Hugh Acheson

Hugh Acheson
The renowned chef is an oddity in Southern cooking: He’s Canadian. But his perspectives on food are always fresh.

Hugh Acheson is the chef/partner of Empire State South, an Atlanta restaurant that’s won great critical praise in its first year of business. Hugh is a four-time James Beard Foundation nominee and chef/partner of the lauded Five & Ten, The National and Gosford Wine in Athens, Ga.

Born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, at age 15 he began working in restaurants after school and learning as much as possible about his dream of becoming a chef. Today, Acheson’s experience includes working under Chef Rob MacDonald, where he learned stylized French cuisine, wine and etiquette at the renowned Henri Burger restaurant in Ottawa, and in San Francisco as the chef de cuisine with Chef Mike Fennelly at Mecca, and later as opening sous chef with famed Chef Gary Danko at his namesake restaurant, where he found a love of the simple, pure and disciplined.

Acheson cuts through the heaviness of traditionally rich Southern dishes with bright acids, piquant chilis and the “bouncy,” fresh flavors he’s made all his own.

“We want to show people what great Southern food is,” he says. “Atlanta has great old meat-and-threes like Busy Bee [Café] and Carver’s [Country Kitchen]... We wanted something with that same sensibility, but a little more gilded. Just great, simple, local food that’s done in a really healthy and modern way.”