The keynote speaker for the conference will be chef, author and restaurant owner Donald Barickman of Charleston, S. Car. Barickman is the brains behind Magnolia’s, a Charleston restaurant that will celebrate its 20th anniversary this summer. When it opened on the heels of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, it was what Barickman called “a new concept restaurant.” “Magnolia’s is where your mouth meets the South,” he says. “I like to say it’s American cuisine with a down-south flavor.”
Taking liberties with some classic southern foods, Barickman updates them to meet the needs of what he calls the “modern palate.” When he first began, the idea of using local ingredients to reinvigorate traditional Southern dishes was a fresh one. His efforts won him great attention, and he’s credited by some as being the chief player in Charleston’s post-Hugo culinary revival.
With the success of Magnolia’s, Barickman went on to open two more Charleston restaurants. He also wrote a cookbook that was revamped and republished as Magnolia’s: Authentic Southern Cuisine in 2006. During his time in Birmingham, he will share some recipes from the book during a cooking demonstration.
“We’re going to be doing a shrimp and rice salad, which uses a local rice grown here, with a lemon garlic and dill vinaigrette,” Barickman says, “It’s a nice, light, summery salad. We’ll do pan-fried chicken livers with country ham, caramelized onions and a beer sauce. Everyone’s going to get a taste of ham chowder, which is a unique melting pot of Southern ingredients using ham trimmings with tomatoes, collard greens, potatoes and garlic, chicken and beef stock.”
The demonstrations will allow Barickman to give guests not only a taste of his food but a taste of his success. Magnolia’s has been recognized as a must-eat destination in the guide 1000 Things To Do Before You Die. “[Speaking at the conference] gives me an opportunity to validate Magnolia’s and what it’s done for southern cuisine,” he says.
Joining Barickman on the stage for some demonstrations will be Jeff Bacon, vice-president of the ACF Southeast Region. “Barickman is one of the people I’ve looked up to my whole career,” Bacon says. “To cook on the same stage with him is a dream come true.”
While Bacon hungers after the opportunity to learn from Barickman, he too boasts a great resumé. He’s been in the restaurant business for 27 years and has been involved with the ACF for over 20. Bacon is also the executive director and chef of the Triad Community Kitchen in Winston-Salem, N. Car., a 10-week culinary program for unemployed and underemployed people. The program equips students with the skills they need to get jobs in the food industry. During their training, the students produce ready-to-heat meals in bags for distribution to the hungry and homeless in their communities through the Second Harvest Food Bank. “Students are internalizing the need to give back,” Bacon says. The program has brought results, according to Bacon. “Most welfare-to-work programs like ours see a mid to high 20% success rate,” he says. “We average in the mid-60s.”
Bacon is excited about the packed schedule of networking and professional development opportunities at the ACF conference. He’s also looking forward to the open dining nights that will allow him and other guests to savor the tastes of the Magic City. “I’m excited about the culinary scene in Birmingham,” he says.
For more information about the conference and the American Culinary Federation, visit www.acfchefs.org. To learn more about Donald Barickman’s three Charleston-based restaurants, visit www.magnolias-cypress-blossom.com. For additional information about Jeff Bacon and the Triad Community Kitchen, visit www.hungernwnc.org.
Cory Bordonaro writes about food for Birmingham Weekly. Send your comments to email@example.com.