Chef Kevin Gillespie’s true passion lies in serving his customers quality food every day. This enthusiasm means incorporating the use of fresh, organic and sustainable ingredients in all of his dishes. His goals as executive chef and partner of Woodfire Grill are to increase the usage of local products, make seasonal dishes more exciting, and create a youthful atmosphere at the restaurant.
Gillespie is also currently working on two cookbooks that he is writing with best-selling cookbook author David Joachim. The first book, called Fire in My Belly, will be released in the fall of 2012, and the second in the fall of 2013. Fire in My Belly will include more than 120 recipes that celebrate quality ingredients and mirror the kitchen at Woodfire Grill but are developed specifically for home cooks. The book provides a glimpse into the formative years of a rising culinary star while showing readers what to do with great seasonal ingredients through one-of-a-kind chapters like “Foods You Thought You Hated” and “When I Want to Eat Healthy.”
An Atlanta native, Gillespie began his culinary education at the Art Institute of Atlanta where he was able to apply several scholarships he had previously earned from cooking competitions and other academic success. During school, Gillespie was determined to gain the experience he needed to become a successful chef. While carrying a full course load at the Art Institute, he worked part time at various restaurants perfecting his craft. After graduating with honors, Gillespie went on to hold different positions at several well-known Atlanta restaurants including chef de partie at Atlanta Grill at The Ritz-Carlton, sous chef at TWO Urban Licks and chef de cuisine at Woodfire Grill. He enjoyed his time at each of these places but found a true connection at Woodfire, where he originally stayed for two years. In August of 2006, Gillespie headed to the West Coast where he went to work as executive sous chef at Fife Restaurant in Portland, Oregon. After a year and a half there, he missed his family and friends in the South and returned to Atlanta. Gillespie came back to Woodfire Grill to continue to work for his friend and teacher Michael Tuohy.
In the summer of 2008, Nicolas Quiñones and Bernard Moussa of Five Senses Restaurants, LLC purchased Woodfire Grill and made Gillespie the new executive chef. They felt that in order to carry on Woodfire Grill’s reputation and mission, he was the most qualified for the position. In early 2009, Gillespie joined Quiñones and Moussa as a partner in the restaurant. Through his training, skill and passion, Gillespie maintains the values and ideas on which the restaurant is based.
In addition to achieving this partnership at the restaurant, Gillespie also earned a spot on Bravo’s Emmy and James Beard Award-winning series “Top Chef” for the show’s sixth season in Las Vegas in 2009. Proving to be a top contender by winning the most “Quickfire Challenges” and “Elimination Challenges” in the history of the show, he stood out as one of this season’s final three chef-testants who competed for the “Top Chef” title in Napa Valley. Gillespie was also voted “fan favorite” by the viewers of “Top Chef.”
As a rising young culinary star that brings more than just good food to the table, Gillespie was named one of Mother Nature Network’s top “40 Chefs Under 40” in November 2009 for linking farms to forks and promoting better health for people and the planet. In February of 2010, he was honored as one of Gayot.com’s “Top Five Rising Chefs” and named as a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef of the Year” award. A few months later, in June, Gillespie was invited to prepare a meal at the James Beard House in New York City and was also featured on “Cooking with Emeril” on SIRIUS Satellite Radio. In 2010, Gillespie was selected as a Celebrity Chef Ambassador for the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and also received The Art Institute of Atlanta’s Distinguished Alumni Award for his outstanding accomplishments in the restaurant industry. Gillespie accepted this alumni award in December 2010 at the school’s graduation ceremony where he also served as the commencement speaker. In 2011, Gillespie was again named a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef of the Year” award and nominated for Food & Wine’s “The People’s Best New Chef.” Gillespie has even been honored in cartoon form; in September 2011 he performed the voiceovers for his own character on the season premiere of “Squidbillies” on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. In this episode, the main character is dying from asbestos exposure and gets three wishes granted, one of which is to have a meal prepared by Chef Kevin Gillespie. In November 2011, Gillespie served as a keynote speaker for the international conference of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a worldwide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality. In December 2011, he was named one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30” in the magazine’s listing of tomorrow’s brightest stars.
This year, Gillespie looks forward to hosting Co+op, stronger together’s video series celebrating the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives. In this series, Gillespie travels to food co-ops across the country to share their passion for delicious food and their local communities. He will also take part in a Fine Food and Wine Cruise to French Polynesia this fall to give travelers an exclusive culinary travel experience.
During Gillespie’s time at Woodfire Grill, the restaurant has been featured on CNN and in Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine and Men’s Health as a dining destination for visitors to Atlanta. When he is not at the restaurant, Gillespie can be found participating in culinary events around the country including the Charleston Food and Wine Festival, Serenbe Southern Chef Series, Charlie Palmer’s Pigs & Pinot, High Museum Wine Auction, Music to Your Mouth Festival and Top Chef: The Tour. Additionally, he has partnered with Morelli’s Ice Cream to open a second location of the shop in Atlanta and creates a selection of seasonal sundaes for the shop.
Gillespie currently resides in the Ormewood Park neighborhood of Atlanta with his wife, Valerie. He is a member of Slow Food Atlanta, Southern Foodways Alliance, Chefs Collaborative, Georgia Organics and the Society for the Preservation of traditional Southern Barbecue. In his spare time he enjoys camping, playing music and barbecuing.