Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Catbird Seat Chefs Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson: 'Why It's Different in the South'

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 5:37 AM

Erik Anderson and Josh Habiger
  • Erik Anderson and Josh Habiger
Coinciding with their prestigious appearance at the James Beard House in New York, where they cooked dinner Monday night, the duo of Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson, co-chefs at Nashville's unique restaurant The Catbird Seat, have popped up on CNN's Eatocracy blog as spokesmen on the topic "Why It's Different in the South."

Their apparent joint statement, part of Eatocracy's 5@5 feature, is below. (And to see some pics of the Beard dinner, check out Strategic Hospitality, Catbird's parent, on Twitter @SHProjects.)

Five ways the South is different from the rest of the country

1. Southern Hospitality

"It sounds clichéd, but I truly believe that there is a strong sense of pride in hospitality in the South. Being a host here is really viewed as an honor and is taken quite seriously in fact. The lengths people go to, to make sure their guests feel welcome, whether it’s in their home or their restaurant or in their store, is really above and beyond anywhere I have ever been. It’s a part of what makes experiences here so special, and one reason why The Catbird Seat works here."

"One specific thing that we’ve noticed in Nashville is people genuinely want to know you. They want to know about your family, what you do on your off time, what football team you root for. People just want to feel connected to one another in the South more so than in any other part of the country. Overall, Southerners want you to feel comfortable and welcomed in every setting — it’s as simple as that."

2. Local Foods

"With the South's climate and longer growing season, we have access to some amazing produce like squash, eggplant, peaches, peanuts and more. Not to mention several local products like Allan Benton's bacon and ham, and other great local farms that are great to work with and which produce quality goods. I also never knew 'sweet tea' existed until I moved here, but I quickly found it to be a charming, delicious option."

3. Meat and Three

"I don't think the meat and three exists anywhere outside of the South, but I could be wrong. I do know it’s done best in the South. It’s a brilliant restaurant concept. You walk through a cafeteria-style line and choose three side dishes from 8-15 options and one meat from four or five options and there you have a great lunch. Quite often, fresh vegetables like collard greens, green beans, carrots and squash outweigh everything else on the [t]able and we opt for a vegetable plate."

"One of our all-time favorite meat and three restaurants is Arnold’s Country Kitchen. It’s truly a Nashville institution and if you go, you have to try the brisket, jalapeno cheese grits and the bread pudding. I could go on and on, so if you come to Nashville, try it for yourself."

4. Southern Staples

"Dishes such as fried chicken, barbecue, mac 'n' cheese and cornbread have long been associated with Southern cuisine. This is sometimes a good thing and sometimes a bad thing to be known for, but what’s really cool is that each chef, and really each city throughout the region has their own version of these staples."

"Some chefs give these dishes a modern, gourmet twist like our version of Nashville hot chicken while others embrace the past and continue cooking from the recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. Whatever the chef makes of it, these dishes are the foundation of Southern cuisine and what make the South a unique culinary destination."

5. Bourbon

"Well, whiskey in general. Tennessee and Kentucky are home to a number of big distilleries, like Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill and George Dickel, so there’s no shortage of spirits here. In fact, the South’s distilleries make up a large portion of The American Whiskey Trail. We’re also very excited about several small batch distilleries popping up throughout the region and producing some more interesting whiskeys in the coming years. It gives us the opportunity to tap into special, small batch productions that we may not have access to if we were located somewhere else in the country."

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