Food Issue 2007: International Flavor 

How immigrants are changing the way Atlanta eats

Signs along Buford Highway provide plenty of evidence that immigrants have changed what we eat in Atlanta. Just 20 years ago, it was difficult to find Thai, Indian, Ethiopian or Korean restaurants around here. Now, you'd have to be blind to overlook them.

But even those among us who'd rather dine at trendy intown eateries or white-tablecloth establishments can't escape the influence of restaurant workers from other lands. On the most basic level, immigrants provide the labor that fuels the metro area's culinary explosion; somewhere between a third and two-thirds of the region's restaurant workers are foreign-born Latinos. Without them, your foie gras pate and crème brûlée might not get made, even in the highest caliber restaurants.

Many other immigrants either rose from those ranks or came to the United States with the skills necessary to influence the techniques and tastes that emerge from some of Atlanta's finest kitchens. This Food Issue profiles three of them: immigrant Atlanta cooks who've changed the way native-born Atlantans are eating.

One is an accomplished chef from China who now works at an authentic and acclaimed Szechuan restaurant in Marietta. Another learned her trade in an Atlanta culinary school before bringing her Ecuadorian sensibilities to desserts at one of the city's most storied classical restaurants. Another worked his way up from dishwasher to become an indispensable line cook at a trendy, new Midtown eatery.

Together they may remind you that the debate over immigration isn't just about politics – it's also about palates.

Bacchanalia's Carla Cabrera

Top Flr's Jesus Clemente

Tasty China's Feng Xing Lei

Food, culture and love: An essay by Cliff Bostock

Restaurant guide


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