Photo courtesy of Steven Satterfield
Tomorrow night, Fire, Flour & Fork wraps up with a dinner from Steven Satterfield, the author of new cookbook "Root to Leaf" and the executive chef and co-owner of Atlanta's Miller Union. Satterfield's acclaimed, refreshing approach to farmstead ingredients piqued our curiosity, so we checked in with the award-winning chef to see what he has up his sleeve for Sunday's vegetable-centric dinner collaboration with Richmond’s own Longoven.
Richmond magazine: Tell me how you got into food? Because you were a musician [in Seely and Silver Lakes] and you studied architecture.
Steven Satterfield: Short version is when I finished architecture, I got into the field and my heart wasn’t in it so I dropped out and started playing music. I played classical wind instruments when I was younger, then I picked up a guitar for the first time and started learning how to play and became obsessed. All I did was play guitar … I was disenchanted with the workforce an was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I started working in restaurants — easy and noncommittal — and a lot of my friends were. I always worked in the kitchen and never the front of the house. I was never afraid to cook; I just jumped right in there I didn’t even think about it as a career. I though of it as a paycheck.
But as my music career advanced, so did my cooking career. I started learning about ingredients and working in restaurants and learning. I started to work for actual trained chefs here in Atlanta in between gigs and records. I was a line cook. The focus became the dinner menu and getting people to eat good food. I got into the routine of working nights and and playing nights.
Tell me about your restaurant. Where did the name Miller Union come from?
SS: Miller Union comes from the Stockyards that once inhabited the block we are on, in the late 1800s — we are coming up on our six-year anniversary. We have never really wavered from our intentions to work with local farms; we are seasonal, local, with great service and a great wine list in a casual environment. I have never had an aspiration to open a restaurant; I started as a minion and basically learned how to run a restaurant working my way through the ranks. Then thought maybe it was time to go out on my own.
And because you didn’t have enough to do — you decided to put out a cookbook?
SS: That process started over three years ago with a couple of friends. My friends told me, "You are never going to be ready. If you start getting your ideas on paper, you will be surprised what develops." My friends, the Lee Brothers, introduced me to my publisher, Amy Hues. I bounced this idea of cooking through the seasons with vegetables — not vegetarian per se, but definitely vegetable-focused. It is very similar to what we do at the restaurant: We look at what the farmers have, harvest lists, etc. It really just was an extension of what we do in the kitchen here. Then we try and incorporate as many of those things as we can into the menu … A lot of recipes are from the restaurant kitchen and a lot are designed just for the book. The whole idea is that they should be easy to execute at home.
Are you a farmer?
SS: No, I am a terrible grower. I am too busy. I have a fantasy about having my own garden.
Since you are a musician, what do you listen to in the kitchen?
SS: We don’t listen to music in the kitchen — it is distracting. There are a lot of things we have to do to stay focused. I would like to, but it is counter-intuitive to work.
When not at work?
SS: I like so many different types of music — I just sent a playlist of music to "The Mind of the Chef." It just went out today on Instagram feed. Just threw together.
You are the go-to guy for vegetables right now. What's your current favorite? And with that being said, do you have a favorite guilty pleasure — a fast food or similar?
SS: I like fried foods and desserts and all those things. And I think it is really important to eat plant based foods, all in moderation. If you up your ante with fruits, vegetable and grains, you can cheat all you want.
To find the full Fire, Flour & Fork schedule, click here.