Aug 27, 2013

Hugh Acheson daughters Beatrice and Clementine

Hugh Acheson daughters Beatrice and Clementine. Hugh Acheson’s time is stretched as thin as his unibrow.

The chef/author/reality show judge is currently on a tour to promote his first cookbook “A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen” (Crown Publishing, $35). He will be at Union Avenue Books, 517 Union Avenue, at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17.

Acheson, a native of Ottawa, Canada, was introduced to Southern cuisine as a preteen after moving to the South with his mother and stepfather. He quickly learned to appreciate the simplicity of eating seasonally.

“The common generalization of Southern food is smothered pork chops, fried chicken or watermelon. I think that definition is misplaced. Historically, Southern food has been a celebration of the seasons and locality. Eating seasonally is an honest way to eat. It employees people locally and benefits the local farms, and that big cycle just keeps on going,” he said.

He writes about the way he approaches the preparation of Southern food — “to interpret its nuances, always with respect for the traditions, the land and the history that fostered it” — and uses classic French culinary techniques to add his own spin to a dish.

For example, if preparing a pot of collard greens, he said he would tweak the traditional dish by ” using shallots and olive oil and a careful balance of acids and sweetness and finish them off with a good amount of butter and chili flakes. (The recipe is in the book and, not to worry, it includes a ham hock.)

There are more than 120 recipes in Acheson’s book including Frogmore stew, artichoke and spinach gratin, apple brown Betty with sorghum zabaglione, gingered pickled carrots, tea creme brulee, leek bread pudding and lamb shanks with minted turnips.

“Food shouldn’t be a precious thing that no one can do. I want this book to be something to get dog-eared in the kitchen and something that people actually use to feed themselves…. I want this book to be a kitchen notebook and guidebook,” he said.

In the spring Acheson was one of 12 contestants on “Top Chef Masters, Season 3.” He was ousted with only five contestants left due to an over-salted dish.

He said he enjoyed his time on the show and was especially happy that proceeds he received from the show went to his charity of choice — Wholesome Wave Foundation, whose mission statement is to nourish neighborhoods across America.

“What I wanted to prove during the whole thing is that you can enjoy yourself in the kitchen and still be professional,” he said.

He’s currently serving as a judge on “Top Chef Texas” and seems to be pretty tough on the contestants.