You don’t get to pick an item from the menu, you just sit down and you’re fed. Their fried chicken is some of the best I’ve ever had.

SU: Favorite ingredient to work with?

KG: Well, pork, of course!

SU: Least favorite ingredient to consume/ work with?

KG: Hazelnuts. I can work with them, but I think they taste like a bar of Ivory soap.

kevin Gillespie

Photo courtesy of Angie Mosier

SU: Favorite kitchen appliance?

KG: It’s probably the same as all chefs – my Vitamix blender.

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

KG: “Quit messing with stuff.” If you keep flipping the pans, stirring the sauce, etc. you will never let it cook as it’s supposed to. Don’t mess it up!

A photo posted by Kitchen Dudes (@gunshowatl) on

SU: Culinary idol?

KG: Michel Bras.

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

KG: Buffalo wings!

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

KG: While Lily Flour.

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

KG: For my parents, it’s my Brussels sprouts grain. For my granny, it’s my greens.

kevin Gillespie

Photo courtesy of Angie Mosier

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

KG: Definitely my chonchos y ponchos – pigs in a blanket. The recipe is in my book. My friends demanded it.

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

KG: Farro. It’s densely nutritious, very versatile, and tastes good.

SU: One superfood you find overrated?

KG: Ah, so many. But I’ll go with chia seeds.

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

KG: Stacking food. Not like a tower. But instead of spreading it out and leaving the guests to figure out the flavor profile, just put the ingredients that go together on top of each other so when you bite into it, you understand.

kevin Gillespie

Photo courtesy of Angie Mosier

SU: Was there a culinary inspiration behind your wild boar tattoo?

KG: I was actually chased by a wild boar while camping as a child.

SU: What was your most memorable Top Chef moment?

KG: I had won a round and did not have to compete in the next one, so I was seated at a table with a bunch of French chefs. It was awkward, and they were mostly speaking French so I didn’t understand but you could tell they were really criticizing and picking apart the contestants’ dishes.

Joel Robuchon was one of the chefs, and he had a translator. He started calling them out for criticizing American chefs trying to cook French food. He asked if they thought they could cook American food as well as those chefs.

SU: What are you looking the most forward to at this year’s Atlanta Food and Wine Festival?

KG: Seeing all my friends and fellow Southern chefs.

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)?

KG: I would like to have dinner with Teddy Roosevelt. We’d be in the woods around a fire and I’d be roasting wild game we hunted/trapped ourselves.

SU: The last supper you’d want to eat (if you had the option to choose)?

KG: I would do it jailhouse style and have a lot of things:

1. chopped whole hog BBQ from Skylight Inn or Scott’s or both

2. house lo mein from China Fu – my favorite Chinese growing up 

3. a big bowl of pinto beans, cornbread and raw onions – made by my granny

4. a big ass plate of hot wings, preferably made by an old co-worker at The Chicken Coop

5. a slice of my granny’s lemon pound cake

6. a giant Dairy Queen Mocha Chip Blizzard

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