The Many, Many Degrees of Chef Frank Stitt
Many chefs who have worked for Frank Stitt have gone on to start their own restaurants. Here's where you can find a slice of Frank Stitt's legacy.
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It’s nearly impossible to eat in Birmingham—or anywhere else in the South—without hearing people sing the praises of Frank Stitt, the Magic City’s most revered chef and the “Godfather of Southern Food.”
The James Beard Award-winner—who cooked at the renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, and spent a year immersed in the food and culture of Southern France—returned to Alabama, his home state, in the early 80’s and put Birmingham on the food map with the 1982 opening of Highlands Bar and Grill.
Since then, he’s opened three more restaurants (Chez Fon Fon, Bottega Restaurant, and Bottega Café), creating a local restaurant empire that has cultivated and paved the way for young chefs in the Magic City and beyond.
Check out some of the chefs (near and far) who have spent time working for Stitt and what they’re cookin’ up now.
Warren Weiss Current Post: Executive chef at MetroPrime Steakhouse; 1035 20th Street South, Birmingham, Alabama metroprimesteak.com His Stitt Stops: Highlands Bar and Grill and Bottega (2006-2011) This is the place to go if you’re looking for perfectly cooked steaks and chops. Don’t leave without trying the indulgent steak house sides like sweet potato and bacon hash and smoked onion rings.
Drew Robinson Current Post: Executive chef at Jim ’N Nicks; Birmingham, Alabama (multiple locations) jimnnicks.com His Stitt Stops: Chef de cuisine at Highlands Bar and Grill (2000-2003) Drew helms the central kitchen of this award-winning BBQ chain (33 locations), turning out low-and-slow cooking and from-scratch sides.
Chris Hastings Current Post: Chef and owner of Hot and Hot Fish Club; 2180 11th Court South, Birmingham, Alabama hotandhotfishclub.com His Stitt Stops: Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega (1988-1989, 1991-1994) Southern soul and ultra-fresh ingredients set this always-packed, James Beard Foundation Award-winning restaurant apart from all the rest. The vegetable plate is one of the best we’ve ever had.
Mauricio Papapietro Current Post: Executive chef and owner of Brick & Tin; 214 20th Street North, Birmingham, Alabama brickandtin.com His Stitt Stops: Chef de cuisine Highlands Bar and Grill (2004-2009) Freshly baked bread and stellar local ingredients make the soups and sandwiches shine at this friendly, lunch-only shop in the heart of Birmingham.
Brian Somershield Current Post: Chef and co-owner at El Barrio Restaurante Y Bar; 2211 2nd Avenue North, Birmingham, Alabama elbarriobirmingham.com His Stitt Stops: Highlands Bar and Grill, chef de cuisine at Chez Fonfon (2002-2008) Brian, one of Birmingham’s brightest and most talented rising stars, has helped drive the city’s downtown revitalization. His recently opened Mexican-inspired El Barrio continues the vision he established with Italian spot Trattoria Centrale (trattoriacentrale .com) a few years back: casual neighborhood joints with flawlessly prepared food.
Clif Holt Current Post: Chef and co-owner of Little Savannah Restaurant and Bar; 3811 Clairmont Avenue South, Birmingham, Alabama littlesavannah.com His Stitt Stops: Highlands Bar and Grill and Chez Fonfon (1999-2001) Located in Forest Park, one of Birmingham’s beautiful historic suburbs, this quaint, perfect-for-date-night bistro serves farm-to-table ingredients and pours local brews.
Chris Newsome Current Post: Chef and owner of Ollie Irene; 2713 Culver Road, Mountain Brook, Alabama ollieirene.com His Stitt Stops: Bottega and Bottega Café, Highlands Bar and Grill (1992-1995) Don’t let its strip mall location fool you; this suburban gem is all about farm-fresh ingredients from local purveyors. The mussels are the best in town and you’re in luck if the 20-Mile Salad is on special—every ingredient comes from less than 20 miles away.
Robby Melvin Current Post: Test Kitchen Director at Southern Living; 2100 Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, Alabama His Stitt Stops: Bottega and Bottega Café, Highlands Bar and Grill, Chez Fonfon (1994-2001) Robby’s culinary chops in The South’s Most Trusted Kitchen means Southern Living is rolling out new, inventive ideas and techniques for the home cook.
Chris Vizzina Current Post: Executive chef and general manager at Samford University; 800 Lakeshore Drive, Homewood, Alabama His Stitt Stops: Chef de cuisine at Highlands Bar and Grill (1995-1996, 1999-2001) Sticking to the fine-dining mantra of fresh, quality ingredients, Chris turns out 10,000 meals a day across Samford University’s campus dining landscape.
Chris Harrigan Current Post: Chef and owner of Stone’s Throw Bar & Grill; 3 Mt. Laurel Avenue, Birmingham, Alabama 35242 stonesthrowgrill.com His Stitt Stops: Bottega and Bottega Café (1992-1993), Highlands Bar and Grill (1993-1994) Killer burgers, fresh Gulf seafood, reliable steaks and a lively bar scene sum up this casual spot, appropriate for date night or dinner with the girls. Chris’ affinity for local, organic ingredients is a plus.
Alan Martin Current Post: Chef and owner of The Victoria Restaurant; 1604 Quintard Avenue, Anniston, Alabama thevictoria restaurant.com His Stitt Stops: Highlands Bar and Grill and Bottega (1995-2001) Alan pairs everyday ingredients like collards and field peas with luxe treasures such as truffles, foie gras, and oysters at his restaurant in this 1888 Victorian-era home turned inn.
Jason Schauer Current Post: Chef and owner of Mezza Luna; 2724 Carl T Jones Drive SE, Huntsville, Alabama mezzalunahuntsville.com His Stitt Stops: All four restaurants (1998-2005) Wood-burning ovens, updated comfort foods, and a well-priced menu make this the perfect spot for a family dinner or large gathering.
Ed Reese Current Post: Chef and owner of Edward’s Fine Food & Wine; 66 Main Street, Rosemary Beach, Florida edwards30a.com His Stitt Stops: Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega, Bottega Café (1993-2003, intermittently) Simply prepared foods—like diver scallops with grits and browned butter or steak frites with salsa verde—attract locals and visitors alike to this spot just steps from the beach. It’s always packed, but don’t worry about a reservation—they only take walk-ins.
Mike Davis Current Post: Chef and owner of Terra; 100 State Street, West Columbia, South Carolina terrasc.com His Stitt Stops: Sous chef at Chez Fonfon (2005-2006) Mediterranean meets Southern at this cozy, contemporary spot. There’s something for everyone on the menu; order wood-oven pizzas or from the ever-changing seasonal menu.
James Briscione Current Post: Director of culinary development at The Institute of Culinary Education; 50 West 23rd Street, New York, New York ice.edu His Stitt Stops: Chez Fonfon, Bottega and Bottega Café, Highlands Bar and Grill (2000-2006) An instructor at NYC’s Institute of Culinary Education by day and Chopped champion by night, James turned boxed mac ’n’ cheese, cola, and bacon into winning recipes on the Food Network’s hit reality series.
Kyle Knall Current Post: Chef and partner at Maysville; 17 West 26th Street, New York, New York maysvillenyc.com His Stitt Stops: Sous chef at Chez Fonfon (2005-2008) It’s all about smoke, char, and bourbon at this refined, but unpretentious, Southern- inspired tavern in NYC’s Flatiron District; some say they serve the best grits.