Meet the Chef: Philip Meeker
The South is full of talented, innovative chefs, but few have as diverse a background as Chef Philip Meeker. Philip Meeker was classically trained in French cuisine at l’Ecole Superieur de Cuisine Francais Gregoire-Ferrandi in Paris. While living in France, he worked in a boulangerie, a patisserie, and the two-star Michelin restaurant Alain Senderens. For the past seven years, he has worked at various restaurants in Atlanta that specialize in French, Greek, Latin, and New American Cuisine. Most recently, he was the opening chef for Kimball House, which was named Southern Living’s Best New Restaurant in the South during his tenure. There, he pioneered a culinary apprenticeship program and designed the restaurant’s edible organic garden. Meet Chef Philip Meeker.
What are your first memories of cooking? Is there a special person in your life who fostered your love for cooking?
My parents kept a garden in the backyard when I was a little kid. I remember the corn growing taller than my dad. He would plant and grow the vegetables by himself. My mom would cook the food. The taste of those fresh vegetables were a special treat for me. They made me cherish the flavor that you can only have when the warmth of the sun is still in food
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Pacing myself. I'm so enthusiastic to learn and experiment, that sometimes I forget to do the self care that's necessary to continue performing at my highest level. Over the years, I've learned to incorporate yoga and meditation into my life, and practices like these help balance me and maintain my creativity.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Barely touched: an act of love. I want to maintain as much of the life force and essence of the ingredients as I can. Living in Atlanta, I have access to amazing ingredients from amazing farms practically all year round. The mind-blowing taste of their foods has inspired me to do as little as possible to the food and let it speak for itself. There's a quality in these ingredients that make me feel connected to all life on earth and to the traditions of peoples of the past. I want to do as much as possible to highlight that quality. At the same time, I set the intention before I ever touch the food to cook it with care and love. This food is going to become part of people, and I want it to resonate with the best qualities of my being and of those who grew it.
Where do you draw inspiration for your recipes?
It comes mostly from what's available at the farmers markets or I can forage. The foods speak to me. Tasting one thing makes me aware of its relationships to everything else present. In addition, I find it always useful to research the food of the past and of my contemporaries. I have a persistent curiosity that makes me always look for forgotten and new food traditions and techniques.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten?
This is an unfair question. Nothing is the best food wise. Everything has qualities that connect with me differently.