In his own words, the South’s top chef describes his family’s favorite spot. By: Hugh Acheson
February 18, 2015
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At Home with Hugh Acheson
When he's not busy in his restaurant's kitchens, Hugh Acheson is at home preparing meals for friends and family. Read on to take a tour of Hugh's kitchen, from his cozy coffee corner to the gorgeous tile backsplash.
“The whole family displays artwork here. It’s never left unadorned,” says Hugh, whether it is the girls’ art projects from school, Hugh’s culinary drawings, or this, a washi tape tree. The A, for Acheson, was found down by the local railroad tracks.
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A Hub of Activity
"The center island anchors the space and allows for movement on all sides. In today's foodie culture, people gravitate to the kitchen regardless of the cook’s skill level. There is plenty of room for guests to mingle around the island, and it has ample space for prep and for laying out a spread of snacks."
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PRO TIP: Indoor/outdoor fabric by Hale Construction for Bella Dura makes cleaning cushions a breeze.
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“The 36-inch, four-burner Viking range in our kitchen is at the center of the ‘cooking quadrant,’ flanked by the ancillary stations for storage (fridge) on one side and cleaning (sink and dishwasher) on the other. You may need to take a few steps between stations, but ideally not enough to contribute much to the goals set on your personal fitness tracker.”
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A Southern Star
"Our large appliances—fridge, range, hood, and dishwasher—are Viking. I have gotten to know the fine people who own and run the company in Greenwood, Mississippi, a small town that Viking has been instrumental in revitalizing. Owning high-quality products made in the South gives me a proud sense of place."
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Restaurant Details for Home Cooking
“Designing a fairly low-tech kitchen did not mean I was willing to sacrifice high-performing appliances. My time in the South has taught me that real home cooks make fried chicken in a skillet, or they buy it at Popeye’s. I’ve always wanted the luxury of frying chicken without setting off the smoke detector,” Hugh says. “A simple but powerful wall-mounted Viking hood vent, a mini version of a restaurant hood, ducted high up and exiting through a roof opening on the second floor, made this possible. Double doors that open from the kitchen to the outside and a broom handle to deactivate said alarm also help when things get out of hand, which they inevitably do, even for a professional chef.”
“I find myself pulling out the scales and the kettle a lot to make coffee in a classic Chemex or a Kalita Wave, both nerdy ways of coaxing the most out of beans that someone poured their heart into growing,” Hugh says. “These always sit on the counter in the ‘coffee area,’ a space beside the sink and underneath cabinets full of mismatched coffee cups and mugs.”
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Splash with Color
PRO TIP: The blue ceiling, Gullah Blue by Sherman Williams, stands in stark contrast to the kitchen’s white cabinets. “It’s haint blue, meant to protect inhabitants from evil spirits,” Hugh says. This color is also used in the upstairs hallway.
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Hand-painted Talavera Mexican tile forms the backsplash throughout the kitchen. "It's forgiving," says Hugh. "It doesn't show stains and grime."
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Time for Clean Up
PRO TIP: Cleaning oversized pots and pans is made easier with a deep two-compartment farm sink. A tidy compost bin sits right beside the sink so scraps make it to the pile outside and not the trash.
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Savvy Spice Storage
"I buy my spices from bulk but in small quantities. This helps to maintain freshness," Hugh says. Use simple half-pint containers. Label each container with painter's tape or masking tape, write the name of the spice on the tape with a Sharpie, and date it. "It's not fancy, but it's efficient," he says.
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House-made pickles and vinegars sit beside a counter-top oil and vinegar caddy and Athens, GA native Jim Fiscus’ dried cayenne pepper. All sit just inches from the stovetop so the cook can spruce up dishes just moments before they’re devoured.
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PRO TIP: Home cooks and chefs alike know the importance of finishing salts. This salt bar, housing various salts from smoked salt to Charleston Bulls Bay Sea Salt, is a permanent staple on the family’s kitchen island.
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Pots, Pans, and Skillets
Deep drawers between the stove and fridge house Hugh's colorful favorite pots: "All-Clad, Le Creuset, and lots of Lodge cast iron."
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Imbibe in Style
A guest at the Acheson home won’t go thirsty with Hugh’s plentiful liquor cabinet just steps away from the kitchen island. The favorite household bourbon: Elijah Craig 12 Year.
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His and Her China
Everyday dishes aren't far from the special-occasion dinnerware. Hugh and his wife, Mary, combined handed-down China, some from Hugh's mother's side ("the persnickety English pattern," Hugh says) and some Japanese dishes from Mary's mother's side.
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“I doodle. The doodles help me articulate my thoughts to the people who can turn ideas into reality. Restaurant layouts, plating ideas, gardening designs, grocery lists. Most things I do start with a sketch on a paper napkin,” Hugh says. “Luckily, many of the sketches get tossed in the trash; otherwise I might be living in the woods right now, in a five-story hut, one with a fire pole running through each floor. But when a good doodle gets into the hands of the right folks, things happen. I have, so far, a good doodling track record.”
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Modern art mingles beautifully with antique accents. A nineteenth century ladder-back chair sits in the family’s dining room, too fragile to sit on but handy for dumping purses, bags, coats.
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Sit a Spell
Cooking and dining rooms are adjacent so flow from stovetop to tabletop is easy for formal dining occasions or weeknight dinners.
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Fresh Cooking is Healthier Cooking
“My priority was to make cooking easy and enjoyable for all who might cook in our kitchen, most of all my two daughters. I think that well-worn and well used kitchens show kids that making food from scratch is part of living a good and healthy life,” Hugh says. “I am constantly trying to dispel the false notion that cooking is inconvenient; the best way to do that is to encourage people to cook simple meals with fresh and wholesome ingredients that don’t require professional gadgets or double-oven capacity.”