Fans of the television show Top Chef already know who he is. Kevin Gillespe quickly became a fan favorite on that show. To the others, who perhaps don’t dabble in reality TV, Kevin Gillespe is a just a Southern boy trying to do some great things with Southern ingredients. He’s owned several restaurants over the years in the Atlanta area, but he appears to have really broken through with his latest spot, Gunshow. A unique restaurant where chefs and cooks stroll the dining room passing out the day’s offerings. Gunshow was recently named to Esquire Magazine’s list of 12 best new restaurants in America. Seats are extremely hard to come by, but Chef Kevin takes it all in stride. Like any perfectionist, there is always a lot more work to do, lots of things he feels he and his staff can do better to improve the dining experience.
1) Where did the idea for Gunshow come from?
Really the major goal was to get the cooks into the dining room. I wanted to figure out a way to ensure that the people who are serving the food are the people who are preparing the food. I felt like they could tell the story of the dish a lot better.
2) How long did it take to put that concept together?
Not as long as you would think, honestly. We were so inspired by Dim Sum and by the Brazilian Churrasceria, steakhouse model that I felt confident that I could make it work. There were kinks, there were bugs that had to be worked out. There’s still bugs that have to be worked out. It’s something that felt right. My gut instinct said to me ‘This is a good idea, let’s just go with it.’ It was hard to put on paper. It was hard to translate to people who weren’t part of the vision, but I knew from the beginning how it should look.
3) Congratulations on your nod from Esquire. I’m sure the phone has started ringing, huh?
We’ve been fortunate to be full every single day. We open reservation one month out and we fill up pretty much one month out. It’s been like that since shortly after we opened. It makes me feel great that so many people have thought so highly of us. When I decided to do Gunshow I said ‘It’s something I care about, something I feel strongly about and I hope that it’s successful.’ And it’s been so much more than that.
4) Are you surprised that it took this long for Savannah to get a legit Food and Wine Festival?
You know, it’s funny, I think Savannah is a very charming city so it does surprise me that it has taken that long in many ways. Simultaneously, I know that Savannah has struggled to a certain degree with having restaurants of a certain caliber. They’ve had some that have been very successful and others that haven’t. That’s the story of any city. I guess it’s just right time, right place. I think it’s long overdue.
5) Do you think Hugh (Acheson) sticking his flag in here is gonna do wonders for this town?
I really hope it does well. I know that there are those of us like myself that are very intrigued to see what happens in Savannah. As a born and bred Georgian, I want it to be very successful and would very much like to discuss the idea of doing something down there myself. Once I’m big enough to be able to make something like that happen. But I hope for the sake of everyone involved, including the city of Savannah, that something like that does well.
6) You say you are a Georgia boy. I assume that’s college football over pro, yeah?
Yes, absolutely. Go Dawgs!!
7) Do you think college football players should be compensated based on what happened with Todd Gurley?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is no. They should be compensated, but I think it’s going to be have to be an extremely highly regulated affair. That can of worms is gonna come out exploding everywhere. I don’t think it’s fair for their name and likeness not be something they can control, but I think that when you start compensating collegiate athletes they become a professional. It’s real tricky. A lot of gray area.
8) What is your guilty pleasure to eat after a long day and night at work?
I love Buffalo style hot wings. Chicken wings. Whatever you wanna call them. Maybe my favorite food. Certainly my favorite junk food.
9) That said, who are your favorites in Atlanta?
You know what? I have found that I’ve become kind of a stickler for it. My first cooking job ever was at a place called The Chicken Coop that only made hot wings and I’m convinced that I can make better ones, so I tend to just make ‘em for myself. That’s not to say that when I go out I won’t order them. If you have wings on your menu? 97% of the time if I am at your place, I will order them. I tend to favor my own because the sauce.
10) Top Chef. As much fun as you thought it would be? Or more work than you thought it would be?
Oh, gosh. So much more work. I would not call it fun to tape Top Chef. Grueling. That’s the best word for it. That’s not to say I didn’t make friends. I’m glad I did it, but it’s not a walk in the park, by any stretch.
11) How often do you get to a Georgia Game?
I go several times a year for the most part. I’ve been fortunate enough that the coaches and the coordinators, some of them are fans of mine, so I have had the chance to really sink my teeth into the program and hang out with the guys. Yeah, I have a good time with them.
12) Some chef in Atlanta that is kinda off the radar right now?
Man, there’s so many of them that are really, really good that don’t get the credit that they deserve. I think, probably, one of the best chefs in the city, and granted, I know I’m gonna catch s*** for this, because the guys are gonna be like ‘Why didn’t you say my name?’ So, excluding the people who work for me, because it’s not fair…E.J. Hodgekinson at JCT Kitchen. He has so much talent. Order his specials. It doesn’t matter what they are, they are gonna be awesome.
13) Are you a beer or a wine guy?
I am both actually. I grew up with my dad brewing beer. So I consider myself to be a very educated beer guy. I also tend to sway toward European beers more than American beers a lot of the time. With wine, it’s a newer passion. I’ve developed it in the business. I love understanding food and wine and the way they come together. So I kinda tread the line right in between with both. It’s one of the things people don’t know about me is that I’ve spent a lot of years educating myself about wine and so I like to think I know a little bit about it myself. Helps me at the restaurant to help curate our wine selections.