Atlanta-based chef Anne Quatrano is perhaps the most visible figure in the area’s farm-to-table movement. She and her husband and fellow chef Clifford Harrison are longtime proponents of sustainability and make concerted efforts to use locally grown seasonal and organic products—much of which comes from their own family farm. They own and operate three established restaurants—Bacchanalia, Little Bacch, and Floataway Café, run Star Provisions deli and market, and have very recently opened W.H. Stiles Fish Camp, a casual seafood spot in the Ponce City Market’s food hall.
Star Provisions is a carefully curated, visually inspiring shop and pantry where patrons can have access to the same tools and ingredients as professional chefs. They accomplish what we attempt to do in our own Studio Style DIY shop—provide high quality materials to those who might otherwise not have access to those items. Anne and Clifford have effectively opened their restaurant’s pantry and walk-in cooler for patrons to shop. It has a bakery, a wine cellar, a butcher and seafood counter, a cheesemonger, and a section for cookbooks, specialty goods, tableware, penny candy—and even dog treats.
As part of our continued inquiry into the creative process, I was interested in how someone could manage so many undertakings and manage a family farm and come up with fresh ideas for new restaurants. Fellow Atlanta chef Steven Satterfield said of Anne, “Ann was a pioneer in Atlanta. Her focus has always been on sourcing the best ingredients first, and local, seasonal ingredients have always been important to her.” I want to know what inspires such a pioneer—and what continues to keep that sort of passion stoked. We forwarded Anne a list of 34 questions about her thoughts on how she creates, stays motivated, and encourages her own creativity—and asked her to answer 5-10 of her choice. Her responses follow and reveal what sparks her curiosity and what she might have done instead of becoming a chef (though we’re so glad she stuck with her original plan).
Alabama Chanin: Do you have any creative rituals?
Anne Quatrano: Not really – I love an iced tea and a stack of magazines on Sundays.
AC: What makes you curious?
AQ: Mostly nature and its elements…wild vegetation, bird’s nests, the paths of bees, my dogs’ habits, anatomy of a hog…
AC: What do you daydream about?
AQ: The beach
AC: Do you have processes or tricks to spur creativity?
AC: Do you have to be in a certain mood in order to create?
AQ: No, but I am more creative when calm.
AC: Nature or nurture? Do you imagine creativity is part of human nature or must it be learned?
AQ: Human nature – the discipline to achieve is learned.
AC: What parts of your work seem the “heaviest” and the “lightest”?
AQ: Heaviest is always economically motivated. Lightest is typically the relationship of flavors, textures and form.
AC: Have you ever censored your imagination or creativity because you don’t want to offend anyone? If so, how?
AQ: Sometimes with hired graphic designers or individuals helping with projects—but most of the time the collaboration is just as rewarding and often better.
AC: If you had to start over, would you choose a different path in your career?
AQ: I would draw homes and public spaces…architecture.
AC: Do you critique your own work?
AQ: Yes – more than anyone else.
AC: Has rejection ever affected your creative process?
AC: What last made you think, “I wish I had thought of that!”?
P.S.: Purchase tickets to our Friends of the Café Dinner with chef Anne Quatrano on October 24th and have the chance to experience her food firsthand.
Photos courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee Photography