John Fleer, Lonesome Valley, Cashiers, N.C.
John Currence, City Grocery, Oxford, Miss.
Lee Richardson, Capital Hotel, Little Rock, Ark.
Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta
Kelly English, Restaurant Iris, Memphis
Nick Seabergh, Giardina's, Greenwood
David Gaus, Washington, D.C., based pastry chef
You may recognize Fleer as the executive chef of Blackberry Farm for almost 15 years, a tenure during which he elevated the resort and its menus to five-star status and achieved loud acclaim for himself. After a few years off to recharge his batteries, Chef Fleer has opened his own culinary playground in North Carolina where diners can enjoy his playful takes on Southern fare at the Canyon Kitchen.
Currence was named the 2009 James Beard Award winner as best chef in the South for his innovative work at Oxford's City Grocery. With a menu of Southern food grounded in French cuisine, Chef Currence always brings the flavors, and we're lucky he's bringing them to Nashville.
Richardson of Little Rock's Capital Hotel has worked with Emeril Lagasse and John Besh while he developed his own interpretations of fine Creole dining. He's a Katrina refugee who never forgot about home, and New Orleans' loss is Little Rock's gain.
Hopkins ensures that Atlanta's Restaurant Eugene feeds diners exciting meals created using all house-made ingredients that have been locally sourced. His commitment to artisanal cooking has made Chef Hopkins a favorite in the Atlanta restaurant scene.
Chef English of Restaurant Iris in Memphis is also a former student of Besh. His menu concentrates on seafood cooked New Orleans-style and has earned great acclaim since the restuarant opened last year in the space of the former La Tourelle.
Seabergh cooks at Giardina's Italian Restaurant in Greenwood. He describes his style as "Mississippi Delta-centric Italian-American food." Like the millions of people who spent $400 on an iPad just to figure out what the heck it was, Chef Seabergh's enigmatic description of his cuisine should be enough to get you excited come try out his offerings.
Finally, Gaus was the former executive pastry chef at Acadiana and Passion Food Hospitality in Washington, D.C. Known as the master of the propane torch, Chef Guas promises to bring some inventive pastries to the party.
A ticket to Taking Nashville's Table to Higher Ground isn't a cheap ticket at $155 per diner, but when you consider the cause and the calibre of the presenting chefs, it should be a magnificent event. As usual, I greedily bought my ticket before I let the whole world know about it, but you can get yours here. See you there!