Meet Your Local Chef - Andy Underwood and Blake Hartley of South Main Kitchen
Watching Blake and Andy move together in South Main’s open kitchen is something to watch with your breath held. They operate shoulder to shoulder, working in tandem. And it’s quiet. You can hear the food transforming.
The dishes that come up in the window are stunning, the ingredients exceptionally fresh. A perfect summation of a successful summer season.
“These are peppered goat cheese,” Blake notes briefly as he places perfectly rounded balls of cheese onto the fresh tomato dish. “Local -from CalyRoad.”
The cheese will stay. Dairy can be transformed in a new season, on a new menu. Many of the other dishes, like this heirloom tomato plate (above), will not last through the winter though, and will be replaced by a robust late-season menu based on the local harvest. View the final dish above, featuring Southern Heirloom tomatoes in a champagne vinaigrette and goat cheese from local producers, Levity Farms and CalyRoad Creamery, respectively.
In the historical district of Alpharetta, GA, both Chefs, Andy Underwood and Blake Hartley are just as eager to serve local food as they are passionate about showing their rich heritage of savory Southern food.
Underwood, in particular, is working to make peace between the American South’s past and present, which isn’t always easy. As time goes on, rich traditions are both fading and changing, which can be good, but also sad, Andy notes. “Like those old country stores where a man and his wife lived upstairs and ran the store… They’re doing stuff homemade, by hand -it’s hard to find those nowadays.”
In order to find harmony between the old and the new, Chef Underwood is meeting his guests in the middle by elevating old Southern recipes with new ideals.
South Main Kitchen’s menu features elevated dishes with locally-sourced food, like the vegetable plate below, as well as Southern staples like gumbo and deviled eggs. Local dry-aged and heritage meats pepper the menu, making it the perfect place for guests to satiate a Southern craving.
The communal feel of South Main’s warm dining room is engaging and joyous when it’s full. It’s an environment that really emphasizes the food. Along the long walls are mirrors, which reflect guests’ warm experiences. Nearby stands a shelf holding dozens and dozens of jars.
Within the jars, Andy and Blake are preserving history.
“We like to stretch the season.” At South Main Kitchen, preserving the hyper-local produce they source is one of the best ways to do that.
In the jars are gorgeous root crops and legumes. Bright snap peas, carrots, and more are immortalized and on display for guests. Some are stored for the coming months, when they won’t be growing near the restaurant. The rest of the jars ferment the raw, local ingredients into something even better.
Whether the produce is jarred at season’s end or not, above all else, it’s the raw food that shines. Coming from fields less than a day’s travel away are the freshest ingredients to finish off South Main Kitchen’s heirloom tomato plate.
9 South Sauce
Not only are the chefs preserving local Southern goods through seasons as a tribute to Southern tradition, but they are taking it all the way with their in house small-batch hot sauce, 9 South Sauce.
It “just makes sense” for this kitchen to work with small and family-owned farms near their restaurant. “We’re a huge advocate for Levity Farms,” Hartley says. “Being able to curate these relationships with the local farmers is setting us apart.”
Andy and Blake are maintaining relationships with small, local, and family-owned farmers to keep tradition alive in the South. And from those connections, they are building new traditions at South Main Kitchen on fresh, directly-sourced ingredients transformed into simple, elevated dishes that are -undeniably- Southern.
Want to know more about South Main Kitchen? Follow them online, and check out the Farm’d live story on our Instagram Chef Features. Want to know more about the chefs that are sourcing directly and the farmers that are selling quality ingredients to your community? Sign up for the Farm’d email list below and we’ll keep you up to date with the people that make your food go from farm to table.