Meet Your Local Chef - Nick Leahy of AIX and Tin Tin
Executive Chef Nick Leahy wants to bring the flavors of his beloved French countryside to Atlanta’s Westside. His twist on classic Provençal dishes celebrates the rustic style of southern France and keeps its charm.
Nick drew inspiration for the food and design for his two new restaurants in West Midtown from his family’s French roots.
“I think the cuisine of Provence is a thing unto itself within French food,” he emphasizes. “It’s got more Mediterranean influence, it’s a bit lighter.”
The food of Provence is made with olive oil, lemon and garlic instead of relying on cream and butter. After describing his cuisine as a more open-minded version of French food, Nick jokes, “we definitely use some cream and butter still.”
Chef Leahy opened two new concepts in December 2018 that welcome you with a rustic charm. AIX, (pronounced “ex”) named for the southern France city of Aix-en-Provence, shares a kitchen with its adjoining wine bar Tin Tin.
The two restaurants offer separate menus. Chef Leahy stocks both restaurants with a variety of mostly French wines. AIX offers a full dinner menu daily and Tin Tin features small plates for dinner every day. Nick plans to highlight Tin Tin’s outdoor patio by serving lunch during Atlanta’s warmer months.
AIX’s namesake is one of the oldest cities in Provence as well as one of the most modern and stylish, Nick says. An art fixture that visually divides AIX 's bar and dining room illustrates this beautiful contradiction. This piece – inspired by the French game of pétanque – creates an abstract pattern with balls threaded on strings. A glittering bar and open display shelves filled with wine bottles and a dining room dotted with copper accents enhance the warmth of AIX.
Nick named Tin Tin for his great aunt who was the matriarch of his French family. “We thought we’d take this space and create a fun wine bar,” he says gesturing toward the backbar that spells out his aunt’s name.
Nick’s love of French food comes from his learning to cook from his French mother. “She’s definitely an inspiration for excellence,” he admits. “I started cooking with her from a young age.
He grew up in Bermuda and London and moved to Atlanta in third grade. Nick worked at various restaurant jobs throughout high school and attended college for a little over a year. He noticed how his college courses didn’t excite him the way his night job at a restaurant did.
“I decided that I should probably follow the passion and just started trying to work my way up in the restaurant business,” he says.
When he returned to England, his restaurant experiences there highlighted the value in serving fresh food. While working for an organic farm 90 minutes north of London, Nick recalls using beets warm from the fresh dirt still clinging to them. Ordering local and working with farmers directly or through an online marketplace such as Farm’d became his passion.
When ordering the food to prepare dishes for his own restaurants, his ultimate goal is using fresh food picked by farmers in the morning that he serves later that evening. Having a restaurant source 100 percent from its own farm is a dream, but not a possibility for most, including AIX – for now. Using local food whenever possible allows Nick to cultivate relationships with farmers and has the added bonus of allowing him to support other local businesses.
“We’re a local small business so it’s kind of a symbiotic thing,” he says.
Since using Farm’d, Nick’s been introduced to local farmers he didn’t know before, as well as sticking with some farmers he’s known for a long time. He’s met some new dairy farmers that he’s been working with for cheeses that may show up on his menus.
Working with Farm’d has made his process of getting supplies from farmers he already knew easier. And he points out that he has various avenues and different farms to choose from now.
If one of his favorite farmers only has limited amounts of a product Nick needs, he can still buy from that favorite farm, but also from another supplier using Farm’d. He’ll be set for the night with the combination of both farms’ goods for his tables at AIX and Tin Tin.
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