Chef Joshua Hopkins will replace Ryan Smith as executive chef at Empire State South at the end of the summer. (Atlanta magazine's Bill Addison first tweeted the news last week.) Hopkins is currently executive chef at White Oak Kitchen and Cocktails and has previously helmed the kitchens at Abattoir and STG Trattoria. In case you missed it, Smith announced in April that he will join chef Ryan Hidinger later this year to open the forthcoming Staplehouse brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Owner Hugh Acheson spoke about the future of Empire State South in an interview last month:
On Smith's yet-to-be-announced replacement:
We have hired a chef, but we're not saying who yet. That chef is extraordinarily talented and quite well known in Atlanta. I think [the decision] will surprise a lot of people, but I think it's a good choice, somebody with a lot of experience in doing what Ryan is doing.
I ask chefs to do something a little bit different than most people do. We have managers and stuff at Empire, but Ryan's the boss of the entire restaurant and I'm Ryan's boss. Finding that person who is as charismatic, in control and smart...somebody who the staff can really look up to is not an easy person to replace, but I think we've done that.
On staffing restaurants:
My job is to be the baseball manager. Occasionally we're going to have some players leave our fold who are really gifted, and we move on. It's a balance in figuring it out and a realization that we'll get the next great person to do the next great job.
The future of Empire is much the same. I think it'll be still very innovative food. Ryan has done a better job than any chef I've seen in Atlanta of utilizing everything he can get his hands on locally and not being pompous about it at all. And I think that the food is just honestly great food that's technical and really smart, but not over your head.
On Smith leaving:
I will be the biggest promoter of anything he does, whether it's affiliated with me or not, because I love him and I respect what he does every day and what he's done for the charity [the Giving Kitchen] that they're involved with.
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