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Atlanta chefs to watch 

Five culinary names to follow this fall

click to enlarge COURTESY HUGH ACHESON

HUGH ACHESON AND NICK MELVIN

Hugh Acheson comes to Atlanta with a certain amount of bravado. The celebrated Athens chef (with four James Beard nominations under his belt) is entering the market with Empire State South (www.empirestatesouth.com) in the 999 Peachtree high-rise in Midtown. It seems like an odd location for a guy whose restaurants (Five and Ten and the National) embody the laid-back neighborhood vibe of Georgia's most famous college town. But Acheson doesn't sound worried. I overheard him this past February, hanging out at the bar of the National, proclaiming that Midtown needed the kind of restaurant he aimed to provide, and that the office workers nearby would appreciate the restaurant's easy, healthy breakfast and lunch options.

And presumably, the rest of us will make Empire State South a destination for dinner, where Acheson promises uncomplicated, farm-fresh Southern cuisine. If this sounds familiar, it's because many restaurants in recent years have opened with the same selling points. But many of the chefs at those places took their cues from Acheson. It'll be fascinating to see what he delivers, along with chef Nick Melvin (formerly of Parish), who Acheson has hired to run the kitchen.

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