Chris & Anna
Ollie Irene was Chris’ grandmother on his father’s side. She was a farmer’s wife in lower Alabama, most always found in her kitchen. Every day, she cooked the midday meal – an abundance of dishes that represented the bounty of the season, direct from her garden, the fields, and the farm. She hosted her entire family at the table, her hungry brothers and ravenous field hands. The door was always open, and anyone Ollie Irene knew, who happened to be passing by at midday, would stop in for a meal. A typical supper might include handmade dumplings, fresh field peas, velvety butter beans, creamed corn, sliced tomatoes sprinkled with salt, a pickled mix of cucumbers and onions, golden cornbread, perfect cat-head biscuits, fresh chicken, and of course, pie.
Chris remembers her hospitality and the fresh vegetables she grew and prepared. The food he ate in her kitchen as a child, and the way of life she represents, sticks in his memory. Naming the restaurant Ollie Irene is a way to honor that memory of simple, open-armed hospitality and homegrown food, and the associated farming heritage in the South. At Ollie Irene, Chris is not recreating his grandmother’s food, but rather, continuing a tradition of cooking using fresh and seasonal ingredients, and hosting all who stop in at mealtime.
James Beard Semifinalist –
Best New Restaurant
The Local Palate Review