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As Executive Chef of White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails in downtown Atlanta, and soon-to-be Richards’ Southern Fried in Krog Street Market, Todd Richards classical approach to food can be found in the restaurant’s seasonally focused menu. Coming from The Ritz-Carlton Hotels and The Oakroom in The Seelbach Hilton in Louisville, Ky., the foundation of Richards’ career is in fine dining. Understanding the methods and techniques behind gastronomy, Richards 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 has appeared on NBC’s Today Show and was named one of the “Four New Chefs to Watch” by Esquire Magazine in 2012. Richards is a James Beard Award Best Chef Semifinalist and serves on the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival’s Founder’s Council.

James Beard Award-nominated Chef Todd Richards shares his personal culinary exploration of soul food.

Black American chefs and cooks are often typecast as the experts of only one cuisine—soul food, but Todd Richards’ food is anything but stereotypical. Taste his Hot-Chicken-Style Country-Fried Lamb Steak or Blueberry-Sweet Tea-Brined Chicken Thighs as evidence. While his dishes are rooted in family and the American cuisine known as soul food, he doesn’t let his heritage restrain him. The message of SOUL is that cooks can honor tradition yet be liberated to explore. Todd Richards 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. Page after page, in more than 150 recipes and stunning photos, Todd shares his creativity and passion to highlight what soul food can be for a new generation of cooks. Whether you’re new to Southern and soul food or call the South your home, Soul will encourage you to not only step outside of the box, but to boldly walk away from it.

The chapters in SOUL are organized by featured ingredients: Collards, Onions, Berries, Lamb, Seafood, Corn, Tomatoes, Melons, Stone Fruit, Eggs and Poultry, Pork and Beef, Beans and Rice, and Roots. Each one begins with a traditional recipe and progresses alongside Richards’ exploration of flavor combinations and techniques.

Strawberry-Rum Coolers

Serves 8

The joyful laughter that comes from sitting around the BBQ pit, under the sun, wiping your brow, sipping a refreshing drink is all about the love of food, family and friends, and reverence for the cook. It’s hard not to be dutiful to the person cooking for you, “Is there anything you need?” When I’m the one wearing the cook’s hat, I want something cold, boozy, and delicious. And delicious is what this drink is. It’s the kind of drink that upon first sip seems to stop the sun’s rays in their tracks and makes the breeze feel somehow cooler. That’s called refreshment.

Strawberry-Rum Cooler Base

  • 2 1⁄2 cups very ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger

Bring the strawberries, 1 cup water, lime juice, agave syrup, and ginger to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-low. Cook until mixture is fragrant and strawberries are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and cool completely, about 1 hour.

Transfer the strawberry mixture to a blender. Process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 5 days. Makes about 2 cups.

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) white rum
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) dark rum
  • Orange bitters
  • Crushed ice
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) ginger beer
  • 1 orange, cut into 8 wedges

For each cooler, combine 1⁄4 cup Strawberry-Rum Cooler Base, 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) white rum, 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) dark rum, and 6 dashes of bitters in a mixing glass, and top with ice. Stir mixture until ice dilutes the liquid into a smooth puree. Pour over crushed ice, and top with 1⁄4 cup ginger beer. Garnish with an orange wedge.

Serve with: This is a seasonal beverage and can be served with any seasonal item spring and summer.


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

These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:

Recipes from SOUL: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes by Todd Richards. (Oxmoor House; May 22, 2018; $35/Hardcover, ISBN: 9978-0848754419).

Contact: Kourtney Sokmen