Onboarding: Chef Cody Suddreth joins King's Kitchen
Lenoir-born chef took over the uptown kitchen in early August
Chef Cody Suddreth has worked in Asheville and Atlanta, with several James Beard Award-winning restaurants on his resume. Yet the Lenoir native decided to leave his home of nine years, Atlanta, and return to North Carolina to start giving back to the culinary community here. He helped open Harvest Moon Grille in Lincolnton, then joined Noble Food & Pursuits— one of Chef Joe Kindred's last hires before opening his own restaurant, Kindred Restaurant in Davidson. After spending several months at Rooster's in SouthPark, Suddreth was named executive chef at The King's Kitchen in uptown starting Aug. 5. Here, he talks about the difference between Atlanta and Charlotte, the difficulties and blessings of working in a non-profit restaurant, and how he's settling in here.
How are things different working at a non-profit restaurant?
The restaurant business is already hard enough, keeping up with all the minute details in the business in general, from every single aspect from the front of the house to the numbers, etc. But this is an added challenge being that its a nonprofit, that we work with people trying to get their lives straightened out, and we spent a lot of time counseling and helping and understanding, so it's not just being a chef, it's a little bit more. It's definitely a challenge, along with taking care of the community and feeding the community. We're not just cooking each shift; we're also in transition to feed people four times a week. We feed an average of 70 people four times a week, and that's on average. That's a challenge in and of itself, to see what we're going to use, to rotate food, to manipulate things to work our for the flow and the practicality of running this restaurant. It's definitely a challenge me and (general manager) Yuri, we're up to, and it's good. It can only be a positive thing, and we really believe in the culture here and helping the community.
How has your experience at The King's Kitchen been so far?
It's a good transition for me—I'm growing as a person, growing as a husband, as a chef, and thus I can grow in this environment. That's a good challenge for me just as a person in general, and as a chef. I accept the challenge for sure, and I believe in the food. I believe in the culture of the program. Did I ever envision myself (doing this)? I did think about it, because I used to research restaurants in Charlotte two or three years before I moved back to North Carolina, when I was in Atlanta. And I read about Jim (Noble), read about the other restaurants around Charlotte. I also think it's a good time to come back home to Charlotte, because I feel like Charlotte is growing culinary-wise. It's a good time to step in here.
You were looking to come back to Charlotte specifically?
Well, home for me, I'm originally from the Lenoir/Hickory area. I spent nine years in Atlanta. (I was) always going to Atlanta—my uncles lived there, they're musicians. I wanted to come back home; I married my wife, me and my wife wanted to come back to Charlotte. She loves North Carolina. I really wanted to come back to Charlotte, because I'm close to home. I love my Carolina Panthers. Charlotte's just a growing city, and it's got culture. It's got a growing culture.
How do you compare Atlanta's and Charlotte's culinary scenes?
Atlanta is a beast. They're amazing. I would refer a cook, a sous chef, a chef to dip down there anytime soon. The chefs are amazing; the restaurants are out of this world. They've got it going on. They're like, 'Why are you leaving now?' Well, I'm leaving to come back to my home, because I want to try to give back something, if I can, here. And also, Charlotte's growing, and I would rather be here supporting my state, and that's kind of another underlying reason that I want to be here in Charlotte. Atlanta's amazing, when it comes to restaurants and chefs, the guys, the work they're doing down there, they're evolving drastically. You've got really great chefs coming down there, popping their head in, throwing in restaurants, like Sean Brock and those guys. You've got guys going down to Atlanta, because Atlanta is the spot.
Do you think we'll ever catch up?
Ten years. That's what I think, me and a lot of other people talk about. I know a lot of people say, "Ah, we'll be there in two years." But I lived in Atlanta for almost a decade. … I think Charlotte, I could say 5 to 10 years. Because I think that Charlotte's really evolving towards that direction. Atlanta's just, at the end of the day, it's just a big city. It's like saying let's compare Atlanta to New York. New York has been there and done it, and they're still doing it.
Where have you been eating since you've moved here?
Futo Buta is my place. I've been there like six times. I met one of the owners, Mike. He worked with a few places I'd worked in Atlanta; he'd been in Atlanta for a decade or more. I haven't really had much time. Me and my wife went to Good Food on Montford. We thought that was good, for sure. We went to Futo Buta, and I'm in love with that place, because it's consistent, because it's run well … it has refinement, it's delicious. The spot, oh my gosh, it's so good.
What should people expect to change on the menu here?
I want to make it traditional Southern, but a modern Southern take. I want it to be very approachable. And it is at lunch—lunch will probably stay consistently the same because it's known for the meat-and-three. … And it's all going to be (farm-driven), because that's what I did in Atlanta, I worked at farm-to-table restaurants, with the exclusion of BLT Steak. That's what I believe in myself, and I want to make this menu farm-centric and it's going to be more so, and the base menu, Jim and I want to make this base menu, especially at dinner—and the sides, and the salads at lunch—to be farm-driven.
What's one dish that exemplifies what you're trying to do with this menu and your style?
The duck. We did the duck with roasted winter squash, charred okra (and purple peppers in curry). And we did a Harmony Ridge Peking Duck breast with that, and we did … sweet and sour muscadines from Boone (and a muscadine bordelaise). It's all local. So that would probably be a dish with a simplistic style, that would be a good start right there for me. … I want balance in my food. I believe in balance, from the restaurants I've worked in, especially Bacchanalia, I think they really refined my palate to look for balance in food. You'll go to a lot of places (with dishes) that are just completely savory, or it's completely sweet and sour. I want to hit all notes in my dish; to be savory, sweet, and sour, a little crunchy textures, just a balance overall in the whole dish, is what I will always look for. But still yet simple; I never want to go over using six items.
Kristen Wile is senior editor of Charlotte magazine and editor of Charlotte Home + Garden. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @kristenwile.
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