Frank Stitt SFA Founder Photo
Those traditions that I learned about through my grandmother’s farm and being at my grandparents’ farm table... I think that those are the things that I feel, as a chef and a Southern chef, somewhat obligated to preserve, to talk about, and find out the best most wonderful salient things and to pass those on.

Frank and Pardis Stitt

Frank and Pardis Stitt

A native of Alabama, Frank Stitt has, with his wife Pardis, birthed four restaurants – Highlands Bar and Grill, Chez Fonfon, Bottega, and Bottega Café – in one Birmingham neighborhood, making the Southside of that town one of the region’s dining destinations.

Early in life, he left the South. Tufts University in Boston came first. Then the University of California at Berkeley where, inspired by his reading of Richard Olney and Elizabeth David, he sought a kitchen job. Eventually he found his way to Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse. And from there to a position, in France, working as Richard Olney’s assistant.

But the pull of the South proved great. In 1982, he returned to his native Alabama. A quartet of restaurants followed. Recently, he wrote Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill, an homage to Southern cookery, filtered though his various peregrinations. Therein you will find recipes for roast venison with cabbage, spoonbread, and bourbon; soft-shell crab with brown butter and bacon vinaigrette; and skirt steak with watermelon and red onion relish.

In 2006, Stitt received the Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Date of interview: December 30, 2004Interviewer: Jake York, SFA Member