Road Trip: The Best Chefs of Rabun County, Georgia

Rabun County, Georgia packs a punch. Team BCA recently found that out on an excursion to the Northeast Georgia mountains. This region has three beautiful lakes, two excellent wineries, and six Best Chefs. Below, is a photo essay of our trip:

Rabun County GA

The mountains of Northeast Georgia near Mountain City


Left to right: The Beechwood Inn; BCA decal; Breakfast with Best Chefs David & Gayle Darugh


Tiger Mountain Vineyards, Tiger, GA


Martha Ezzard, co-owner of Tiger Mountain Vineyards, inside the tasting room


The Red Barn Café


Clockwise from top left: Chuck Mashburn of Mill Gap Farm in Tiger; Squash blossoms; Corn rows; Blackberries; BCA Creative Director, Richie Swann holding a parsley-leafed turnip; Dragon’s tongue (Pride of the Piedmont)


Stonewall Creek Vineyards, Tiger, GA


Best Chef Ryan Spruhan’s plaque displayed at the Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant


Left to right: Fortify Kitchen & Bar; Smoked Gouda “pimento cheese” stuffed Springer Mountain Farm airline chicken breast, cremini mushroom-sherry sauce, Anson Mills farro risotto with spinach; Flourless chocolate cake


The lobby at White Birch Inn, Clayton, GA


Left to right: The main entrance to Laurel Bar and White Birch Inn; BCA VP of Sales, Brittany Beran with Chef Ben Findley; The Breakfast Room at Laurel Bar


Left to right: Prosciutto, blackberry, apricot & brie pizza on Naan bread with basil, goat cheese and balsamic honey vinaigrette, side of succotash salade; Terrapin Beer Co.’s Golden Ale; The South Carolina-Georgia state line (Chattooga River)


Left and right: Richie with his root beer float at Annie’s Market and Deli in Lakemont; Brittany in a field of flowers at the Dillard House in Dillard


Tallulah Gorge State Park



Sourcing Locally in Unusual Ways

Best Chef Robert Phalen visits Charleston

By Colin Riddle


Chef Robert Phalen (middle) with BCA staffers in Charleston, S.C.

While dining at local favorites McCrady’s, Edmund’s Oast, Leon’s, and Two Boroughs Larder among others, Atlanta’s One Eared Stag chef and partner Robert Phalen dropped by BCA headquarters for a quick hello and photo op.

Phalen enjoys vacationing to the Holy City since completing his externship as a pastry chef at Johnson & Wales in Charleston. The Chicago native and Ole Miss grad took his first job working with Chef Shaun Doty at Guenter Seeger’s Mumbo Jumbo in the pastry department under Pastry Chef Edouard Fenoil. Four years later, Phalen took the executive chef position at Alon Baslshon’s namesake Alon’s before moving onto MidCity Cuisine in Atlanta.

In Febraury 2008, Phalen and his business partners opened Holy Taco, a taqueria in east Atlanta specializing in unique flavor combinations with the offcuts of meat. Mexican foie gras is a prime example on one of the weekly menus. “People took after it,” says Phalen.

In the Spring of 2011, it was time for a change in direction for Phalen. One Eared Stag was created in Inman Park on the east side of Atlanta, serving what can be called New American cuisine although Phalen is certainly not confined to one genre of food. The quaint area offers endless possibilities for the chef and the restaurant. Inman Park is what Phalen describes as a “lazy little neighborhood,” which has in turn made One Eared Stag a destination restaurant surrounded by Antebellum homes and neighborhood parks.


Additional excitement exists outside the restaurant. The area offers great places for foraging, where Phalen gets his hands on wild strawberry, honey suckle, wild spruce, and much more. One state over outside of Birmingham, Ala., sits their two farms totaling 600 acres. Thirty acres are dedicated to crops. Pecans, corn, truffles, and various berries and vegetables are grown here. The additional property serves as the hunting ground for wild boar, deer, dove and pheasant.

Sourcing his own food and communicating first person with local farmers has always been an important aspect of Phalen’s business. The fundamental being rooted from growing up around his grandmother’s farm in Arkansas. “I like to know really where everything’s coming from,” says Phalen. Their next addition might be setting up an aquaponics system on the back patio of the restaurant.

These types of innovation, experiment and acceptance have lead Atlanta in becoming a bustling food town that’s not afraid of the unusual. Phalen says he believes the dining scene in Atlanta is becoming more welcoming to young chefs as well. “Young chefs are getting their chance, which is nice,” says Phalen.

Check out samples of Best Chef Robert Phalen’s menus on the One Eared Stag website. Follow the chef on Twitter @RobertPhalen and Instagram robertphalen.


Fast Facts on America’s Birthday

Plenty of U.S. holidays see an influx in the volume of food and libations consumed, but nothing puts it on display better than the celebration of this great nation’s birth. From the all-night slow roast to Uncle Sam’s signature top hat, this year’s Fourth of July celebration is sure to see some unique spins on America’s favorite backyard snacks.  Here are a few Independence Day Food Facts to gnaw on this weekend.


Photo by Emily Chaplin

62.9 million

Total estimated number of hogs and pigs as of March 1, 2014. Chances are that the pork hot dogs and sausages consumed on the Fourth of July originated in Iowa. The Hawkeye State was home to an estimated 19.8 million hogs and pigs. North Carolina (estimated at 8.0 million) and Minnesota (estimated at 7.8 million) were also homes to large numbers of pigs. (USDA)


The number of paid employees (for the pay period including March 12) who worked in a poultry-processing establishment in the U.S. in 2012. There were 517 such establishments — California (45) had the most. Georgia has the most establishments with greater than 1,000 employees (13), followed by Arkansas (11) and North Carolina (8). (U.S. Census)

6.1 billion pounds

Total estimated production of cattle and calves in Texas in 2013. There is a good chance that the beef hot dogs, steaks and burgers on your backyard grill came from the Lone Star State, which accounted for nearly one-sixth of the nation’s total production. And if the beef did not come from Texas, it very well may have come from Nebraska (estimated at 5.1 billion pounds) or Kansas (estimated at 3.7 billion pounds). (USDA)

155 million

Americans eat some 20 billion hot dogs per year, and 155 million of them are consumed on July 4th alone, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. That’s enough average-sized franks to stretch from L.A. to D.C. five times, with some left over. (TIME Magazine)

$190 billion

The Nielson Company reported that 24 million cases of beer were sold during the holiday period in 2008 (the most recent date for a report of this size and scale), helping generate $190 billion dollars for the U.S. economy. (TIME Magazine)

**These figures may be subject to sampling variability and other sources of error.

Q-and-A with BCA’s Brittany Beran

Best Chefs America is proud to welcome the newest member to the BCA staff, Brittany Beran. Brittany will be serving as Vice President, Sales and Marketing. She is a graduate of Clemson University, and brings years of experience in public relations, sales, event management, and communications. We put Brittany on the hot seat, and here’s how it went.

Brittany Ice Cream

What intrigues you about Best Chefs America?

Chefs know best, but they can be impossible to get in touch with at times. But BCA did it, and was able to get their opinions on their peers and, in turn, the top one percent of chefs according to chefs across the nation. That is unbelievable! I now have a difficult bucket list to complete.

What experience do you bring to BCA?

I’ve been all over the place, and gained dynamic experience up and down the east coast, across oceans, at ad agencies, PR firms and festivals (Cannes Film and Charleston Wine + Food). Each contributed to the tools and skills I feel are needed in this industry, and grew relationships with professionals who now consider me a friend.

Where would you like to see the BCA brand go?

As a brand, I want to see BCA grow, and I can already see it happening with the national book, the regional book, and the new city guides. The chefs love it. Cooks from across the country have been asking us to come there next. Who’s to say we won’t be in a different city every month? Someone has to show people where to eat!

From a marketing standpoint, what is the best way for chefs to promote themselves?

Chefs and their PR teams are smart. They have learned that engaging with the community and making their presence known outside of the kitchen is crucial in maintaining a following and making friends. The more their names are out in a professional manner, the more well-respected they and their restaurants become. Hence, Best Chefs – take a look at those 4,643 names!

What makes the chef community interesting to non-culinary professionals?

Julia Child said it best, “People who love to eat are always the best people.” Those behind the art have become famous and intrigue us layman.

How can people utilize Best Chefs America?

In so many ways! That’s why we’re getting out there. The national guide is a coffee table book. That’s the investment piece; it’s attractive as a talking piece, especially when it’s marked up with the places you visit. The five regional guides separate the country, allowing each region more focus and depth and making a great collection. The city guides provide attractive, easy-to-read and reliable information on cities throughout the country that will point you to every Best Chef restaurant in the area.

Why is it important to hear from the chefs themselves?

Chefs know best! That’s our motto here at BCA and it’s the truth. The chefs will tell you that, too. You trust a professional on another professional, right?

Do you see chefs playing a larger role outside their kitchens in the community today?

Absolutely. Chefs are stars these days. The great part is they play off of it. You see chefs all over the place engaging with their audiences, attending events, taking part in charity fundraisers, having a presence on social media – none of that is in the kitchen and all of that is feeding our culture.


BCA City Dining Guides

Charleston, SC (available now)

Rabun County, GA (coming soon)

Roanoke, VA

Richmond, VA

Nashville, TN

Atlanta, GA