Celebrating Black History Month: Todd Richards

Todd Richards, author of the recently released Soul: A Chef’s Culinary Revolution in 150 Recipesgrounds his career in fine dining, having come from The Ritz-Carlton Hotels and The Oakroom in The Seelbach Hilton in Louisville, Ky. Understanding the methods and techniques behind gastronomy, the Atlanta native translated those skills into a Southern vernacular as corporate chef role at One Flew South, as well as Chef owner of The Shed at Glenwood, and the Pig & The Pearl in Atlantic Station. He is currently Executive Chef of White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails in downtown Atlanta and Richards’ Southern Fried in Krog Street Market.

Todd has appeared on NBC’s Today Show and was named one of the “Four New Chefs to Watch” by Esquire Magazine in 2012. He is a James Beard Award Best Chef Semifinalist and serves on the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival’s Founder’s Council.

His debut cookbook, Soul, sends the message that cooks can honor tradition, yet be liberated to explore. Todd celebrates the restorative wonders of a classic pot of Collard Greens with Ham Hocks, yet doesn’t shy away from building upon that foundational recipe with his Collard Green Ramen, a reinterpretation that incorporates far-flung flavors of cultural influences and exemplifies culinary evolution. Todd shares his creativity and passion to highlight what soul food can be for a new generation of cooks. He shares with us his recipe for Heirloom Tomato Salad.


Serves 4

A great dish is about taking what you have and elevating it to something soulful, prompting everyone to ask, “What’s in this?” Lavender has mint- and basil-like qualities but also adds a flavor note most identified with France. If we dismiss the French influence on Soul cuisine, we might as well ignore New Orleans.

  • 2 Brandywine, Black Krim, or other heirloom tomatoes (about 1 1⁄2 pounds)
  • 4 Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, or other heirloom tomatoes (about 1 pound)
  • 1⁄4 cup (2 ounces) Herb Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  • 12 dried culinary lavender flowers
  • 8 pea tendrils or baby arugula leaves
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cut the large tomatoes into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices. (Reserve ends for another use, such as making tomato sauce.) Cut the small tomatoes into quarters. Arrange 2 to 4 tomato slices on each of 4 plates. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the Herb Vinaigrette.

Press the lavender flowers with the edge of a knife until they split. Sprinkle the tomato slices with some of the lavender. Top each salad with 4 to 6 tomato wedges. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette. Sprinkle evenly with more lavender.

Top the salads with pea tendrils, and sprinkle evenly with the salt and pepper.

To Drink: Barbera, sparkling Lambrusco, rosé, Sancerre, Sauvignon Blanc

Serve with: Fish, pickled fish, shellfish; smoked meats and poultry; grilled meats and poultry; breads; other seasonal vegetables

Herb Vinaigrette

  • 1⁄2 cup (4 ounces) avocado oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 shallot, halved lengthwise
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) aged red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon wildflower honey
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat 1⁄4 cup of the oil in a saucepan over medium. Add the shallot. Brown 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat. Stir in vinegar. Cover, place over low heat, and cook until the shallot is tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender. Add the mustard, lemon juice, honey, thyme, and salt. Process on low speed 2 minutes until smooth. Remove center of the blender lid. With blender on low speed, slowly add the remaining 1⁄4 cup oil through the center of the blender lid and process until emulsified. Stir in the parsley. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes about 3 cups.

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