A Q&A with Chef Todd Richards of White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails

In Eager Anticipation for AFWF16, We Sat Down with The Legend Behind an Atlanta Favorite
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Perhaps one of my favorite things about good food (besides of course, eating it) is finding out more behind the apron and what chefs themselves are craving and cooking up at home.  With food that’s just as drool-worthy as it looks, I’ve just got to know the whole story!  This is exactly what inspired today’s drop-dead-gorgeous feature of a favorite local hotspot of mine, White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails and the guy your tastebuds need to thank: Executive Chef Todd Richards.  

I first became enamored with Chef Todd at my first AFWF experience; the man is a legend on the Big Green Egg. If any of you follow on Snapchat (username WAITINGONMARTHA), you’ll know I love me some Big Green Egg grilling.  And after seeing his smoking demo on the rooftop, two Food & Wine Festivals ago, and discovering his cold smoking techniques (FYI cold smoking is simply a way of infusing a smoked flavor without cooking the food, ie. smoking a block of cheese), I couldn’t wait to try it on my own at home. 

A self-taught chef, Todd became the Executive Chef of White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails almost a year ago.  His background as Executive Chef at Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, Chef at The Shed (where he was recognized as a James Beard Best Chef semi-finalist) as well as Concept Developer for One Flew South (the top rated airport restaurant in the US) have lent amazing experience and a strong footing for Todd to blow it out of the park at White Oak Kitchen.  Everything that comes out of his kitchen is truly satisfying, yet totally approachable and unpretentious (there’s nothing worse than ordering a bizarre dish that just stares at you from the table, am I right?!). Chef Todd simply knows what people want and gives them that. 

Chef Todd will be back at the festival this year, hosting a Vegetable Versatility class on Saturday, June 4, where guests will explore the wide range of flavors, textures and colors that vegetables can embody in both a Caribbean and Southern palette.  I’m already mapping out my itinerary while at the festival (since it really is the most wonderful time of the year), and this class is one I won’t be missing!  Until then, I caught up with Chef Todd to pick his brain about his favorite dish at White Oak, what he REALLY loves to cook at home, favorite sip & more, which you’ll find below.  And please tell me I’ll be seeing all of you at AFWF16?! Cheers!  Truly, MKR

WOM: Tell me a little bit about your rooftop garden; what are you growing?
TR: Our primary items we are growing right now are hot peppers, okra, Thai basil, radishes, turnips and greens. We have a few specialty items as well such as shiso, & nasturtiums. Blueberries have just started as well.  

I do grow some items at the garden at home as well. We planted 8 tomato plants as well as cucumbers, mild peppers, eggplant thus far.   

WOM: Favorite dish on the White Oak menu right now?
TR: My favorite dish of the moment is the carrots glazed in ginger. There are 2 versions of this dish. The first is a side item. We glazed the carrots with carrot juice, ginger, fermented black beans and herbs.  The carrots are placed on carrot puree and garnished with pea shoots and micro shiso. The second version is garnished with tuna.  

WOM: Favorite food or dish to cook?
TR: I enjoy working the fish/meat station the most. I love how precise you have to be cooking those items.   Finding the exact spot to sear fish on the plancha or ensuring there is enough seasoning on meats to get the perfect crust is always exciting.  Also adding traditional techniques like finishing meats over charcoal is always special.  

WOM: Favorite food or dish to eat?
TR: My favorite everyday item to eat is soft scrambled eggs. My favorite gourmet item to eat is uni and/or caviar.  My favorite vegetable is broccoli.  My favorite meat is chicken followed by duck. Especially duck cooked with duck eggs.   Got a thing for eggs I guess.  

WOM: Favorite libation?
TR: Champagne.  What else goes better with caviar, uni and scrambled duck eggs…Maybe that’s why I have it for breakfast.  

WOM: How are you participating in AWFW this year?
TR: I’m very excited to do the class on southern sandwiches. We serve a collard green sandwich at the restaurant currently.   It’s  the part of the southern cuisine that I don’t think gets enough credit in its sophistication.  

WOM: Anything or anyone your looking forward to seeing at AFWF this year?
TR: I’m looking forward to seeing the cognac class with Miles Macquarrie and Kelly Thorn. I’m not familiar with the use of cognac in cocktails and can’t wait to see what they come up with.  

Also seeing Ashley Christiansen and Rodney Scott team up for a class.  They are two of the most dynamic personalities in the kitchen.  It should be a very exciting demo.   


Photography, Kathryn McCrary for Waiting on Martha | This post was in collaboration with Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, a brand we love and adore. All opinions are 100% our own. 

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