October 06, 2015

The hotly anticipated new restaurant from Birmingham, Alabama's James Beard award-winning chef Chris Hastings opens today. The concept is delicious: a celebration of the Latin grilling traditions of countries like Spain, Portugal, Argentina, and Uruguay, using wood-fueled, live-fire cooking and local Southern ingredients.

Hastings says he first hatched the plan for OvenBird five years ago, inspired in part by several trips he's taken to Argentina with his wife, Idie. The restaurant opened in a space with room for 150 (including 50 covers outside), and not a single gas line leading to the kitchen.

It's an adjustment for professional cooks trained to working with highly calibrated, gas-fueled stoves. "You have to let the rhythm of the wood dictate what you do. There's something very cathartic and visceral about that." Hastings says. "It's good to get out of your comfort zone and take a little risk."

Last week, Cooking Light staffers had the pleasure of sampling some of his new dishes, including a smoky paella, succulent pan-roasted Gulf flounder, braised leeks with Romesco, and a beet and carrot salad with Marcona almond puree that had folks licking their plates. We can't wait to become OvenBird regulars.

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