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In honor of the autumn season (and national dessert day this past Monday), we’re taking a look back at our favorite cookbooks and recipes. A favorite of The Factory is Jamie DeMent’s The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes and Stories from My Carolina Farm.

Jamie DeMent and her partner, Richard Holcomb, own and operate Coon Rock Farm, a 55-acre farm in Hillsborough, North Carolina, that grows sustainable, heirloom varieties of produce and livestock. Jamie also owns the award-winning restaurant Piedmont, located in downtown Durham, North Carolina. She is also a guest lecturer at UNC Chapel Hill, NC State University, Duke University, and teaches cooking classes around the country. Jamie uses her work to find ways to revive the simplicity of eating healthy, locally grown food. The Farmhouse Chef offers over 150 recipes for all occasions, inspired by seasonal harvests.

With pecan season approaching next month, we share a recipe from the book for Cane Syrup Pecan Pie—the only pecan pie recipe you’ll ever make again…



Makes 6–8 servings

1 unbaked piecrust
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups pure cane syrup
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecan halves
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon bourbon

Preheat the oven to 450°. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the piecrust. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour and cornstarch until smooth. Add the cane syrup and sugar, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. In a separate small bowl, beat 2 eggs. Add the eggs and the rest of the ingredients to the pot, and stir them to mix well. Pour everything into your piecrust and lightly tap it on the counter to even out the nuts and release any air bubbles. Place the pie in the oven and bake at 450° for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350° and bake for an additional 30–35 minutes—until the pie is done and not jiggly in the center. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool a little before serving.


Images by Felicia A. Trujillo. Recipe and images courtesy of UNC Press.



Our inaugural year of The Factory Supper Club is drawing to a close (with two more left), and it has allowed us to showcase talented, local chefs and provide a unique experience for our guests.

In November, The Factory Café is bringing in chef Fatin Russel of Odette, a beautiful dining establishment in downtown Florence that focuses on creating unique dishes with new flavors and traditional techniques.


Fatin is from the southern tip of Malaysia and her diverse heritage has roots steeped in Malay, China, Java, and India. Food has always played an integral part in Fatin’s life. She graduated from culinary school in 2013 and came to the United States for a cultural student program. While working at the kitchens at the locally esteemed Marriott Shoals Hotel in Florence, she met her future husband.

After completing the cultural student program, Fatin moved home to Malay to work and help her mother with a baking business. Two years later she returned to Florence to marry Christopher and now works at Odette. Fatin is passionate and proud of her culture, and we can’t wait to taste her menu. She’ll be joined in the kitchen by chefs Josh Quick and Ramon Jacobsen of Odette and our café team.



Jessica Ullom is the founder and brains behind Hawks and Doves (named after her favorite Neil Young album), a fabric and leather goods company based out of North Carolina. It first began when Jessica (or Jess) started crafting goods inspired by items found at flea markets. As a collector (or “borderline hoarder”, as she describes herself), she found herself drawn to vintage textiles—feed sacks, old blankets, army canvasses—and was searching for a way to repurpose them.

Her grandmother, Inez, taught her to sew when Jess was young and Jess was drawn to use the sewing machine again. One day, she made a pillow out of an old feed sack and her friends loved it. She made more and put them up for sale at a flea market—and they sold out within five minutes. She realized she may have something profitable in her hands.


As she continued to make pillows, Jess began to experiment with making tote bags, as well. She expanded to making with leather and gradually learned the craft of manipulating a whole new material. Like Alabama Chanin goods, Hawks and Doves items are truly built for a lifetime. They are intended to go and travel with you in your daily life because they are made with care and with knowledge. According to Jessica, “Our leather goods are made with oil tanned leather. This means that the hide is already treated with oil and wax. This tanning method keeps the leather conditioned for a long time, you will only need to treat it every once in a while. Choose a good leather conditioner or oil and test it in a small inconspicuous spot on your bag before fully treating it. Oil tanned leather will age with you, and just look better after every wear!”

While head Executive Pastry Chef of Ashley Christensen’s restaurant, Jess’ husband Andrew requested she begin making knife rolls so that chefs could safely tote their valuable tools from place-to-place. Other chefs began requesting their own and, with their help, she created a leather knife carrier that sells out time and again.


Earlier this year, Jess and Andrew opened Union Special Bread, a pop-up bake sale in Raleigh, North Carolina, which focuses on handmade bread leavened with natural cultures, alongside a line of croissants and other pastries made using fresh and local ingredients.


Name: Jessica Ullom
Age: 33
Creative Medium: Leather and Textiles

Alabama Chanin: What makes you curious?

Jess Ullom: I am a naturally curious person, always wondering how things are made, how things work, how others think.  Two years ago I had my son, Gus. Now, as I watch him discover and encounter the world, I find myself soaking up that infectious, joyous curiosity.  It is a wonderful gift to be able to live out the small things again and look at things with big and wide eyes.

AC: What do you daydream about?

JU: A “quiet life.”  As a little girl, I never had dreams of grandeur and the one thing I can remember thinking about quite often was wanting to live in a house on rolling hills, with my baby, and my hair in braids – growing my own food, drying my own herbs.  As a kid, my mom would take me to an herb shop called “The Sunshine Store,” and if this dream could have a scent, the smell contained in that little space would be it.  Now, as I sit here on my computer, simultaneously checking my phone, and listening to music on a Bluetooth speaker I find myself still yearning for that disconnected quiet life.

AC: How important is education to your creative process?

JU: I received my BFA in Photography from CCAD in 2008.  As a leather and textile worker, I am obviously not fully utilizing my photography degree, yet without that education I know I would not have been able to develop Hawks and Doves into what it currently is.  Art school allowed me to take chances, push my own boundaries and, in many cases, it forced me far outside my comfort zone.  I’m not sure if that speaks more to experience or education, or is it education from experience?  I think education can come in many forms and it does not necessarily have to live within brick walls and hand you a piece of paper as you exit.

AC: What parts of your work seem the “heaviest” and the “lightest”?

JU: Since I am a one-woman business, the production and actual ‘running’ of the business are the heaviest.  There are a lot of skillets in the fire at all times and it is easy for those tasks to build up and take over everything.  Design days almost feel like ‘free days’ right now, and I so look forward to them!

AC: Does the creative process differ when you are creating for commerce vs creating for the sake of creativity?

JU: Absolutely. Since my products are made to be worn, used, and sold, I am always thinking about how they will function in another person’s life. This awareness of having another person wear and utilize your product inherently influences the creative process.  This is also my business, my income, and how I support our family, so I want to design and create things with the intention of selling them.  Sometimes I create things for myself, or to fill my own need, and then find out that is also a need of others. THAT is a great feeling and really feeds the inspiration tank.

AC: What makes you nervous?

JU: (Everything, ha!)  The ups and downs of running your own business are enough to make even the most Zen individual a complete wreck.  Deadlines, social media posts, emails, production, emails, stock sourcing, emails, replying to messages, and did I mention emails?!  The day is never done and the list is never complete, THIS makes me nervous – the ‘how am I ever going to finish it all?’  Add on top of that my phone dinging seven times a day with what could very possibly be an earth-shattering news update – these days there are also many things OUTSIDE of the business that make me nervous.

AC: Is there something that can halt your creativity? Distractions, fears, etc.? Have you found a way to avoid those pitfalls?

JU: The minutia of running every aspect of a business yourself can really get in the way of creativity.  A few years ago, as I was deep in the weeds of trying to figure out how to get this business off the ground and grow my audience, I remember thinking, “wouldn’t it be great if someday I can have a successful business by just making one leather bag?”  Now, I find myself eating those words on days when I’m sewing 40+ Porter totes! Crossing things off the list, filling and packing orders, and generally completing things, keep my locomotive going and I’m able to see creative/free days at the end of the tunnel.  I’m not sure if utilizing creativity as a reward is a good or bad thing, but right now it’s working, so I’m just going to go with it.

AC: Do you critique your own work?

JU: ALWAYS.  I am constantly making notes of changes to be made after I see someone out in the world wearing a H+D bag.  Since leather is something that ages as you wear it and, in many ways conforms to the life you live, it’s great to be able to see the way someone’s bag has patinaed and shows the marks of their life.  Finding someone you trust to give you honest critiques is hard to find and when it is found it is such a gift.  Since I am such a small business I am able to edit and make changes on the fly.

AC: Are there parts of your life that you always make a priority? That you struggle to make a priority?

JU: Right now I think I’m in the struggle that all young parents face, the classic work/life balance.  It is very hard to find the right balance where I do not feel guilty for neglecting H+D (my first baby) and also not feel guilty for neglecting my actual child.  I suppose it will come, and until it does, I’ll be trying very hard to navigate through the struggle!

AC: Where does inspiration come from? Where does inspiration live?

JU: For me, inspiration for H+D lives in real life.  H+D bags are built for life and built to last.  The needs of life spur inspiration and, as my life has changed (becoming a parent), I now recognize those small needs even more –  i.e. you need a bag strap long enough to swing onto your shoulder with one hand when you have a baby in the other hand.

(This project is made possible in-part by a fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.)


As summer comes to an official close, it seems to be getting hotter and hotter in Alabama. (Some things must get worse before they get better.) Luckily for us, The Factory Café has concocted the perfect late summer cocktail to keep us cool through the last of these sweltering days. This cocktail was served at our most recent Supper Club.


Serves 8

1 bottle rosé
1 bottle Prosecco
2 whole peaches
6 dried juniper berries

Remove the skin and pits of both peaches. Cut one peach into 16 equal slices and purée the second peach in a blender with one tablespoon of water until smooth.

Combine the rosé, peach slices, peach purée, and whole juniper berries. Chill in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

In a wine glass, add 2 slices of peach to 3 ounces of the rosé mixture. Top off the glass with chilled Prosecco.



Renowned chef John Currence was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, but has become a veritable institution in his adopted hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. John currently runs City Grocery—which he opened when he was 26—and three other restaurants: the “upscale downhome” Boure, French bistro-meets-Mississippi café Snackbar, and his homage to the most important meal of the day, Big Bad Breakfast. Big Bad Breakfast has expanded to five locations (including one in Florence), with a sixth on the way.

Over the last decade, the James Beard Award-Winning Currence has earned national recognition not only for his inventive and grounded restaurant group but also for his activism. He uses his platform as a chef to ask hard questions and demand action against injustice. Currence sees food as a vehicle for discussion and the communal table as a place where substantive conversations can be held. During these politically divisive times, John is willing to speak his mind when he sees a wrong that should be righted; he takes stands where others in the heart of the South may not. (Follow John on Twitter for lively debate.)

John has published two cookbooks, Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes From My Three Favorite Food Groups (and then some) and Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day. Today we announce John as the chef for our upcoming Friends of the Café Dinner. John will be collaborating with wine connoisseur extraordinaire Eric Solomon on the August dinner. (Look for more about Eric in the coming weeks on the Journal.)

This week, John took the time to answer some questions and, as always, he does not hold back. For this and dozens of other reasons, we are proud to call John a friend.


AC: You got a bit of a non-traditional start in the culinary world, not attending culinary school and working just about every job you could – from cooking on a Gulf Coast tugboat to bakeries and butcher shops. You earned your spot working under the legendary Bill Neal and Brennan family. Has that journey influenced your style of cooking?

JC: I believe that every point in my life influences my food, as I know they do every chef I know. The journey to “becoming a chef” is entirely misunderstood. It is about gathering all of those moments and distilling from them exactly what the story is you are trying to tell through your food.

AC: Alabama Chanin is active in the Southern Foodways Alliance, an organization that is also near to your heart. Why do you think it is so important to study foodways? What can looking at our communal past tell us about ourselves today?

JC: Our food, to a larger degree than most people recognize, illustrates our history and tells our story. No part of our country is richer in story or more misunderstood than the South and with the flattening of the world through the internet, overnight deliveries from anywhere on the planet, immediate communication, preserving those foodways and documenting their history and celebrating their significance has never been more critical. These are all things that could/would be easily washed away with the proliferation of corporate chain options and the evaporation of mom and pop venues rooted in those stories and history

AC: You were instrumental in helping to rebuild the New Orleans institution Willie Mae’s Scotch House after it was virtually destroyed by Katrina. This seems like a great example of how embracing shared foodways can create cultural change. What did you take away from that experience about people and about our shared histories?

JC: Working to drive the Willie Mae’s project to an end was simultaneously the proudest and most challenging/heartbreaking moment in my life. Had we not gotten involved, that little gem would have both failed to exist and would have fallen over into a heap of timber. We managed to save a restaurant that prior to the storm, NOBODY was aware existed, for the most part and people NEVER ventured into Treme to try, but by the end of our efforts, through the media attention given to the project, it immediately became one of the cult food destinations of NOLA. The friendships that were cemented in those hours inside that building, the understanding of the absolute need to save that little space and the opportunity to make a difference after an event like the flood of the city touched us all in the same way and, I like to think, gave everyone who came to help the pride of adding their names to that place.

AC: You are known for being outspoken politically and a bit of an activist. How do you reconcile that with your calling to bring people to the communal table? Does it make that mission easier or harder?

JC: We have NEVER been more polarized in our opinions/feelings/beliefs as we currently are and getting people to the table has never been more of a challenge. The greater issue now is that we are being led down a path where civility, decorum, truth, decency, dignity, and compassion/empathy are not just being pushed aside/buried, but they are being ridiculed as weaknesses or declared unpatriotic or entirely unimportant, at the very least. The volume of conversation has been turned up as loud as it will go, nobody is listening to what anyone else has to say and avarice rules the day. The current culture of fear-mongering by a certain segment of the population at the expense of the voiceless who carry the load of the nation’s daily workload obligation or those who exist on the fringe, is disturbingly misguided.

The flashes of the darkest moments of American history we are seeing today in the way that immigrants, members of the LGBT community, and intellectuals are alienated and demonized is astounding and terrifying. There has never been a time when we more desperately needed to breathe deeply and consider who we are and what we want to be. America, today, is quite simply, the worst version of itself it has ever been. By listening to each other we can begin to fix that. Sadly, we seem just has happy convening moments like Charlottesville in order to “preserve our heritage” or excusing tragedy like [the shooting that occurred at] Marjory Stoneman Douglas in an effort to “protect our second amendment rights” than we are to sit down and try to understand the roots of the issues that create those flashpoints. And what is worse is that we continue down this sinister rabbit hole, convinced that the struggle through all of this is what is defining us as “Great Again.” We are the worst joke on the current world stage and it will take all of us working together to right the current wrongs.

AC: When the immigration debate began in earnest, you posted a sign at your restaurant saying that everyone was welcome there. You also hosted a “Mexissippi Supper” to support the Mexican-American community—who are known to be essential to restaurant culture and operations. Can you explain why it is important to be openly active, in addition to working behind the scenes to effect change?

JC: Inaction is tantamount to complicity. I was raised to do the right thing, no matter the consequences so, given a platform and a microphone, I will always do just that. The people who work in our restaurants (and I speak for all of the chefs in my immediate circle of friends) are our family. THEY are the ones who give our clocks the ability to tick. To fail to speak up on their behalf, in my mind, is as significant a betrayal as one could deliver. On my own I am nothing. It takes a team of people to make any one of our restaurants work and I feel an obligation to defend my people, as I would my own daughter. When our people are well-taken care of, they are happy. When they are happy, we all prosper. When we prosper, we have the ability to nourish our communities and when we do so, we enrich the lives of the people living in them. This is the significance that is given the least amount of attention in what we do. All of that starts with taking care of our people which starts with simple gestures of respect, like taking the opportunity to speak on their behalf even though it may potentially have an adverse effect on business.

AC: Do you think that the concept of Southern food has been appropriated by people chasing trends? What is the most important thing about Southern food that most people eating at a new-school Southern restaurant would not know? And do you feel responsible to “keep it real”, so to speak, in your kitchens?

JC: As a society, we shamelessly jump trends and try to ride them through to prosperity. Southern food has certainly been a victim of that cultural appropriation, but because of the unending cultural and regional diversity of what Southern Food actually “is,” the purloined versions stand out as nothing less than cartoonish. I don’t think that we have ever thought of what we do as “keeping it real” as much as trying to maintain a dedication to the quality of ingredients and honesty of the narrative of our foods. Cooking in season and with the ingredients made available to us locally create a roadmap to that end. Examining the influences different populations have had on the landscape of our food with those ingredients is the journey we try to lead, but celebrating the beauty of our individual ingredients and showcasing the elemental beauty is the ultimate endgame.

AC: You’ve tackled subjects like poverty and hunger. There are reasons those problems are pervasive in the South, which you have spoken about. Is this a problem that can be tackled at a grassroots level? Is this a political conversation or a “communal table” conversation?

JC: The South has always been fraught with social and financial challenges. Dedication to addressing the issues on all levels here and elsewhere in the LONG TERM is the only way we will change things. We have allowed the well-being of our children, particularly those in greatest need, to become part of the political tug-of-war. Our children’s education, health, and well-being is not partisan fodder, but it has been hijacked and pitted in that light. We have to stand up and make this a non-negotiable if there is ever to be any hope of a brighter future.

AC: We’ve spoken with Hugh Acheson about helping children learn to make healthy choices in life and in the kitchen—which he does by creating curriculum that can be adopted in schools. Do you think starting these lessons early can really make a difference, or is the culture of immediacy too pervasive?

JC: Giving children hope, showing them that there are choices that fall into their hands and planting seeds early is the only way to counteract the extraction of hope.

AC: What is your earliest food-related memory?

JC: My great grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies.

AC: Do you remember the first dish you ever cooked by yourself?

JC: Potato Chip-Crusted Fried Chicken and Pigs In A Blanket for my family when I was 8.

AC: What is your most reliable go-to ingredient that you always keep on-hand in the kitchen?

JC: Bourbon

AC: What was your last truly great dining experience?

JC: A pot of the best seafood gumbo I ever made, on Sunday after last year’s SFA [Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium]. My mom and I worked over the pot all day long and agonized over EVERY detail. It was perfect and it was the last meal we ever ate together.

AC: In a culture where fast and easy solutions often prevail, what do you think is most important for home cooks to focus on? And what should they avoid buying when pre-packaged, if at all possible?

JC: Find the joy in cooking. Try to take in the fact that you are sharing an immensely personal moment when you prepare something and share that thing with someone you love. Consider “why” it is that you cooked that thing and what the story is behind why you cooked what you cooked. Just buy good ingredients. Make the time and share your love.

AC: At Alabama Chanin, you can often find music influencing the mood and the workflow in the studio. Do you play music in the kitchen and, if so, what is your favorite music to cook by?

JC: Music is arguably the biggest influence on my entire life. I am rarely without it. (I am listening to Exile On Mainstreet as I write). The list of what I love is too long, bizarre and complicated to say one thing or another is “favorite.” Different moods have different needs. I can go from The Stones to Soloman Burke, to the Clash, to Simon and Garfunkel, to John Paul White without the blink of an eye. These days I am back to spending a lot of time with early Springsteen (first three records plus Nebraska) but without provocation, I might switch to Minor Threat or Husker Du. Toots and the Maytals are a safe place, as is pre-pop Fleetwood Mac and any Elvis Costello…or Presley.



During June 2018, Natalie took month-long respite and creative journey during her residency at The Hambidge Center in the woods of north Georgia. She reflects on her time there and shares her experience for which she is eternally grateful:

In the summer of 2017, I was going through what will always be known to me as “The Summer of Onslaught.” It was, in other words, a brutal period of my life. Diverse and disparate events and actions, all outside of my control, barreled down on me like a fireball; I had no moment of respite. As soon as one event—personal and/or professional—seemed even mildly resolved, more turmoil arrived. My life felt like a beautiful birthday cake with trick candles: you blow and hope for your heart’s deepest wish but, to your horror, the flame reappears. You blow and blow until you realize that no amount of breath or effort can stop the onslaught.

I think of myself as a wildly positive person—the eternal optimist. How else could Alabama Chanin, The Factory, Building 14, and The School of Making even exist? But even the most optimistic human can burn out, burn up, fold in on herself, and shut down. Last summer—in the midst of chaos, I was sitting on my back porch with a friend and said, “I don’t see an end. I don’t see a break from the little fires erupting around me on all sides. I wish that I could have one moment to clear my mind; I need time to understand this. I want something like a residency.” And although I didn’t really even know what that meant and had never done a residency, I knew that it was something that might save me.

In a matter of days, I received a call from my dear friend Angie Mosier telling me that The Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences was trying to get in touch with me about… a residency. She put us in touch and, indeed, I was awarded a monthlong residency program thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Sometimes it is important to speak something out loud, if only to one other person, and the universe will go about making it happen.

The view through the dogtrot of Mary’s Cabin, looking out to her porch. –Photo: Rinne Allen

The Hambidge Center, the legacy of famed weaver Mary Hambidge, is a creative residency program nestled on 600 acres of forested mountain terrain in the North Georgia mountains, near Rabun Gap. The sanctuary belonged to Mary and her partner Jay Hambidge—who both worked to develop and promote the theory of Dynamic Symmetry. The residency program is open to any creative person in the fields of visual arts, writing, music, dance, culinary, textiles, and/or the sciences. The Center believes in a classic, self-directed residency where they provide a simple place for creative development and production, based on an individual’s wants and needs. Included in the residency are living quarters and a studio space, along with a support system for artists and scientists to provide room for creative encounter. There is no internet access in the studio, no cell service, four evening meals a week are provided—and lots of leftovers for lunch the next day. That’s it. In essence, they protect and nurture your time so that the little fires from the outside world are removed from the resident’s life and there is space for exploration.

It’s now almost exactly a year since I received that call from Angie. I’m sitting in the Brena Studio—my studio—at The Hambidge Center as I write this. I’ve been here for three weeks. I look out my window and see only trees and sky. The lush, temperate rainforest beckons morning and afternoon walks, waterfall swims, and deep breathing. I hear water running in the distance, leaves blowing in the trees, and the occasional call of a bird. My workspace is clean and orderly and perfectly arranged in a manner most conducive to my personal creativity. And I’m working.

In my residency, I follow an impressive array of writers, photographers, chefs, and creative thinkers from all genres. My beloved friend Scott Peacock worked on The Gift of Southern Cooking with his friend and mentor Edna Lewis in Mary Hambidge’s original cabin. My heroine Natasha Trethewey, former U.S. Poet Laureate (when such things were appreciated), worked here before me. My friend Angie Mosier was here in residency in 2016. She started a project which attempts to connect individuals in today’s changing social climate in the mountain south through food. Angie’s family is from the Smoky Mountains and she is exploring the relationship that links together that history and culture with those recipes and materials. It is a fascinating story that is unfolding and today, as I write this, she is at the nearby Walnut Hill Studio—on her second residency—continuing this important piece of work. In the same studio, Lisa Donovan, acclaimed pastry chef, author, and recent recipient of the James Beard Award for Journalism is working on her memoir, to be published by Penguin Press. Two days ago, these two brilliant women taught a workshop called Elemental Pie that connected flour and butter with the trajectory of making, women, and humanity. It was thrilling. These are the types of unexpected, yet artistically stimulating projects happening around me and inspiring me to continue my own work.

From the class description:

Lisa will speak to the emotional elements that take over when she is baking and how that makes its way into her writing. Angie will talk about how she uses her photography to capture the techniques but also the beauty of working hands, ingredients and the joy of cooking.

“All art is a mixture of science and emotion, no matter what the medium.” —from The Hambidge Center description of Elemental Pie

Boiled peanut, gruyere, and onion hand-pies from Lisa Donovan and Angie Mosier at The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences.

Lisa Donovan teaches pie crust. “Work the flour into the cold butter by smearing,” she tells us. “You want these flakes to create this beautiful marbled effect.” Photo: Rinne Allen

Lisa Donovan pushes the completed pie shell into the “corners” of the pan. “This is how you make sure that your walls don’t collapse.” Photo: Rinne Allen

Angie Mosier teaches us about light and camera interaction. “See this beautiful light?” she says. “It creates shape and texture for your photo. You don’t need fancy equipment, just look for the light.” Photo: Rinne Allen

Angie Mosier shows us how to vary height and angle to interact with light. “See this beautiful stack of pies?” she asks. “I’m going get down on the same level and make this stack my hero.” Photo: Rinne Allen

Carley, from Literature of Food, in Charleston, and a guest at the Pie workshop doubles as our model with the beautiful pie shells. Photo: Rinne Allen

Although I also taught two lovely workshops during my residency, it was such a treat to sit and listen to this group who had gathered for this workshop and talk about creative inspiration for making pie, for making dough, even how creative impulse lead Angie and Lisa to substitute boiled peanuts they bought on the side of the road for the originally planned, but unsalvageable, mushrooms for the hand-pies. (They were delicious.) Conversations wandered to how women and men have had to physically and metaphorically untie apron strings and put tools away and choose between making, work, and family because there are just too many of those fires to put out—and it all takes time.

I don’t know if your experience is the same, but my truth is that creative endeavor needs space and time to breathe. It requires this moment of silence for what ancient Greeks called eudaimonia (inspiration or creative flow) to arrive, be heard, and find its way out into the world. Whether it is designing fabric, developing silhouettes, writing a story, or planning a space, inspiration isn’t dropped from the big, blue sky; it needs to be tended and listened to and coaxed into reality. It needs to be tested and evolved and shared in a safe space. It is something that is ephemeral and solid at the same time. Last summer, living in chaos and constantly putting out fires dulled my senses; residency cleared a space for ideas to form and shapes to emerge.

I believe that to be human means to be creative. Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her lovely book Big Magic, “We are all makers by design.” It is in our very DNA to make, because when you look back in time and the trajectory of your own family, you most often find, as Gilbert puts it, “…people who were not consumers, people who were not sitting around passively waiting for stuff to happen to them. You will find people who spent their lives making things. This is where you come from. This is where we all come from.” And I understand deeply that this is where I come from and that to be a full and well-rounded human, for our society to be well-rounded, we have to make and we have to create space for creative thought and endeavor to emerge. And that takes time—and courage.

View of Rachel K. Garceau’s work and exhibition at the Antinori Ruins on The Hambidge Center property. Photo: Rinne Allen

Rachel K. Garceau, ceramicist and sculptor who is also in residency this month, pointed me towards Rollo May’s book titled The Courage to Create. On page 21 May writes, “Whereas moral courage is the righting of wrongs, creative courage, in contrast, is the discovering of new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which a new society can be built.” This is what residency is for me: the opportunity to discover new forms, new symbols, and new patterns in my own work.

Joan Didion once said, “I don’t know what I think until I write about it.” I feel the same way. Until I was able to sit and write about the last year of my life—solely for myself—I wasn’t able to know what I thought about it. And until I understood that year, I was unable to think of creative undertakings or have true creative courage.

My work table is orderly, I feel filled with courage and I‘m ready for creative endeavor.

I’m eternally grateful to The Hambidge Center and the National Endowment for the Arts for a Community Engagement Grant. As part of my residency, I was lucky to curate a show in collaboration with Rachel K. Garceau. Titled Process in Works, the show is open to the community through September 8th, 2018. Rachel’s work is site-specific to Hambidge and will be on display for approximately a two-year period. It is well worth the trip to visit Hambidge, the North Georgia Mountains, and, of course, our collaboration.

View of the gallery in Mary’s Weave Shed highlighting “Process in Work” by Alabama Chanin and Rachel K. Garceau. Photo: Rinne Allen

From The Hambidge Center:

Process in Works is a growing, evolving show of work by Natalie Chanin and Rachel K. Garceau about the purposeful setting of intentions, approaching the world with curiosity, exploring the meaning of value, and creating cumulative beauty with small, everyday acts and objects. This exhibit is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Painted stencil as an artifact of process as part of the show “Process in Work” at The Hambidge Center. Photo: Rinne Allen

The gallery show offers imaginative and interactive experiences inside and out through textiles, ceramics, making stations, an inspiration library and so much more. We are so proud to bring these two truly amazing women together for a show like no other.

Address: The Hambidge Center, 105 Hambidge Court, Rabun Gap, Georgia

Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Friday, 9am-4pm; Saturday, 10am-5pm

Gallery Phone: 706-746-5718

Detail of Rachel K. Garceau’s installation in the homestead ruin at The Hambidge Center. Photo: Rinne Allen

There are different types of creative residencies and you can gather more information here.

Apply for a creative residency here.

Support The Hambidge Center here.

And even if you can’t make a visit to this magical place, make space in your life for your own personal residency—ten minutes at a time.

Rachel K. Garceau’s installation in the homestead ruin at The Hambidge Center. Photo: Rinne Allen

P.S.: I’d like to thank The Hambidge Center and the Rabun County Public Library for hosting workshops during my residency. Inspiring one and all.



Created in 1934 by Mary Hambidge, the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts & Sciences is an artist community and sustainable farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia, founded in memory of artist Jay Hambidge—Mary’s partner who introduced her to her life’s work, weaving. After retiring from work as a popular vaudeville whistler (with her pet mockingbird, Jimmy), Mary met Jay, discovered weaving, and began employing local women to create textiles that would one day be featured in exhibits in the Smithsonian and MOMA. Later, Mary began inviting artists for extended stays on her property in the mountains and those evolved into an official residency program after her death in 1973.

This summer, Natalie was invited to stay at Hambidge for a month-long artist residency and her art will be featured in conjunction with artist Rachel Garceau in an exhibition called Process in Works. Process in Works explores the purposeful setting of intentions, ways to approach the world with curiosity, the meaning of value, and it creates cumulative beauty with small, everyday actions and objects.


Stop by the Weave Shed Gallery at Hambidge on June 30th for the opening of the exhibition and a leisurely summer afternoon filled with stories, homemade ice cream and small bites, and woodland walks with Natalie and her dear friends Angie Mosier, Lisa Donovan, and Rinne Allen. The reception, from 4:00pm ­– 7:00pm, is free and open to the public.

The exhibition will run until September 8th and is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Hambidge Center is carrying out important work, and we thank them for the opportunity.

P.S.: Look for more from Natalie about Hambidge later this summer on the Journal.


In 2017, The Factory Café introduced The Factory Café Supper Club, a new type of dinner series prepared in full by Chef Ray, our café team, and members of our local culinary community. The dinners feature multiple courses with wine and beer pairings, specialty cocktails, and a low-key, unique atmosphere. This year the café team has hosted several Supper Club dinners, each featuring a different type of cuisine.

For Valentine’s Day, guests enjoyed a romantic, Italian-style dinner complete with house-made pastas, meatballs, and tiramisu.


Grass Fed Meatballs with Red Sauce


Fettucine Alfredo



For March’s Ala-Mex Supper Club dinner, Chef Ray partnered with John Cartwright of Rivertown Coffee. The evening included favorite Mexican dishes with a southern spin (hello, tamales with collard greens).


Sweet Potato Tamale with collard greens, Hominy, Salsa Macha


Tri Tip Colorado with cucumber, radish, bibb, and herbs


Michelada – Modelo, lime, spices

April kicked off the 2018 Friends of the Café Dinner Series with Steven Satterfield and was followed by a French-inspired May Supper Club. Think escargot in herbed butter, steak with pepper sauce on a bed of Swiss chard, cheese platters, and toasted pound cake with strawberries and lemon cream—accompanied by this great playlist (below).


Burgundy snails, butter, and herbs


Bonnie Blue Farm Cheese selection from Waynesboro, Tennessee


Toasted Pound Cake with strawberries, tarragon, and lemon cream


Rebecca Wilcomb has worked for and under the tutelage of several renowned chefs, including Keith Pooler at Harvest and Ana Sortun at Oleana, both in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Even so, it is safe to say that she has found a place to truly shine at Herbsaint in New Orleans, Chef Donald Link’s flagship restaurant.

After moving to New Orleans in 2008, Wilcomb worked the line at Herbsaint under Link and Chef Ryan Prewitt, eventually taking over as chef de cuisine in 2011. There she is able to combine the rich Louisiana food culture with her family’s Italian culinary heritage. Her dishes feel both personal and rooted in a sense of place. A member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, Rebecca works closely with local fishermen, farmers, and purveyors to maintain the highest possible level of freshness and quality. In May of 2017, she won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: South, and soon she will be overseeing our upcoming Friends of the Café Dinner. We took the chance to speak with Rebecca in anticipation of the event.

AC: What drew you to New Orleans? And how has its unique and varied food culture impacted your way of looking at food?

RW: Honestly, I moved to New Orleans to escape winter. I was living in Boston at the time and just couldn’t stomach another long, cold stretch. New Orleans just kind of called to me. It’s so rich with culture, food, music, art…at the time it seemed so exciting. Ten years later, it still fills me with that same feeling. Life is really celebrated here. I can’t imagine being anyplace else.


AC: You stepped into renowned chef Donald Link’s flagship restaurant, Herbsaint. Did you feel any pressure to put your own stamp on the place? What did you want to shine through on your menu?

RW: Herbsaint is a special place. For me, being a good steward and maintaining the standards set by Donald was very important. Part of that is pushing hard every day—grinding it out. When you do that, your stamp naturally gets put on a place. It becomes a part of you, and you of it. I’m not a planner; I let things happen organically. The only goal I had for the food was to stay true to the ingredients and to myself. What ended up shining through on the menu was an expression of who I am and where I come from. From my first dish on the menu of blistered chilies with whipped feta and fried lemon, to lamb lasagna, to beef with anchovies, to ceviche—every dish has come from love. The chilies were an ode to Oleana, a restaurant I worked in as a young cook and was deeply influenced by. The lamb lasagna is a labor of love—the love of a granddaughter for her Nonna. The beef with anchovies is a reflection of my deep pride in my Italian heritage.

AC: With the growing challenge to a male-based culinary culture, do you see yourself as a role model for women in professional kitchens? What are the biggest challenges for women in the industry? How does an organization begin to tackle those challenges? (We know this is a big question!)

RW: Geez. Well, this is a big question, and I hope is something that continues to be a part of the dialogue for a long time. We should never stop talking about how to make the world a better place. It’s important for women and men to make good choices. Choose to work for people who have a strong moral compass and treat their employees well. Choose to speak out against injustices and unfair practices in the workplace. Choose to work hard every day and treat those around you with respect. I’ve always worked for people and companies who treat their employees well. Tackling big challenges isn’t an issue if you start out doing the right thing. We as women have found our voice, and people are listening. Poor behavior can no longer be tolerated.


AC: What is your earliest food-related memory?

RW: I remember being very young and in Italy for Christmas, and seeing my Nonna cut the head off of a goose and a corn kernel falling out of its neck.

AC: Do you remember the first dish you ever cooked by yourself?

RW: Pasta with tomato sauce. I loved making that when I was a kid. It was easy, and I couldn’t mess it up.

AC: What is your most reliable go-to ingredient? What do you always keep on-hand in your home kitchen?

RW: I always have good olive oil. I start and finish everything with a good olive oil.

AC: Do you have seasonal favorites? How do you incorporate seasonal foods into your menus?

RW: I have so many seasonal favorites. I especially love greens—turnip greens, mustards, arugula, lacinato kale, cabbage, spinach—I could eat greens with every meal. Braised, grilled, fermented, pickled—they’re the best. We have a company forager and have built a vast network of farmers who grow awesome things for us. Most of our meat, fish, produce, dairy, and rice come from people in our community. I try to use as much as possible from our neighbors.


AC: When was your last truly great meal/dining experience?

RW: I went to Mosca’s a few weeks ago. It’s this old-school Italian place outside of New Orleans. The food is straightforward and delicious, the staff is welcoming, and you get to play your own music on the jukebox. It’s a really special place with a lot of history.

AC: In a culture where fast and easy solutions often prevail, what do you think is most important for home cooks to focus on? And what should they avoid buying when pre-packaged, if at all possible?

RW: Basic technique. If home cooks learn the basics, cooking becomes that much more fun. Don’t ever buy pre-packaged gnocchi. They are terrible.

AC: Like Alabama Chanin, you are an active member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. What drew you to the organization and what does it mean to you?

RW: I was introduced to the SFA by Donald Link. The organization is filled with people passionate about the South and its history. I’ve always been interested in the history of things and where stuff comes from. The SFA examines and preserves our history, and considers our future while saving a seat for everyone at the table. Knowing where we, all of us, come from is vital to understanding who we are. And who we are is not only what we eat and drink, but also why we eat and drink what we do. The SFA is a very important piece of who I am as a chef in the South.

AC: At Alabama Chanin, you can often find music influencing the mood and the workflow in the studio. If you have music in your kitchen, what is your favorite music to cook by?

RW: I really like listening to Buena Vista Social Club and Gypsy Kings while cooking. I need something upbeat. Opera, rock, hip-hop all make the list. My new favorite is Kendrick Lamar—his music is really great. Rarely do I put on anything mellow.

AC: Congratulations on your James Beard Award! What was it like hearing your name called?

RW: Thanks! It was surreal. I just didn’t think I stood a chance of winning. It was quite a shock and a very special moment.



We couldn’t have asked for a livelier kick-off to our 2018 Friends of the Café Dinner Series. James Beard award-winning chef Steven Satterfield joined us in house and created a flawless meal.


Steven started the night out with rye biscuits topped with sweet butter and country ham, radishes with whipped feta and a pesto drizzle, and crispy gougères fired in a cast iron skillet to create a crisp crust around a soft, cheesy filling topped with tatsoi aioli. The hors d’oeuvres were paired with the Strawberry Bliss, made form a combination of Rosé Prosecco, Jack Rudy Elderflower Tonic, Strawberry, and Basil. Our friends at Blackberry Farm provided their Classic Saison and Boundary Tree beers for the evening.


The first course featured a vibrant spring pea soup, served with lightly seared dumplings and a bright Gruner Valtinen Kamptal. Next came a chilled spring vegetable salad topped with fromage blanc and green garlic breadcrumbs, and paired with a refreshing Cotes du Rhone Blanc with notes of apple and vanilla.


The main course was served family style and spotlighted Guinea hens from White Oak Pastures, served with a dijon jus and bitter greens. Steven paired the chicken with mushroom and foraged-nettle polenta and his favorite Langhe Nebbiolo Perbacco from Vietti.


The fourth and final course was a strawberry + buttermilk cake trifle served with a Brut Champagne and topped with pansies from Natalie’s garden. The strawberries were grown at Berry Farm in Tuscumbia, just across the river from Florence.



Special thanks go to Steven Satterfield, Forest Kellogg, and team, Bluewater Creek Farm, Blackberry Farm, Bonnie Blue Farm, and St. Florian Fiber Farm. Stay up to date on all events happening at The Factory by liking us on Facebook or following along on Instagram.



Visiting chefs contribute cocktail recipes for our Friends of the Café Dinner series—now in its fourth year—with chef Steven Satterfield.

For The Factory Café’s new Supper Club series (learn more here), our in-house team creates their own unique cocktails. We’re sharing the recipes from our 2017 Harvest Dinner below. Impress friends at your next gathering, or make and shake and bring in another weekend. Either way, cheers.


1 oz Muscadine Simple Syrup
2 oz prosecco
3 oz white wine
.5 oz lime juice
Mint for garnish

Yield: 1 cocktail

Mix all ingredients together and garnish with mint.


Mix equal parts fresh, whole muscadines, granulated sugar, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until muscadines become soft and break open. Remove from heat, strain syrup, and allow to cool completely.



1 part Singin’ River Cider (or your hard cider of choice)
1 part sangria (1 bottle red blend wine, 1 cup orange juice, juice of 1 lime)
1 part prosecco
Cinnamon sugar rim

Yield: 1 cocktail

Moisten and dip the rim of a glass in cinnamon sugar. Add cider and sangria to glass and stir, top off with prosecco.

Stay up to date on all events happening at The Factory on our Events page.



Steven Satterfield is co-owner and chef of Miller Union, a restaurant located in Atlanta’s west side that focuses on seasonal ingredients. His relationships with local farmers and producers are the driving forces behind his menus. Chef Satterfield is an active member of Chef’s Collaborative, Southern Foodways Alliance, and Georgia Organics. In 2015, Satterfield released his first cookbook, Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons, and in 2017 was named Best Chef: Southeast by the James Beard Foundation. In anticipation of our upcoming Friends of the Café dinner featuring chef Satterfield—an event held in conjunction with our annual community picnic and gathering—we asked Steven a few questions.

AC: You pursued a couple of other vocations before becoming a chef. For instance, you studied architecture and fronted the band Seely. How did you move from the drafting table to the stage to the kitchen?

SS: Well, when I decided to study architecture I was applying for college at Georgia Tech and I was probably 16 at the time, so you know it’s just one of those decisions you make as a teen that you hope works out. I had a very challenging but successful experience in school, including studying abroad in Paris my final year of design, but when it came down to working in the field, my heart was just not in it. I guess I rose to the occasion when it came to deadlines with my professors, but I didn’t love the practice as much as the theory. Additionally, the year I graduated was when everything was transitioning to computer-aided design, or CAD, and I knew I wanted to work with my hands. That summer after I graduated (1992) I picked up a guitar for the first time and started learning how to play. I already had musical experience playing clarinet, bass clarinet, and singing in choral group through high school, but this time I wanted to play modern music. I formed a band and we ended up getting signed to a label in the UK called Too Pure in 1994. We released 4 records between 1995-2000 and then disbanded. At that time I was 30 years old and had been working in restaurants to make ends meet. I loved the restaurant culture and the instant family that forms with a good team. I weaseled my way into Floataway Café under Anne Quatrano and learned so much in one year. Our last tour was in 2000 and I had to leave Floataway to go on tour. When I returned I started working at Watershed that summer.


Photo credit: Heidi Geldhauser

AC: You have worked in several kitchens, including working with Scott Peacock at Watershed. Can you tell us a little about your journey and how it led to opening Miller Union?

SS: I ended up working at Watershed for nine years. I started as a grill cook, then transitioned to sauté, sous chef, and finally executive sous. That is a long time to work in one place but I just kept learning and growing and Scott really taught me a lot. I finally decided to take the risk and go out on my own when I realized that I could do it.

AC: Your “root to leaf” approach focuses on what vegetables are in season and using as many parts of the vegetable as possible. Is reducing food waste a priority, a fortuitous side effect of exploring ingredients, or both? 

SS: Food waste is a serious cultural problem in our country. Food is viewed as disposable because we have so much of it, yet there are still many people that are food insecure and go hungry. It is a very unbalanced system. We all need to be more mindful of food and participate in fighting food waste as consumers.


Photo credit: Heidi Geldhauser

AC: And what is your biggest takeaway from viewing vegetables and ingredients as whole entities and not just pieces and parts?

SS: If you’re going to spend your hard earned money on beautiful food, vegetable, or animal, you owe it to the grower or rancher to honor the ingredient and you owe it to yourself to utilize as much as you can to make the most of your purchase.

AC: What is the most challenging part of your job?

SS: Managing people is always difficult and getting your team to care and subscribe to your philosophy is something that we are always working on.

AC: Do you have any early memories of cooking? Did it play a role in your upbringing or was it something you came to as an adult?

SS: My earliest memory of cooking is helping my grandmother make biscuits in her Asheville home. I also used to cook dinner or weekend lunch for my family when I was a teen, and my mom let me help her in the kitchen. I definitely was able to cook for myself all through college and it was a natural progression for me to end up in a restaurant kitchen, as I felt comfortable with the general tasks required for cooking.

AC: What is your most reliable go-to ingredient? What do you always keep on hand in your home kitchen?

SS: I love to use extra virgin olive oil and citrus on lots of things. They have a natural balance that just tastes great. In my home kitchen, I rarely cook but I always have healthy snacks: nuts, nut butters, eggs, granola, frozen fruit, greens. I make breakfast mostly. I’m rarely home at lunchtime or dinner.


AC: What is your advice to home cooks on how to find the best produce – and how to not get overwhelmed and intimidated by trying new things?

SS: I would have to say buy a copy of Root to Leaf and read it and then you’re all set!

AC: In a culture where fast and easy solutions often prevail, what do you think is most important for home cooks to focus on? And what should they avoid buying when pre-packaged, if at all possible?

SS: Unlimited options clutter our minds and stifle our imagination. Start with whole fresh ingredients and treat them with respect and you will not only eat better but will appreciate the source more.

AC: What steps can you offer the average family on reducing food waste in the home?

SS: Tips for the home consumer

  • “best by” or expiration dates are manufacturer’s guidelines for quality and freshness, not food safety. They are often not cues for throwing perfectly good food away. Just be wise about them – cultured dairy and dry goods last longer than advertised, and dry packaged goods may have an arbitrary manufacturer date on the package – use your best judgment and assess as needed.
  • Make soup or stock with odds and ends from the fridge, leftovers, or items that could potentially go to waste and use them to create flavor and add nutrition to your cooking.
  • Shop in smaller amounts and shop more frequently.  Purchasing food in smaller increments means less chance of waste and more awareness of what you have on hand
  • Preserve or put up for later use.  If you have too much of one product and you want to avoid wasting it, pickle it, preserve it, freeze it, or repurpose it.

To experience chef Satterfield’s cooking firsthand at The Factory, get tickets to our April 12th Friends of the Café Dinner.

Lead image credit: Heidi Geldhauser



Cathead Distillery has been on our radar for many years. They sponsored one our very first Friends of the Café dinners with Vivian Howard in 2014, and we made a hand-sewn banner for them to use at special events. This spring, we’re partnering with them and Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. for a special Cocktail Workshop on April 13th, as part of The Gathering—our annual community picnic.

We spoke with the team at Cathead to get an idea of why and how the company began, and the importance of Southern arts and humanities in their approach to doing business. Cheers.


The state of Mississippi was the last state in America to repeal prohibition, waiting until 1966 to make alcohol officially legal. Just over 100 years after alcohol was outlawed, longtime college friends Austin Evans and Richard Patrick founded Cathead Vodka in Jackson, Mississippi. While they are recognized for their passion for distilling, they are also known for their love of live music and Southern culture. When Evans and Patrick created Cathead Distillery, they did not just build a brand of liquor—they built a lifestyle brand.

The Cathead as a form of art supposedly originated with Blues musicians—specifically musician and folk artist James “Son” Thomas, who sculpted cat heads from clay.

AC: Can you explain the name of your company? How does it reflect what you do and who you are? What is a cathead?

CV: The term “Cathead” is a compliment in Mississippi, first coined back in the day by blues musicians as a nod to artists they respected. Mississippi artists and musicians went on to use “Catheads” in many forms of folk art, as a way to pay the rent and share their legacies.

Mississippi is the proud state where blues music began, a genre that has deeply influenced all forms of American music. We work hard to bring honor to the meaning of Cathead through our philanthropic support of live music and artisans alike. Cathead means friendship and respect.

AC: Craft cocktail culture has become the norm in many bars and restaurants across America. How important is that development to Cathead Vodka? And do you see or anticipate cocktail culture becoming too elaborate—more about performance or complexity and less about quality?

CV: The craft cocktail norm, as you say, has been very influential in building our brand. As mixologists, bar and restaurant owners take more pride in what they serve their guests—where it comes from, how it’s made, etc.

I think, or at least would like to think, that a quality-made cocktail will always win in the long haul vs. a trend someone made and thinks is cool but does nothing for the drink itself.


AC: Your product has extended beyond the classic vodka and into some flavored vodkas and other liquors. How do you select what products to develop next?

Our master distiller Philip Ladner is always coming up with new things, but hopefully, we’re done with flavored vodkas. We have two successful flavors in Honeysuckle and Pecan vodka, but we are actively working on aged juice that’s pretty exciting.

AC: Location is a huge part of who we are at Alabama Chanin. How do your location and your community play into your product and your business model?

CV: Being a southern brand is everything to us. We have no immediate plans to extend our footprint out of the South. More specifically, we are proud to be from Mississippi. There’s a certain stigma being from Mississippi, and we try and change that one pour at a time.

AC: You encourage consumers to “support live music” right on your bottle. Why is that? Is there a connection between music and your brand or your product?

CV: Blues music started in Mississippi—an important piece of our American DNA and simply the roots of modern day music that has influenced pop, jazz, rock & roll, hip-hop and basically everything. By all means possible, we align ourselves with foundations who support live music, genuine arts, and southern culture.

We donate $1 for every bottle of Cathead sold to a music arts or blues foundation in the states we currently have distribution. We partner with organizations like Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Southern Foodways Alliance, Music Maker Relief Foundation, North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic, Magic City Blues Society, and New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation.

AC: You founded the Cathead Jam, a music festival in Jackson, Mississippi. When and how did you come up with this idea? And how is it a reflection of your brand?

CV: Again, it goes back to our love of music and the support we try and give to live music. That, and we just want to throw a fun party and have a good time. We always knew we wanted to have different music-type events at our distillery and—moving into a bigger location two years ago—we were able to create the Cathead Jam.

AC: What is the most important thing (if any) that being based in the South or, even more specifically, in Jackson, Mississippi, brings to your products and to your way of doing business?

CV: We are proud of our Southern roots and strive to change the way people may view the South or, more specifically, Mississippi in a negative light. Southern culture and influence mean the world to us and we hope we are changing some views one libation at a time.

Find recipes for a Cucumber Limeade and Blood Orange Pomegranate cocktail with Cathead Vodka on the Journal.



The Factory Café’s 2017 Fall Harvest Supper was one for the books. For last October’s dinner, chef Ray showed off his skills in the kitchen (and on the grill). Our café team also presented another beautiful Valentine’s supper last week and, after a great response from our community, is excited to announce a new dinner series: The Factory Supper Club.  This series is a perfect pairing to our ongoing Friends of the Café Dinners.


Our fall menu featured favorite staples, enhanced by the smoky flavor of The Factory Café’s new Traeger grill. The evening started off with passed appetizers and a specialty cocktail. Conway Cup oysters were served with cocktail sauce made from Harvest Roots Kimchi, and deviled eggs (sourced from St. Florian Fiber Farm) were paired with Harvest Roots Curtido. Autumn Me Crazy was the drink of the night and featured red sangria mixed with cider from local brewery, Singin’ River Brewing Company, in a glass rimmed with pumpkin spice sugar.


The first course included chicken wings from Joyce Farms, smoked in the Traeger, and served with a north Alabama classic—white BBQ sauce and pickled celery. Toasted ciabatta bread was topped with Bonnie Blue goat cheese, roasted carrots supplied from Bluewater Creek Farm, and a lime-carrot glaze. We were introduced to Bonnie Blue—who makes award-winning cheeses from their farm in Waynesboro, Tennessee—at our local farmers market this year. An Oktoberfest brew from Madison, Alabama, Blue Pants Brewery paired perfectly.


Next came a salad of local lettuces, turnips, and beets, harvested from our friends at Bluewater Creek Farm, and a Burnt Honey-Sweet Potato Dressing made with honey from Sourwood Honey in Savannah, Tennessee. Sourwood honey is extremely aromatic with a distinctive rich honey flavor. The Sourwood tree is common in the Appalachia region and blooms in late June through the month of July, during a period when few other flowers are blooming. The salad was served alongside Vila Nova’s Vinho Verde.


Pork from Bear Creek Farm was smoked in the Traeger Grill and served up with Ferro Verde from Anson Mills and a turnip puree, with turnips from Bluewater Creek Farm. The dish was topped with muscadine BBQ sauce and paired with White Hart’s Pinot Noir.


The fourth and final course was the sweetest. Mississippi Sweet Potato Cake was served with a Semolina Pudding and citrus and Gruet’s Demi Sec.

It was a night to remember, and we couldn’t have done it without all our partner farms and purveyors. Thanks especially to Harvest Roots Ferments, St. Florian Fiber Farm, Joyce Farms, Bluewater Creek Farm, Hines Family Farm, Sonlit Meadows Farm, Bear Creek Farm, and Bonnie Blue Farm. Another thank you to Melissa Bain with Alabama Crown—who assisted with all the beautiful wine pairings; Susan Rowe for the lovely flowers; and thanks to Traeger Grills whose wood pellet grill gave our courses a beautiful flavor.

Follow The Factory Café on all our social media channels, check out all of our upcoming events and workshops from The School of Making.



If you are a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance or a fan of the Bitter Southerner, as we are, you likely already know the work of Pableaux Johnson. During the 2015 SFA Symposium, he shared a short film about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath and celebrated the city’s resilience with a helping of red beans and rice. His photographic essay on the Mardi Gras Indians was one of the most immersive and colorful pieces of writing we encountered last year.


A prolific writer and photographer, Pableaux often writes about the food, heritage, and culture of his hometown of New Orleans. He is also the author of three books, ESPN Gameday Gourmet, Eating New Orleans: From French Quarter Creole Dining to the Perfect Poboy, and Lonely Planet’s World Food New Orleans.


In 2014, he documented a year of life and loss among the Mardi Gras Indians, who spend untold hours stitching and beading and feathering costumes to be worn each year for Mardi Gras Day and Carnival, for annual events, and for Jazzfest. He captures the craftsmanship involved but also documents the community involvement, chants, drums, and dance of the Mardi Gras Indian culture. His work also portrays the commitment to family—biological and chosen—that tribes express when they lose elders and chiefs.



In 2018, we will mark our fourth year of our Friends of the Café charity dinner series. A look back at our Journal reveals the incredible chefs that have generously donated their time and resources to raise money and awareness for important causes.


Our first dinner of 2018 is scheduled for April 12th and is hosted by Steven Satterfield of Atlanta’s Miller Union, author of Root To Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons, and 2017 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: Southeast. The Thursday night dinner will kick off our community picnic weekend—three days of special events and workshops celebrating our community (more details to come)…


Our May 10th Spring Harvest Supper highlights our very own café chef— Ray Nichols—and will feature the freshest ingredients from local and regional farmers and purveyors.

On June 21st, we will welcome Rebecca Wilcomb, chef de cuisine at Donald Link’s flagship restaurant, Herbsaint, since 2011. In 2017, she was also honored with a James Beard Award for Best Chef: South.


Tandy Wilson will oversee our final dinner of the year, on October 21st. Tandy opened City House restaurant in Nashville in 2007 and was named Best Chef: Southeast by the James Beard Foundation in 2016.

Find more about each of our featured chefs on the Journal. Visit our Events page to purchase tickets to our upcoming dinners. Tickets are limited and are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis.

We’re looking forward to meeting you at the table!



The Factory Café continues to grow, change, and evolve—just like the menu that it serves each day. The café has seen three incredible chefs come through the kitchen since its opening in 2013, and today we want to introduce you to our head chef, Ray Nichols, and welcome him to the team.

Ray—who was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but raised here in Florence—shares our care and dedication for this community. After graduating from Auburn University, Ray changed his path of going to law school to pursue dreams of cooking for a living. Ray started with chef David Bancroft at Amsterdam Café, then moved to Nashville to work with chef Sean Brock at Husk. He trained under Philip Krajeck at Rolf & Daughters in Nashville before returning home to work as line cook and then sous chef at local favorite, Odette. Ray’s love of cooking stems from the simple love of eating, and he focuses on creating simple, flavorful dishes by utilizing local and seasonal ingredients while maintaining a positive and memorable work environment for those who surround him.

The supper will feature heritage-breed pork from Bear Creek Farm served alongside organic fall vegetables from Bluewater Creek Farm, Hines Family Farm, and Sonlit Meadows Farm.

Highlights from the menu will include specialty cocktails like a Cider Sparkler and the Autumn Me Crazy – made with smoked sweet potatoes. Chef Ray will also be firing up our new Traeger Pro Series 34 Grill with a wood fire to create grilled and slow-smoked dishes for the evening.


Stay up to date on all events at The Factory on Facebook, Instagram, and our Events page.



Our most recent Friends of the Café Dinner, helmed by Ashley Christensen and her team, was another memorable milestone in our ongoing friendship and professional relationship. We have always proclaimed Ashley to be a badass, and she proved herself worthy of the description, once again. She has dedicated such an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources to charity and her team has clearly perfected their approach to these kinds of events. They arrived ready to go, unpacked, set up shop, and executed their plan to perfection—seemingly without breaking a sweat.

Ashley also worked with a combination of her own suppliers and our local purveyors to obtain both protein and produce. Ashley finalized her menu once the availability from local farms was confirmed, to ensure she was using the freshest local ingredients available.


Cocktail hour included wines selected by Grassroots wine purveyors and our Events Coordinator, Anne Ryan Cavin, who also created the “Summer Cindy”—named for the tropical storm. The cocktail included Prosecco, Jack Rudy Grenadine, and fresh rosemary, provided by Bluewater Creek Farm. Both Grassroots and Anne Ryan worked closely to pair each course with a complementary wine.


The passed hors d’oeuvres included blistered Shishito pepper from Bluewater Creek Farm, with toasted benne seeds and lemon; fried green tomatoes (again, from Bluewater Creek Farm) with Alabama jumbo lump crab salad; Hook’s three-year cheddar pimento atop Bluewater Creek cucumbers; and a sweet corn mousse shooter, made with North Carolina corn and piquillo pepper.


Ashley’s first seated course was a salad of local lettuces and vegetables with roasted garlic and buttermilk. The lettuce and ground cherries were sourced from Bluewater Creek Farm and the radish and squash came from Hines Family Farms in Killen, Alabama. The buttermilk dressing was not in any way overpowering and the fresh vegetables were able to shine through. The first course was paired with a Hirsch 2015 Gruner Veltliner, a dry white wine with hints of pepper and pear—Natalie’s favorite.


Based upon Ashley’s recipe and guidance, chef Ray Nichols and The Factory Café staff prepared heirloom tomato pies with spicy microgreens and a sherry vinaigrette for the second course. We have enjoyed our fair share of tomato pies, but this one briefly quieted the room—which then erupted with discussion on texture and flavor. The tomatoes and spicy microgreens came from Bluewater Creek Farm and the Buttermilk Cheddar Cheese from East Tennessee’s Sweetwater Valley Farms, Ashley’s choice of cheese to complement the pie.


The third, main course was also served family style. A charcoal-grilled ribeye from Bear Creek Farm was topped with chimichurri, charred Bluewater Creek walking onions, and green horseradish crème fraiche. (Pattypan squash that was cooked over coals was substituted for our non-beef-eating diners.) Ashley brought ingredients to prepare her turn on a classic marinated summer succotash. The second side dish was by far the biggest hit of the night: Poole’s macaroni au gratin, a near-legendary dish in Ashley’s repertoire. We are guessing that diners will seek out the recipe in Ashley’s cookbook, Poole’s: Recipes and Stories From a Modern Diner. This course was paired with a 2014 L’Orangerie de Carigan Cadillac, an earthy Bordeaux with hints of blackberry and cherry.


The fourth and final course of the evening was a coffee panna cotta made with Counter Culture Coffee, Irish whiskey caramel, and North Carolina pecan granola crunch topping—served in a wide-mouth mason jar. The dessert was perfectly paired with a 2012 Dirk Niepoort Late Bottled Vintage Port.


Ashley’s commitment to fresh, local ingredients, community-based dining, and sharing stories around the family table was evident in each well-considered dish. After dinner, she also shared stories and signed copies of her cookbook, well into the evening. We are honored that Ashley Christensen has become a treasured member of the Alabama Chanin extended family and we were proud to see her so readily embraced by our community.

The upcoming Friends of the Café Dinner featuring Asha Gomez, also benefitting the Southern Foodways Alliance, is sold out—but you may contact us if you would like to be placed on our waiting list, should additional tickets become available.


Thanks again to Ashley Christensen, her amazing assistant, Charlotte Coman, our Factory Café staff, and our supportive community.



Several months ago, we introduced you to Asha Gomez—chef, innovator, author, and charity ambassador. After beginning her career as a professional chef in Atlanta, she realized the inherent similarities between Southern cuisine and the dishes she prepared in her birthplace of Kerala, India. This presented her with the unique opportunity to explore both food histories and the communities that can be built when we recognize our cross-cultural similarities. Her cookbook, My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India into a Southern Kitchen, does not take a food fusion approach; instead, it offers a new style of cooking that embraces food traditions from both cultures and finds common ground in sometimes surprising ways.


We recently spoke to Asha about her history, her thoughts about modern cuisine, and what she has in the works for the future.

AC: What is your first food memory? Do you remember the first dish you cooked by yourself?

AG: The very earliest memories I have of food revolve around mangoes and mango season. My great aunt Rita Netto stored straw-lined baskets full of mangoes in a darkened room off her kitchen behind cobalt blue doors. Even as a small child, I adored the mangoes’ spectrum of colors: bright red, radiant yellow, pinkish orange, deep purple, and delicate soft green. Eating fresh mango, I imagined the succulent flesh must taste just like sweet sunshine. It is that same sense of delight and discovery of simple yet potent ingredients that inspire me today.

Typically, in Kerala households a daughter’s role in the kitchen is largely supportive, guided by her mother. As a teenager, when my skills had advanced enough for my mother to trust me with preparing a whole meal, I was both nervous and excited. For my first solo meal, I chose to prepare a rabbit dish, and even after all these years, I still select rabbit for family meals. For my inaugural dish, I decided to venture away from my mother’s standard and frequent rabbit curry and chose a fried rabbit rendition. Her heartfelt after-dinner praise of my efforts remains my earliest and perhaps, my greatest culinary triumph.

AC: What inspired you to become a chef?

AG: I guess you might say that childhood memory may have lit a spark in me, though I didn’t heed the call until many years and a whole other career later.

AC: What motivated your move from Kerala to the United States?

AG: My parents migrated when I was really young.

AC: What are the most important things about cultural identity, food, and simple childhood memories of your life in Southern India that shape you today? In a sense, you have two homes—one in India and one in the United States. What most connects you to Southern India?

AG: I found a kinship between this concept of hospitality in the South and the way I was raised to treat guests that is just part of my cultural DNA.

AC: You have spent a great deal of time and energy working toward ending hunger worldwide. What inspired you to become involved in this cause?

AG: I feed people for a living, and people come to me to satisfy their hunger. I felt that it’s a travesty that only those who have the means and access can do so, and when there is so much abundance in our world there are too many who go to bed unable to satisfy such a basic human need.

AC: We have noticed that chefs often donate time and energy to charitable causes and organizations. Do you think there is something specific about those who work with food or local farmers and suppliers that inspires community involvement?

AG: More and more today, chefs have a voice that people listen to and respect. We have an opportunity to change the way people interact with and make choices about the food they buy. As chefs, we can use our time in the limelight to be the voice for those whose needs aren’t always heard, and we can find ways to help locally in our own communities and reach out to others doing good work. My fellow chefs are truly a passionate community of human beings.


AC: Your James Beard nominated cookbook, My Two Souths, illustrates that classic Southern food and dishes from Southern India share many of the same qualities. When did you first come to this realization? What key elements are most prominent in their similarities?

AG: It was after many years of an abiding appreciation for the culture and cuisine of both of these places that I have called home that the thoughts and ideas to marry the two evolved. Although they seem like separate universes, surprisingly, I found their shared aspects—a warm, humid climate, abundant produce varieties, expanses of rice acreage, and busy coastal communities, along with a spirit of sharing, a gift for entertaining and storytelling, a talent for creating bounty out of an often-modest pantry, and a sincere embrace of simplicity—blend easily in my South-by-South cuisine.

AC: How can we best encourage home cooks to explore ingredients that might initially be unfamiliar to them?

AG: [That is] essentially what I explored in my book: this idea of taking familiar, classic staples and infusing them with unexpected spices to unlock flavors and enliven the palate. By using accessible dishes like biscuits, pies, and beignets to show home cooks new and fresh takes on classics will hopefully motivate them to reach across to the under-explored side of the grocery aisle.

AC: It seems that Indian food is occasionally simplified in American restaurants. Are there things that frustrate you about how Indian food is viewed and prepared in the United States? What would you most like for people to know about authentic Indian cooking?

AG: Every cuisine in the world has what I call high-low cooking. Indian cuisine is 5,000 years old and is the culmination of many diverse influences and layers of sophistication in what presents. And yet in America, we are only accustomed for the most part to view Indian food in terms of a buffet line or in the cheap eats section.

The way Indians cook at home is vastly different from what is represented in mainstream restaurants. I take exception and considerable umbrage to the notion in some circles that culinary innovation happens primarily in a Euro-centric milieu.

AC: What ingredients most inspire you?

AG: Local produce that is best in each season and the introduction of spice to make the ordinary extraordinary.

AC: What was your last true great dining experience?

AG: I recently experienced a meal at Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia. It was a mind-blowing experience. So much heart and so much soul in the culinary story that revealed itself before my eyes and taste buds.

AC: What do you do when you are not in the kitchen?

AG: l love traveling. I’m often planning food experiences around the places that I travel to.

AC: At Alabama Chanin, you can often find music influencing the mood and the workflow in the studio. What is your favorite music to cook by?

AG: Music, like food, adds so much sweetness and texture to our everyday lives. My musical tastes are pretty eclectic and vary depending on my mood. The soundtrack of my life includes Leonard Cohen, k.d. Lang, Bollywood/Sufi, Prince, Ceasaria Evoria, to Willie Nelson and so many more.

AC: You seem to juggle so many diverse projects. What is on the horizon for you?

AG: I have a new web-based series of cooking classes called “Curry and Cornbread”. It is a subscription-based service that offers one new recipe per week. Curious home cooks can also purchase videos individually. It is an easy way to learn more about new cuisine and cooking techniques that is not intimidating.



The day is nearing. Saturday, Scott Peacock will be in house, hosting his Friends of the Café Dinner. We’ve shared Scott‘s varied talents with you on the Journal over the years. Scott is (currently) an experimenting indigo farmer and dyer, an avid influencer of Southern food culture, and inspiring writer and oral historian. Who wouldn’t want to attend a dinner hosted by someone with that range of skill, knowledge, and personality?


To extend the celebration of Scott, The Factory Café will be serving Scott’s Cucumber and Radish Salad from The Gift of Southern Cooking next week from April 17th – 21st. Drop by and try it for yourself.

P.S.: Shown here on Heath Ceramics with a Top-Stitch Placemat and Organic Cotton Jersey Napkin.



As we move into 2017, we want to do so cloaked in a strong sense of community. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is approaching and my mind is drawn again and again to his idea of a Beloved Community, and how each of us, in our own way, can bring people together for a common cause or a common interest. Collectively we comprise a global community, and each of us has smaller geographic and cultural communities to which we belong; we have communities of choice and communities of circumstance. In the coming year, I hope to see us all celebrate the things that make us unique, but in thoughtful ways; I want to embrace community in an inclusive way, whenever we can.


In the past, Alabama Chanin and The School of Making have celebrated the power of making together, of creating in public spaces as a way of creating a community. We have seen, time and again, that the act of making can open hearts and minds and join together people who might have otherwise never connected with one another. This idea overwhelmed us last year when I visited the University of Georgia in Athens for a weekend to attend the Willson Center’s Global Georgia Initiative—a series that attempts to examine global issues in local context, with a focus on community.


The weekend’s events were to begin with a small, two-hour sewing workshop held in the atrium of the Lamar Dodd School of Art. We prepared a limited number of materials for participants and expected to have an intimate discussion with a small group of art students. We were unprepared for the 125+ people (both students and community members) who showed up to talk, listen, and be a part of the community discussion. What this told us then—and what it reminds us now—is that when you put out a call to the community, they often listen more than you realize. We were looking for an audience interested in looking at global issues as they affected a specific community, and that community was primed to respond; they showed up in droves, in earnest, and ready to talk and listen and sew.

There will be calls for discussion and change in the days to come. We have learned not to underestimate the power of a people who want to learn and are invested in outcomes. Those people will show up to tackle difficult discussions and help problem solve larger issues. Community organizers do not necessarily have special skills, other than a heartfelt connection to their community and a belief in drawing people together. There will be many opportunities for you to organize, unite with, and grow your communities in the future. We hope that you will embrace the opportunities as they arise, even surprising ones, as they may offer unexpected chances to bring about change.

Special thanks to Rinne Allen, Dave Marr, Eileen Wallace, Jennifer Crenshaw and Winnie Smith for putting together our memorable weekend in Georgia last January—one that reminded us what a united community could be.

Images courtesy of Rinne Allen



Some years fly by and others seem to drag on forever; 2016 kept us at a steady pace at Alabama Chanin. We have been able to focus on refining our methods and more deeply developing our different avenues of work—from the design team to workshops to collections and collaborations. It is possible that 2017 could be a year of major transition across our country, so before life gets more hectic, we would like to look back and appreciate what we accomplished in the past year.


We added an important member to our design team, Erin Reitz, who brings a fresh point of view and is helping us expand our way of thinking about design. In addition to her work as a designer, Erin and her business partner Kerry Speake own The Commons, a Charleston-based shop selling American-made home goods. Through The Commons, the two developed their own line of tableware called The Shelter Collection. We partnered with their team to create The Shelter Collection @ Alabama Chanin and we think it works perfectly alongside our collaborative collection with Heath Ceramics.



In May, we launched Collection #30. Our ongoing partnership with Nest helped us understand how to best integrate our machine-made garments into our larger collection, and we folded our basics, essentials, machine-made, and handmade garments together into one cohesive group. The collection featured Coral, Maize, and Pink color stories, highlighted Art Nouveau-style floral embroideries, and included an expanded selection of our popular new knitwear pieces. We also introduced new garments, including updated tunics, jackets, and pants. Our collection of home goods also expanded, with new selections in canvas and more machine-sewn kitchen textiles.


As part of The School of Making, last year we launched the Host a Party program that offered our DIY customers the opportunity to organize their own sewing parties for friends and family. The positive feedback we received allowed us to expand our offerings for the upcoming year. In 2016, we also began our Build a Wardrobe subscription service, which released four new garment patterns to participants—one each quarter. The program’s goal is to help to makers expand their handmade, sustainable wardrobes based on each individual’s personal style. This coming year, Build a Wardrobe features the Factory Dress, Car Coat, Wrap Dress, and Drawstring Pant/Skirt; subscribers can join at any point in the year.


We also launched a collaboration with Spoonflower—a North Carolina-based web company that allows individuals to design, print, and sell their own fabrics—that allowed us to create custom Alabama Chanin organic cotton jersey. The first run of our limited-edition, pre-printed fabric sold out almost immediately, but look for more printed offerings to cycle in and out.

As part of our expanded workshop offerings, Alabama Chanin hosted its first workshop abroad, at Chateau Dumas in Auty, France. In addition to our sewing curriculum, we were able to explore ornate interiors and architecture, shop at unique markets, and experience woad dyeing for the first time. The weeklong event was picturesque, and we hope to be able to offer another similar event soon.


The Friends of the Café Dinner series continued to expand with dinners co-hosted by Sean Brock, Adam Evans, Rodney Scott, and Frank Stitt. The 2017 season has already been announced.


Recognizing that our team is a top priority, we continued to invest in our staff this year through special staff development programs and updated policies that encourage everyone to have a work-life balance. We use Zingerman’s and Patagonia as examples to create a company culture that is conducive, not only to our employees but to the community and environment. From documenting our processes to ensuring that our information is open source and accessible company-wide, we work to preserve the stories, methods, and history of the company while making way for new ideas and improved ways of doing.


There is so much in store for Alabama Chanin in 2017. We hope that—if you have not already—you will sign up for our mailing list and newsletter and follow along on social media for updates. Wishing all of you a safe New Year, filled with love, care, hope, and empathy.

P.S. – The grids shown here are a gallery of the promotional postcards our team made for The Factory and images of various events and programs over the course of the year. What a great year—and so much to look forward to in 2017.




Thank you to Mary Celeste Beall and the Blackberry Farm team for including our hand-dyed Indigo Quilts in this year’s Farmstead Catalog. In addition to our quilts, the catalog includes holiday gift items from Blackberry Farm to stock your pantry (Pickled Ramps and Farm Jams are a favorite) and decorate your home. View the catalog online here.


If you are looking for an unforgettable holiday gift, Natalie’s Classic Weekend Sewing Workshop at Blackberry Farm takes place from January 27 – 29, 2017. You’ll spend the weekend with Natalie, receiving sewing instruction and creating a custom hand-sewn garment. The weekend showcases Natalie’s sewing lessons and storytelling, but also the hospitality of Blackberry Farm—incredible meals, beautiful settings, and wonderful company.


From the Blackberry Farm website, “It’s our joy to share the hospitality that makes it feel like home.” Treat yourself or a loved one.


If you’ve attended some of our past Friends of the Café Dinner events, you may have seen Adam Evans’ face in our kitchen, working beside both Frank Stitt and Rob McDaniel. A constant student of his craft, he was quoted as saying, “Any time you get a chance to work with someone who is the master of what he does, you should seize that opportunity. Maybe it’s a new technique you discover—whatever it is, you’re getting the experience in a shorthand version. You take something from each chef, learn it and then interpret it in your own way.” Luckily for us, Adam has graciously agreed to lead his very own team for the next event in our series, once again benefitting the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Though he has worked with some of the most talented chefs in America and earned numerous accolades, Adam Evans was born and raised right here in the Shoals. Family time in the kitchen—cooking fish caught in local waters or vegetables from his grandfather’s garden—fostered his love of seafood and fresh ingredients. Adam graduated cum laude from Auburn University in 2002 with a degree in psychology, but he ultimately found his calling while working summer jobs in local restaurants. After graduation, he began working as chef’s apprentice at The Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama.

Shortly thereafter, Adam moved to New Orleans, working for the Brennan family at Bacco before earning a spot at La Petite Grocery in 2004, when the restaurant earned an esteemed “Four-Bean” review in the Times-Picayune. In May of the following year, Adam moved to New York City, becoming sous chef at Craft—Tom Colicchio’s flagship restaurant. He was sent back south again to open Craft Atlanta/Craftbar where, as chef de cuisine, he established a Southern-inspired menu that focused on local ingredients. During his time at Craftbar, the restaurant received a four-star review from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and was named Best New Restaurant by Atlanta Magazine.


Eventually, Adam moved on to work with Chef Ford Fry at JCT. Kitchen & Bar (where he was named a StarChefs Atlanta Rising Star), and was quickly chosen to open Fry’s highly anticipated seafood restaurant, The Optimist. He brought to The Optimist years of experience with seafood—including the fish he caught as a child and the bounty of fresh fish and shellfish he worked with in New Orleans. At The Optimist, Adam built relationships with Gulf Coast fisheries and emphasized use of sustainable seafood, sourced responsibly.

In its first year, The Optimist was listed by Bon Appetit as one of America’s Top Ten Best New Restaurants and Esquire Magazine named it Restaurant of the Year. During his time as chef, The Optimist received an impressive number of accolades from publications like Food & Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, Southern Living, Atlanta Magazine, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Adam was nominated for Food & Wine’s “People’s Best New Chef” in 2015 and earned a nod as Best Seafood Restaurant in the U.S. from Travel + Leisure.

Most recently, Adam joined restaurateur Jonathan Waxman as chef-partner at Waxman’s first Atlanta eatery, Brezza Cucina—a new venture in Ponce City Market. The restaurant focuses on seasonal dishes in a rustic, Italian style.



Last week, we introduced pitmaster Rodney Scott and the care and expertise he executes in the “whole hog” process. His prowess for pork and bar-b-que balances quite nicely with Frank Stitt’s skillful translation of Southern ingredients. (I’ve witnessed it first-hand at an SFA Symposium.) Though their kitchens may look different from one another, both Rodney Scott and Frank Stitt understand the importance of local and sustainable ingredients. Both men have practiced the principle as a way of life—not as a trend.

As for Frank, we have professed our love for the man, his wife Pardis, and his work many times. Frank grew up near Florence, in Cullman, Alabama, but went away for college—eventually studying philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley and learning from Alice Waters in the kitchen of the legendary Chez Panisse. It was Waters who introduced Frank to food writer Richard Olney, who was in need of an assistant. From San Francisco, he and Olney traveled extensively, landing in the French countryside. Stitt spent time learning about regional French cuisine, harvesting grapes in the south of France, even meeting food legends like Julia Child and Simone Beck.


Eventually, Frank returned to the states with the idea to open his own restaurant in Alabama—bringing with him ideas and techniques he’d learned on his travels. His idea was to incorporate his love of French cooking techniques with southern ingredients. Though Birmingham was not yet a well-known food center, he felt that it had potential to become one. Frank first opened Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1982. He followed up with Bottega in 1988, Bottega Café in 1990, and Chez Fonfon in 2000.

It was at Bottega that Stitt met Pardis, who was managing the dining room. Pardis Stitt co-owns and manages front-of-the-house operations for all four restaurants and Frank credits her eye for detail as an essential component of their business and their philosophy of sourcing products thoughtfully and locally.

In 2004, Stitt released his first cookbook, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill. His second cookbook, Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef’s Love Affair With Italian Food was released in 2009. Both remain frequently used staples in the Alabama Chanin library. In 2013, Highlands Bar and Grill was nominated (for the 5th consecutive year) by the James Beard Foundation for the Outstanding Restaurant Award. Stitt received the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2001, and was nominated in 2008 for Outstanding Chef. Chef Stitt received the Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance in 2006.

Since the beginning of his cooking career, Stitt has been a fervent believer in sustainability and the use of local produce. His grandparents were farmers, and he spent his childhood planting, harvesting, and eating homegrown vegetables. This personal experience, combined with the philosophies of teachers like Alice Waters, cemented his belief that it was possible, beneficial, and important to promote local and sustainable agriculture. He uses produce from area farmers at each of his restaurants, whenever possible. Today, Frank and Pardis are outspoken proponents of the Slow Food movement and Frank is a standing board member of the Jones Valley Teaching Farm. Their influence in the Slow Food community extends beyond the community and the region, to chefs nationwide.


We cannot exaggerate our excitement at seeing what these two food legends will create when they join forces. The Friends of the Café Dinner featuring Frank Stitt + Rodney Scott, and benefitting the Southern Foodways Alliance, will be held at the Factory Café on March 24, beginning at 6:30pm. This event sold out in record time, and we look forward to the special evening. If you missed out, we have a few more dinners in our 2016 line-up and suggest reserving your spot in advance: May 21st Spring Harvest Dinner and October 8th Friends of the Café Dinner with Sean Brock.


P.S.: Back in 2005, Robert Rausch photographed Frank (and his crew) as part of The Kitchen Project: People We Love with the Recipes They Love. The photo at top is one of our favorites of Frank—wearing one of our shirts.

All photos here from Robert Rausch and thanks to Angie Mosier.


On March 24th, we will be hosting our first Friends of the Café dinner for 2016 featuring Rodney Scott and Frank Stitt (see more about that below). At first glance, Frank and Rodney may seem like they exist on opposite ends of the spectrum:

Rodney is an absolute master of barbecue—what the uninitiated might consider “working man’s food.”

Frank is known for his French, Italian, and Mediterranean-inspired dishes and his lovely cookbooks.

However, they are of the same mind when it comes to making locally-sourced Slow Food and preserving southern food traditions.

Rodney Scott and his family have been serving pit-cooked barbecue from their Hemingway, South Carolina, restaurant for over 30 years. Scott’s Bar-B-Que was founded in 1972 by Ella and Roosevelt Scott, who still run the restaurant with their son Rodney serving as Pitmaster. Rodney, who cooked his first whole hog at age 11, is a perfectionist of his craft—but, by most descriptions, a laid back perfectionist.


Like any good artist, Rodney places great importance on materials—not just methods. Barbecuing a whole hog, pit-style, takes an incredible amount of wood, which Rodney and his family cut themselves. They use oak, hickory, and pecan and keep a large reserve on their property. But keeping the Scotts cooking is a community effort; if a neighbor’s tree falls down, they always call the Scotts to cut it and cart it away.

The community is part of the entire Scott enterprise. The idea of “locally sourced” may be relatively new to many restaurants, but the Scotts have always sourced local pigs—and they rely on local labor and materials throughout their process. A local meat market butchers and delivers the hogs; Rodney works alongside local builders who weld together his custom burn barrels, fashioned from scrap metal piping, truck axles, and other repurposed materials.

These barrels are used to burn the wood down to coals, which are shoveled and spread evenly across his barbecue pit—over and over, throughout the entire evening it takes to roast a whole pig. The whole pigs are butterflied and laid out across a grate covering the pit. Rodney insists the smoke this pit creates is the key to the product. And though he humbly says that cooking a pig isn’t hard to do, those who have tasted Rodney Scott’s pulled pork know it takes a special talent to create such unique flavors.

In 2013, the Scotts’ wooden cookhouse burned to ashes two days before Thanksgiving. Rodney did not waste a moment, putting together burn barrels as soon as the fire was extinguished. He told our friend Billy Reid, “Yeah, the same day the pits burned, the fire department told me I could set them up in the back. I had four hogs left that didn’t get affected at all (by the fire) and I just went with that and I sold those until I ran out. You can’t stop. It’s like tripping and falling down. When you’re walking and you trip and fall, the first thing you do is you get back up. I felt like we fell and I just jumped right back into it and got started.”


Rodney’s brothers and sisters in southern cooking—The Fatback Collective—rallied, creating the Rodney Scott Bar-B-Que in Exile Tour to raise money for a rebuild. And so, he drove portable versions of his burn barrels from state to state, creating a loyal fan base along the way. With the funds raised, Rodney and the Collective built a new pit room—and the important work continues. (Joe York and the Southern Foodways Alliance made one of our all-time favorite documentaries, CUT/CHOP/COOK, about Rodney. Watch it here.)

More here on chef Frank Stitt.

Photos courtesy of Angie Mosier


If you follow along on the Journal, you know that Alabama Chanin is a long-time supporter of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Over the years, we have joined together for countless partnerships, events, and projects: Natalie barbequed dresses for their 2012 Symposium; we created an apron in their honor; we even supplied costumes for their collard green-themed opera. Their values supporting the preservation of Southern food culture and history align with our mission of cultural sustainability in our community. And we always love a good story.

Since the opening of The Factory in 2013, we’ve hosted eight dinners in our community space. Many of these dinners have been, in part, fundraisers for the SFA (along with Alabama Gulf Seafood, The Fatback Collective’s Fatback Fund, and Jones Valley Teaching Farm), featuring guest chefs from all over the South who, themselves, are also avid supporters and members of the SFA—Vivian Howard, Ashley Christensen, and Chris Hastings, to name a few.

On February 25th, we host a new type of event at The Factory: our first-ever film screening, showcasing some of our favorite SFA documentaries.


Along with a rich musical history, growing local food movement, and burgeoning restaurant scene, Florence is home to the University of North Alabama. UNA has an award-winning Public History Program that collaborates with the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area to help communities preserve and interpret their pasts. The heritage area was officially designated by Congress in 2009 and includes six counties of north Alabama’s Tennessee River water basin. We will host the evening in partnership with the University of North Alabama and its Public History Center. Caroline, a member of our media team (also a senior at UNA), is spearheading the project as part of her Public History program to exhibit the way that food has influenced southern culture and history.

As part of this partnership and with thanks to the Southern Foodways Alliance, Alabama Chanin will show a selection of short documentaries produced by filmmaker Joe York for the SFA. Joe is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker and a graduate of Auburn University with a B.A. in anthropology. He received an M.A. in Southern studies from the University of Mississippi and has produced over 30 short films for the SFA.

Join us, on Thursday, February 25, as we celebrate our region’s past, present, and future—and its great food—through film. Tickets are $5 and must be purchased in advance. Beverages and apéritifs will be available for purchase from The Factory Café. Doors open at 5pm. There will be a short introduction, followed by the films, lasting until 7:00pm.

P.S.: You can support the SFA at any time by becoming a member here.


Most every family has a host of Thanksgiving traditions and closely held recipes. Still, there is plenty of room for experimentation while still keeping up family rituals. Our friends at Local Palate, a print and online publication focusing on Southern culinary history and culture, share this recipe for a turkey dry rub. It is a slightly different take on a conventional seasoning mix—but still in keeping with a familiar flavor profile.

You can utilize a dry rub whether you opt to roast or fry your holiday turkey. We recommend using this recipe to dry brine (or pre-season) your bird. A dry brine helps season a turkey much in the way that a traditional wet brine does, but without the water. With a dry brine, you rub the seasonings directly into the meat and skin, then let the bird rest in the refrigerator—at least overnight.

A large bird like a whole turkey can be easily overcooked and made dry. Applying seasonings in advance draws out the turkey’s juices, which are then reabsorbed, adding moisture and flavor. The larger the piece of meat, the more time required for an effective brine. You can begin the process by seasoning the turkey a day or two in advance. The thawed and seasoned turkey should rest—uncovered or lightly covered—to keep the skin dry, making for a deliciously crispy skin when cooked.

The Local Palate’s Turkey Dry Rub

1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon chili powder
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ground thyme
4 tablespoons paprika
4 tablespoons smoked paprika
¼ cup kosher salt

Combine all ingredients. They can be stored in a sealed container until ready for use.

When ready to season your turkey, place your bird on a large surface or cutting board. Don’t forget to check the inside of the bird’s cavity to make sure the neck and giblets have been removed. Pat the outside of the turkey dry with paper towels.

Gently loosen the skin over the breast and legs, separating it from the meat. Season the cavity using at least 2 teaspoons of the dry rub—according to your personal taste. Rub the seasoning mixture under the skin of the legs and breast. Sprinkle the remaining spices over the skin of the turkey. Refrigerate, breast side up, in a roasting pan for 1-3 days.

You can cook your turkey using any method without patting it dry.


For many Americans, “Black Friday” (the name given to the Friday after Thanksgiving) marks the beginning of the holiday season. It’s a day largely associated with fanatical shopping and savings. While some people dread the thought of Black Friday shopping, many get excited—even camping out at stores the night before to get the best deals. A lot of people scoff at Black Friday, but others have made it part of their family’s holiday traditions. How, exactly, did it begin? Truthfully, the day we now call Black Friday began as a car crash—or, really, a string of them.

Back in the 1950s, Philadelphia police officers created the term in reference to the number of traffic accidents caused by extra shopping traffic on the weekend after Thanksgiving. In fact, the two days after Thanksgiving were called Black Friday and Black Saturday by the traffic cops in the City of Brotherly Love, where the annual Army/Navy football game was played on that Saturday afternoon. The shopping traffic, in combination with the influx of people arriving for the football game, meant a decidedly unpleasant amount of roadway chaos and overtime for the officers; reportedly the police force even called in the police band to direct traffic. According to CNN, “It was a double-whammy. Traffic cops were required to work 12-hour shifts, no one could take off, and people would flood the sidewalks, parking lots, and streets.” City merchants adopted the term to describe the long lines of shoppers at their stores—and it became sort-of an inside joke for the people of Philly.

Many believe that Black Friday is named in reference to business profit; in other words, it’s the day that sales revenues move from being “in the red” to “in the black”, in accounting terms. But this usage only began in the early 1980s, once Black Friday had been embraced by retailers as an official shopping event. Stores are known to offer incredible bargains and many have begun opening in the wee hours of the morning. Recently, the trend among more aggressive retailers has been to open at midnight—or even stay open all night from Thursday evening.


Truthfully, there has been a bit of a Black Friday backlash in the last few years, particularly directed toward more aggressive retailers who demand much of their employees over the holiday weekend. While most companies cannot afford to close on such a big shopping day, outdoor equipment retailer REI plans to close all stores (and even its website) on Black Friday this year. Our store at The Factory will be open, but for reasonable hours from 10:00am – 5:00pm on Friday—and from 10:00am – 3:00pm for Small Business Saturday. And in an effort to reflect our genuine love for the holiday season, the café will also be open to promote gathering and fellowship. We want shoppers to visit with us, to slow down and enjoy the day—and to celebrate the beginning of a season filled with camaraderie, good food and drink, and real meaning.

We will be offering savings online and in-store for Black Friday and over the weekend. The truth is that, as a small business, we depend on the income that Black Friday and other holiday sales bring. It keeps our lights on; it helps us pay our employees; it helps us continue to design and produce great, long-lasting products. If you spend your money with us, you are supporting a growing community of makers. Your purchases provide work for our artisans and our team of employees. You are making a difference, and we appreciate every customer and every single purchase.




As many of you know, artist and photographer Rinne Allen has been a friend and collaborator for years. In our recent profile of Rinne, we told a little of her personal story and highlighted her incredible light drawings. In addition to her work with chef Hugh Acheson, magazines like Selvedge, and her own site Beauty Everyday (shared with Kristen Bach and Rebecca Wood), she has also worked with Alabama Chanin as a photographer for our Alabama Studio Book Series, our collections, our website, and our Journal.


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Way back in 2007, performance artist John Rives put together a light-hearted TED talk meant to tease conspiracy theorists everywhere. I won’t get into the incredible connections he makes between people like country music artist Faron Young, Dame Judi Dench, and Bill Clinton. (I suggest you watch for yourself.) But he manages to connect one event to another, and another, through the hour of four in the morning. Four in the morning, he says, is the “worst possible hour” of the day. It’s shorthand for a time of inconvenience, mishaps, and yearnings.

What Rives didn’t expect was that the “four in the morning” effect was more widespread in our culture than he ever imagined. After his initial TED Talk, people began sending him “Four AM” references from all over the world. He has received so many references of “four in the morning” in our culture—from Shakespeare to The Simpsons—that he is now the self-proclaimed expert on 4AM. (For just a hint of it’s presence in our culture, here are a quick set of 50 Four in the Mornings that we’ve all seen at some point.)

In response to the overwhelming response, Rives put together a short follow-up talk to show us what he’s learned about 4AM: watch here. So we must ask—has he discovered and decoded the real witching hour? Or is it a magical, creative hour? Or is it nothing at all? Rives has catalogued every reference he’s discovered at the Museum of Four in the Morning, where you’ll find instances in literature, movies, music, television, and all manner of pop culture transmissions. We invite you to click around, examine the copious evidence, and ask yourselves: Just what is the deal with 4AM?



If there is one thing we’ve learned, it’s that there is joy and power in making in a group setting. We’ve witnessed this in a multitude of workshops, Makeshift events, and also in our informal First and Third Mondays and Thursday night Sip + Sew events here at The Factory. Many of us have outside sewing circles or knitting groups we belong to, and it’s the opportunity for growing conversations that make those experiences most meaningful.

One of our educational goals at Alabama Chanin has always been to increase opportunities for these conversations to flourish.

So, with that in mind we introduce our new Host a Party programming through The School of Making.

Organize a group of 6 or more friends, colleagues, or acquaintances and provide a location and refreshments. You and your group will choose one garment style—with difficulty levels ranging from beginner to advanced. You will all be working on the same garment style, but each group member can choose their own size, fabric color, and stencil design.

As host, you will receive your kit for free, in exchange for providing sewing instructions and hospitality. Each of your guests will receive the selected kit at 20% off the original price.

Meet once a week, once a month, or as often as you and your group would like, provide good light, beverages, good conversation, and start sewing. You will be the leader and teacher to the Alabama Chanin sewing techniques. Our Studio Style book series can be your guide, and we’ll provide some handouts on basic techniques that will help you along the way.

Provide tools, needles, scissors, or show your sewing group which tools you love the most.

Some tips we’ve found for the best sewing parties:

Consider seating carefully. If you have a large table that can accommodate your entire party, this is the ideal setup. You can also set up smaller groups or tables around a single room—but you should ideally have a surface to spread out your sewing pieces and hold your sewing tools and notions. And, of course the best conversations are had around one big table.

Good lighting makes all the difference in the world.

If you plan to spend an entire afternoon or evening stitching together, keep snacks on hand—but not messy ones. Think grapes or cheese and crackers rather than chips and salsa…

Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes, take everything apart, and start again. No one is grading your efforts and one imperfection won’t ruin your garment.

Host a sewing party by contacting us here: workshops@alabamachanin.com

And learn more on how Host a Party works, including kit options, here.



When the company that became Alabama Chanin began years ago, we didn’t have (or didn’t know how to find) many kindred spirits—those who were enthusiastic about celebrating uniquely Southern craft traditions. Years later, we look around and see so many individuals and organizations who have taken up the banner for Southern craft, culture, foodways, and paths to the future. It is heartening to see individuals of all ages embracing what makes the South so unique and challenging us all to break new ground and connect the great things about the past into the present (and future).

The Oxford American has been around for over 20 years and has been an inspiration for our entire writing team. Their annual Southern Music Issue, which focuses each year on a different state (and includes an actual CD) continues to spotlight perhaps-forgotten artists alongside emerging musicians to give a complete picture of regional music. The Best of the South editions bring attention to new and established Southerners doing great work in areas from art to food to politics—using poetry, art, music, and spectacular narratives and essays. Natalie always finds a good story to bookmark or a quote or picture to share with the staff.


Southern Makers was founded in 2013 and is a two-day event celebrating Southern creativity and innovation by bringing together handpicked talent for one fantastic gathering. We have been honored to participate in these gatherings and have found other craftspeople who believe that the Slow Food, Slow Design, and maker movements are not trends, but reflections of Southern culture, past, present, and future. In past years, Southern Makers has taken place over one weekend in Montgomery, Alabama, but in 2016 it will expand to more cities in Alabama and beyond.

The Oxford American has partnered with Southern Makers as part of this growth. In an attempt to spread the word about Southern Makers and the makers who participate, the Oxford American site will feature a revolving selection of Southern Maker-approved goods in their online store and will occasionally profile the makers behind those goods. Additionally, the two are offering a Maker Box as a subscription odd-on. In the coming weeks, those who purchase an annual subscription to the Oxford American will be offered the opportunity to upgrade their subscription to include the Maker Box option. Subscribers will receive a box with a curated selection of goods from Southern Makers participants—including Alabama Chanin.


Together, The Oxford American, Southern Makers, and Alabama Chanin present the upcoming Friends of the Café Dinner with Atlanta-based Chef Anne Quatrano. The event will take place on Saturday, October 24 at The Factory Café. The cost of the event includes cocktails, dinner, and the very first Maker Boxes created by Oxford American and Southern Makers. Reservations must be made in advance.


Early on in the life of Alabama Chanin, Natalie had the opportunity to visit the Ventura, California offices of Patagonia. That visit, along with a copy of founder Yvon Chouinard’s manifesto, Let My People Go Surfing, opened all of our eyes to the fact that it is possible to create a healthy workplace, make products responsibly, produce things that are meant to last, and still stay in business. (Or, at any rate, that is certainly our goal…) Patagonia’s The Footprint Chronicles shows the origins of Patagonia products and materials. Their supply chain is completely transparent, and directly inspired Alabama Chanin to document and publish our own supply chain.

Another Patagonia program that we’ve loved is Worn Wear, which documents stories of garments used, reused, repaired, and recycled. (You can read stories of individuals and their garments at the Worn Wear blog.) The Worn Wear program helps garment owners maintain their gear for as long as possible through product care and repair services. It also provides an easy way to recycle Patagonia garments that are beyond repair.


As the Patagonia team puts it, the biggest step we can take to reduce our impact is to do more with what we have. Repeated laundering, ironing, and drying can shorten a garment’s life, just as much as wearing them—so they offer tips for cleaning and care to extend the garment’s life cycle. But, if a garment gets excessively worn, Patagonia urges owners not to toss it, but instead repair it—or send it to them for repair. You can find easy-to-read repair guides on their website. Or, you can ship an item back to Patagonia to be repaired. The company employs 45 full-time repair technicians at their service center in Reno, Nevada. It’s the largest repair facility in North America—completing about 30,000 repairs per year.

Garments that are not salvageable can be returned to Patagonia (postage paid) to be recycled into new fiber, or repurposed. Since 2005, they have taken back over 82 tons of clothing for recycling. Our collaboration with Patagonia used just these cast-offs to create scarves from repurposed material.


Patagonia’s Worn Wear Repair Truck is currently on its fall tour (and upcoming stops can be tracked here). The truck and the Patagonia repair crew will be at The Factory for a special two-day event. On Friday, September 18 from 9:00am – 5:00pm and Saturday, September 19 from 10:00am – 4:00pm, we invite you to bring your well worn, well loved garments—of any brand—to be repaired for free by the Patagonia team. As they say, “If it’s broke, we fix it.”

We will offer regular lunch service at The Factory Café on Friday and a brunch taco stand with other sweet and savory items on Saturday. Alabama Chanin’s School of Making will sponsor a DIY mending station with thread and cotton jersey fabric scraps. Patagonia will also have DIY garments that if you can fix, you can take them home.


*All images Courtesy of Patagonia


My initial introduction to up-and-coming Alabama chef Rob McDaniel came through my son, Zach. Years ago, Zach was traveling home from a Doo-Nanny celebration and stopped for brunch at a restaurant along Lake Martin in south Alabama. The unimposing atmosphere and spectacular meal he found at the SpringHouse restaurant had him hooked. He raved for weeks about his meal—and said that he wanted to return there someday to work and study with the executive chef, Rob. (And about a year later, he did.) Since that time, Chef Rob has become a friend to both our immediate family and to the Alabama Chanin family. In fact, we hosted a One-Day Workshop at Springhouse a few years ago.

Rob is a graduate of Auburn University, and honed his culinary skills at the New England Culinary Institute. He has worked alongside Chris Hastings at Hot and Hot Fish Club, and with the folks at Jim ‘N Nicks BBQ. As a sous chef, Rob learned to apply his culinary know-how to southern food and its methodology. In 2009, he became executive chef at SpringHouse and began to create his own southern food story. Rob has been named a James Beard award semifinalist twice, and in 2014 SpringHouse was named one of the Best 100 Restaurants in the South by Southern Living magazine.


Be it food or fashion, we share similar views on sustainability, supporting local economies, and the art of taking things slow. We also share a love for the good things happening at the Southern Foodways Alliance. Rob will be creating the menu for our next “Friends of the Café” Piggy Bank Dinner at The Factory on August 27, benefitting the SFA. The dinner is also serving as the kick-off for Billy Reid’s annual Shindig here in the Shoals.

The menu for the evening includes field pea fritters, tomato gazpacho, grilled okra and eggplant, and Chilton county peaches. Needless to say, we are excited to kick off our dinner series once again.

For more information, visit our Events page.


Makeshift is a series of events, talks, workshops, and gatherings that invite a dynamic group of participants to explore the ways in which the fashion, art, and design worlds are inextricably linked to the world of craft and DIY, and how each of these worlds elevates the others.

In its fourth year, Makeshift conversations create an intersection where we can explore, discuss, and celebrate the role of local production, handmade, and craft/DIY in fashion and design as a way to empower individuals, businesses, and communities.

We continue to expand the ideas that were born from our first Makeshift event in 2012 to create a global conversation among artists, designers, and makers. Each year, panelists and participants share their stories and experiences involving collaborative projects and making within their industries. And in 2013, we introduced a method to facilitate the conversation: guests were invited to express their thoughts, literally or conceptually, using an organic cotton tote bag from Alabama Chanin as a blank canvas. A variety of materials were also provided to design, decorate, and customize each bag.


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The Alabama Chanin, Heath Ceramics, and Boiler Room teams have been working together over the past few months in preparation for our show in San Francisco, which opens tomorrow evening. Needless to say, we are very excited. The show, Alabama on Alabama, is the fourth ever exhibition in Heath Ceramics’ new event space, the Boiler Room. Heath Ceramics opened the Boiler Room last year as a place of discovery, inspiration, and exploration—bringing together the unexpected, hard-to-define worlds of art, design, and craft. Those realms are explored through collections, shows, events, and pop-ups. We have to admit that ours fits the bill perfectly and are honored to be included.

Alabama on Alabama is a month-long journey into the soul of the modern South. Natalie’s work spearheads the exhibit, which also includes works by Butch Anthony, known for his ‘intertwangled” paintings and creations using found objects, and materials and works on paper by artist (and longtime Butch Anthony collaborator) Mr. John Henry Toney. Alabama on Alabama also showcases the work of our dear friend and photographer, Rinne Allen.


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Last Sunday afternoon, we hosted a brunch—part of our Friends of the Café | Makeshift Dinner Series—to benefit Jones Valley Teaching Farm, an organization that works with students and within schools to create and supplement healthy food curriculum. Jones Valley’s Good School Food program encourages students to buy into the concept of “good food” by learning about where it comes from and how it can benefit their families and communities—beginning in early childhood through high school graduation.

This year, Jones Valley took a unique approach to fundraising; as part of an initiative called Gather, twenty-two restaurants and individuals hosted dinners on Saturday, May 16, with all ticket sales benefiting the farm. The following Sunday, Alabama Chanin hosted the very first Gather Brunch to wrap up the weekend’s festivities.


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I am happy to greet May, partly because April came “as advertised”—dropping buckets of rain—but also because May is filled with so many good things. So many, in fact, that I might feel differently by month’s end, but for now I am ready. There are workshops, both at home and afar. Maggie finishes school at the end of the month, which (in her mind) means summer has begun and it’s time for a backyard barbecue. (May is, after all, National Barbecue Month.)

Here is what the schedule looks like for the rest of the month:

May 10: Mother’s Day (the second Sunday of May). We are hosting our first-ever Mother’s Day Brunch at the Factory Café.

May 11: On Design: In the Kitchen + Biscuits @ The Factory

May 14: One-Day Studio Stenciling + Pattern Design Workshop @ The Factory.

May 15 – 17: Classic Studio Weekend Workshop here @ The Factory.

May 17: Sunday Brunch: Pies + Casseroles, a Celebration of the Southern Oven—a Makeshift | Friends of the Café fundraiser for Jones Valley Teaching Farm featuring acclaimed pastry chefs (and all-around amazing women) Angie Mosier and Lisa Donovan. Seating is limited, so purchase yours today.

May 20: Stay up late for David Letterman’s final Late Show.

May 21: Two-Hour Sewing Workshop and Book Signing at LF8 in NYC.

May 25: Memorial Day—in remembrance of those who died in service to our country. Many in our community still refer to this day as Decoration Day and spend time picnicking and cleaning or decorating memorial plots and monuments.

May 26: National Biscuit Day. While this is celebrated daily in many Southern kitchens, it is nice to know that the mighty biscuit has its own day to shine.

May 28: Last day of the school year for Maggie.

Somehow, in the middle of all this madness, I have to find time to transplant my tomatoes and okra, and tend the rest of the garden. Wish me luck.

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Sometimes when you meet a kindred spirit, you feel that connection immediately. It’s safe to say that I felt that bond when I first met Angie Mosier a dozen (or so) years ago. She laughs in a way that draws you in immediately—you just have to know what she’s laughing at. She also throws a mean party and anyone who has ever been in attendance knows what a real good time looks (and sounds and tastes) like. She is Southern in so many ways—she can cook, bake, and mix cocktails; she can spin an engaging tale; she has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Southern food, but she is no wilting flower.

I was lucky enough to collaborate with Angie on the second book in the Alabama Studio Series, Alabama Studio Style. She leant recipes, guidance, food styling efforts, and all-around support. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I couldn’t have written that book without her. Angie is a talented writer, photographer, stylist, and cook in her own right. She documents food, but also the people behind the food—the ones who keep our Southern food traditions alive.


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Brunch has become such a widely adopted part of the American culinary experience and like so many food traditions, its existence cannot be nailed down to one exact moment. There was no year B.B. (before brunch) and no A.B. (after brunch) but food historians and brunch experts believe that the meal originated in Great Britain’s hunting culture. Large, multi-course breakfasts were prepared for sizeable hunting parties and included pork, eggs, fruit, pastries, and other hearty foods. However, it is possible to pin down the origin of the word “brunch”, which is obviously a combination of the words “breakfast” and “lunch.” It was first printed in an 1895 Hunter’s Weekly article by Guy Beringer titled, “Brunch: A Plea.” In the article, Beringer argued against heavy, post-church Sunday meals, in favor of a lighter meal during the late morning hours—one that encouraged a cocktail or two. ”Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting,” Beringer wrote. ”It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

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Last year, we launched our Friends of the Café Dinner and Factory Chef Series, which was quickly established as part of our Makeshift initiative. As with most things here at Alabama Chanin, the idea evolved over time from an interesting idea into something bigger. In 2015, we are continuing to host Friends of the Café dinners, combined with a corresponding workshop series—a branch of The School of Making. The series will combine our celebration of slow, sustainable, and inventive food with our ongoing conversations on craft, design, food, making, and community.

The initial idea for this series was simple—each month, The Factory Café would feature seasonal dishes inspired by regional chefs (or restaurants) that shared our values of celebrating place, artisanal craftsmanship, and good food.


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In 1982, Ari Weinzweig and his business partner Paul Saginaw opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Today, that institution has evolved into a collection of food specialty businesses (known as the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, or ZCoB) that includes a bakery, mail order operation, a coffee company, candy manufacturer, a barbeque restaurant, creamery, and a catering and event planning service. The decision to build new, independent businesses (instead of franchising the deli) proved to be an sustainable strategy for operating a business, an effective approach for establishing growth opportunities for employees, and a way to ultimately give back to their Ann Arbor community.

In March 2015, we are delighted to be hosting Ari and our friends from Zingerman’s here at The Factory in Florence. I’ve long been an admirer and student of Ari’s work, teachings, and books. (And as an introduction to Ari, you might want to check out this interview with him on our Journal.) His philosophies and approaches to running a business have helped me and the Alabama Chanin family create a better work environment here at The Factory. Our staff studied Ari’s latest book, Managing Ourselves, as part of a workplace enrichment program, and we each wrote visions of how we want to take ownership of our individual roles, while benefiting the team and helping the company grow as a whole.


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#givingtuesday and #gratitude

Today, December 2, 2014, is the second annual #GivingTuesday.

“It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company, or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Join us and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.”

Remember SOLA and so many others that could use a little help. Gratitude is everywhere to be found.


Join us this Monday at The Factory for the second lecture in our conversation series: On Design. Last month, Natalie spoke on the Bauhaus and the creative process. This month the conversation continues with a lecture about Charles and Ray Eames, husband and wife designers, and mid-century design. We’ve been finding inspiration from the timeless furniture, interior, and design details featured in Mid-Century Modern, by friend Bradley Quinn.

On Design is part of our ongoing Makeshift conversation about design, art, business, community, and much more. As one of our educational initiatives, the lecture series falls under the umbrella of The School of Making, a new arm of the Alabama Chanin Family of Businesses. We continue working to give The School of Making an active voice in our local community, our state, and the making community, at large. We hope you will join the conversation. Open-to-the-public with limited seating, the cost includes admission, participation, and a cup of The Factory blend coffee, a cold drink, or tea. Registration required.

On Design: The Eames + Mid-Century Design
Makeshift multimedia presentation by Natalie Chanin

November 10, 2014 10:30am – 11:30am
The Factory @ Alabama Chanin
462 Lane Drive, Florence, Alabama
Open-to-the-Public with Limited Seating
Registration Required $7.00

Look for more information on this and other upcoming Makeshift events on our Journal and/or join our mailing list. ON DESIGN: THE EAMES + MID-CENTURY DESIGN


Alabama Chanin as a concept and a company began as a DIY enterprise. I made the first garments by hand, to fit my own body. Our entire business model was created because I couldn’t find manufacturing for the sort of garment I wanted to make—and so, we created our own manufacturing system, one stitch at a time.

Because those first garments were made from recycled t-shirts, many of our customers took the concept and re-imagined it for themselves, making their own patterns and clothing. Others felt that—with just a little help—they could create something similar, something that was their own. Almost accidentally, our garments were stirring in others the desire to make. Slowly, and as the internet became more robust, sewers formed groups on the internet to share their Alabama Chanin-style garments and swap ideas. This was the beginning of a more formal DIY presence in our company.

These things were happening at the same time as I began writing our first Studio Book, Alabama Stitch Book. Writing that book helped me crystallize my thoughts on making, open sourcing, and education. It was, in essence, me putting voice to what was important about sharing ideas and creating a community of makers. Throughout the writing process—and as the company grew and evolved over the years—I returned again and again to the idea of keeping the living arts alive. It’s the belief that survival skills for food, clothing, and shelter, are important arts that we live with every single day. And these arts—often considered secondary arts—are equally (and perhaps more) important as the “primary” arts of painting and sculpture.

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The t-shirts for Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q read, “You can smell our butts for miles”. This was certainly the case on Friday, October 10, as their giant meat smoker nestled up to Alabama Chanin’s front entry and sent out the signal for our final “Friends of the Cafe” dinner of 2014, featuring chef Drew Robinson and Nicholas Pihakis. The two were in town—along with members of the Fatback Collective—to provide lucky diners with an exclusive, elevated barbecue experience.

Good People Brewing Company provided craft beers for each course. The Birmingham, Alabama, based brewery showcased a few of their “Ales from the Heart of Dixie.” There may not be a dinner more currently in demand across the United States than beer and barbecue; on this night, we had the best of best.


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Alabama Chanin will host our final “Friends of the Café” Dinner of the 2014 season next Friday evening. The creative team from Jim ‘N Nick’s Community Bar-B-Q, including Nicholas Pikakis and Drew Robinson, will be on hand to direct the menu. I find it amazing that Jim ‘N Nick’s currently operates over 30 restaurants across the South and manages to maintain consistency and high standards. Their commitment to sustainability at such a large scope is outstanding. They care about every detail—from the farmers and hogs, to their choice of wood, to every seasoning and side dish…it seems they do it ALL. We caught up with Nicholas and Drew and persuaded them both to answer a few questions.

AC: What role do you play in the oversight of those individual locations? How involved are you in the day-to-day operations?

Drew Robinson: I don’t oversee any one restaurant. We have a lot of talented local owners, general managers, chefs, dining room managers, and very dedicated staff that operate great restaurants every day. I’m engaged in culinary development—new recipes, products, menus—for the company. Operationally, my role beyond that isn’t to oversee a restaurant as much as it is to continually convey the standards of our food and coach what our chefs and cooks do so that we are, hopefully, always improving.

AC: I once heard that you have no freezers—whatsoever—at any of your restaurants. Truth or legend?

DR: Truth. The “no freezers” rule is one of our core values that started with Nick and his dad, Jim. They believed in bringing all the ingredients in fresh—we start fresh and prepare fresh. They were closely joined at the hip with that value of theirs, so there was no question about doing that across the board in each of the stores. Continue reading


Join us at The Factory on October 10th for the last “Friends of the Café” Dinner of the year, a fundraiser for the Fatback Collective’s Fatback Fund, featuring Drew Robinson and Nicholas Pihakis of Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q.

The evening will include cocktails and a four-course meal with craft beer pairings. The menu features regionally and sustainably-sourced fare, like Pickled Gulf Shrimp, Fatback Pig Project Porchetta and White Oak Pastures Guinea Hens with vegetables from the Jones Valley Teaching Farm.

Friday, October 10, 2014 6:30  Cocktails 7:30  Dinner

$88 per person (includes drinks and dinner) Purchase tickets here. Pre-paid reservations must be made in advance online or in-store. Casual attire

Alabama Chanin @ The Factory 462 Lane Drive Florence, AL 35630

For more information, contact Alabama Chanin: +1.256.760.1090


My love for barbeque is no secret. Though I might be partial to our local fixings, I can honestly say most of the barbeque I’ve experienced throughout Alabama and the South is both distinctive and delicious. Each region and territory has its own unique recipes and tastes. One of the most well-known barbeque establishments from our state is Jim ‘N Nick’s, founded in Birmingham in 1985 by father and son team, Jim and Nick Pihakis. The company is rooted in community (with claims that it is “the key ingredient in any good bar-b-q”) and their belief that good food brings people together. Each Jim ‘N Nick’s location is locally owned and operated, which encourages every restaurant to develop relationships within their respective communities and advance the company principles of education, health and wellness, and local farming.

I’ve known Nick Pihakis for several years now. He is one of the most generous folks I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting—always in good spirits (and never one to turn down a good bourbon libation). In fact, Nick and several other renowned Southern chefs, writers, and farmers formed the Fatback Collective while discussing barbeque competitions over glasses of bourbon. The Fatback Collective has participated in competition barbecue events, while keeping the focus on quality flavor and sustainable techniques; members include John T. Edge, Ashley Christensen, Angie Mosier, and John Currence. The collective, as well as Jim ‘N Nick’s establishments, all source their pork from the farms that are part of the Fatback Pig Project—a collaboration that supports pasture-raised, heritage breeds.


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Alabama Chanin’s Friends of the Café Piggy Bank Dinner for Southern Foodways Alliance, featuring Ashley Christensen, was a singing success last Thursday. Not only did the ingredients sing on the plate, but our diners have adopted the habit of singing to our featured chefs. This time, Ashley Christensen was serenaded with a round of Happy Birthday after an enthusiastic round of applause for her inventive take on Southern cuisine.


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Last Friday night, we hosted our second “Friends of the Café” dinner, which also served as our first Piggy Bank Dinner fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA). Chef Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer restaurant and the Peabody-award winning television series A Chef’s Life traveled to The Factory from North Carolina for an evening of delicious food, cocktails, much laughter and lively conversation, and music, performed by friend and songbird, Shonna Tucker.


Vivian’s show, A Chef’s Life, focuses on regional food traditions and explores classic Southern ingredients. Friday’s dinner highlighted the story of our own local farmers and their fresh ingredients, with Vivian’s Eastern Carolina twist.  Each course was accompanied by a wine pairing, chosen by Harry Root (Bacchus Incarnate) of Grassroots Wine.


I love what Christi Britten—one of our dinner guests and the author of Dirt Platewrites in her review of the evening:

Pretty much, Vivian Howard gives a damn. She gives a damn how the food she serves is raised, prepared, cooked, presented, eaten, enjoyed, and thought about. She gives a damn about her community’s food culture and wants to suck up as much knowledge as she can about where their food comes from and how to make it. She gives a damn about the farmers that work hard every single day to feed a community as well as their families.

She has, with her own hands, butchered whole animals to use from snout to tail in her restaurant. She speaks with a tone of reverence and authority over the food she creates. And basically she is a food medium. She is confident, yet humble and puts us all into a place where we can visualize the care taken to prepare what we put in our mouths.

This farm to table dinner celebrated local farms and Southern food culture by bringing together the summer bounty into one meal among a diverse community of eaters.


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“Where the Tennessee River, like a silver snake, winds her way through the red clay hills of Alabama, sits high on these hills my hometown, Florence.”–W.C. Handy, Father of the Blues

We have written many times of our community’s rich musical legacy. The Shoals has a very notable place in modern music history; but, that history reaches much further back than many realize. William Christopher “W.C.” Handy was born and raised here in Florence in the late 19th century. Discovering a love of music at a young age, he took up the cornet and participated in a cappella vocal lessons while attending grammar school. Later, after receiving his degree from the Teachers Agricultural and Mechanical College in Huntsville, Alabama, he became a teacher and briefly worked in a piping company before ultimately pursuing music as his true passion. His contributions in shaping the blues were influenced by the African-American musical folk traditions he experienced during his travels across the South, with “Memphis Blues” marking the beginning of his musical career.

For over 30 years, The Shoals community has hosted the W.C. Handy Music Festival. “Handy Fest,” as the locals call it, provides a few moments of unrivaled fun – in the middle of what can be a long, hot summer. Many of us anticipate the event all year and even the most confirmed homebodies spend multiple evenings out and about, listening to live music, visiting with friends, and exploring the community during festival week.

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I feel a certain kinship with Vivian Howard, even though we’ve never met. We both left home at an early age, finding big lives and successful living elsewhere; we also both followed our inspirations as they directed us back to our regional homes, where we’ve found hard-won fulfillment. Vivian works with food as her medium, much in the way that Alabama Chanin works with cotton jersey. She explores regional food traditions and seeks to translate them into a modern light.

We are thrilled that Vivian Howard will be the featured chef for the month of July in our café, and also visiting us here at The Factory on July 25th for our second “Friends of the Café” Piggy Bank Dinner, benefiting the Southern Foodways Alliance.


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This month, we launched our “Friends of the Café” Dinner Series with James Beard award-winning chef Chris Hastings. When searching for like-minded chefs and restaurants to collaborate with for our ongoing chef series in the café, Chris was one of the first people who came to mind. His dedication to locally-sourced ingredients is something we value highly here at Alabama Chanin, and it was wonderful to see (and sample) his work at The Factory.

A big hit of the evening was the Hot and Hot Tomato Salad, a fresh and colorful take on an old Southern favorite: succotash. Guests watched in awe as Chris and members of the Alabama Chanin team put together mouthwatering layers of the tomato salad. The special version of the salad presented at our dinner was topped with fresh Alabama Gulf shrimp (and bacon), and served with fried okra on the side.


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The act of sharing a meal with others can be a uniting experience, with the potential to create memories and build relationships. Ashley English’s new book, Handmade Gatherings: Recipes and Crafts for Seasonal Celebrations & Potluck Parties, is a celebration of just that sense of community. We previously featured another of Ashley’s books, A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies on our Journal. I was excited to read this, her latest book, as it focuses on something I truly love: entertaining. I appreciate Ashley’s approach to creating an experience through communal, potluck meals. I particularly value her approach to slowing down and appreciating the process of creating, and was honored to contribute a review of Handmade Gatherings (featured on the back cover of the book).


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Two weeks ago, our team left New York feeling excited and energized—and with the conversation at The Standard the night before fresh on our minds. This was the third annual Makeshift, held in New York each spring during Design Week. Over the years the conversation has shifted—but our goal of learning how certain themes cross industries (and how they learn from each other and work together) stays the same.

Makeshift began as a conversation about the intersection of the disciplines of design, craft, art, fashion, and DIY—and, on a bigger level, using this intersection as an agent of change in the world. Since then, we’ve explored making as individuals, and how making as a group can open conversations, build communities, and help us co-design a future that is filled with love and promise—for planet, community, and one another.


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MAKESHIFT began three years ago as a conversation about the intersection of the disciplines of design, craft, art, fashion, and DIY—and, on a bigger level, using this intersection as an agent of change in the world. Since then, we’ve explored making as individuals, and how making as a group can open conversations and build communities.

For MAKESHIFT 2014, we have once again partnered with Standard Talks in New York to host the conversation, and will cover a range of topics, including raw materials, craft, fashion, global communities, food, and the act of making. 2014 James Beard award-winning chef Ashley Christensen will also participate in the discussion, helping answer the question: What can design learn from food?


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This May, Alabama Chanin is featuring two of my personal heroines (and, now, dear friends) as part of our ongoing Chef Series at the café. They might not be chefs, but Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva are The Kitchen Sisters—independent producers who create radio stories for NPR and other public broadcast outlets. Davia and Nikki are two of the most genuine and real women I know. Without their dedication to telling the real story, I would not be the person I am today. Route 66 changed my perception of storytelling in the autumn of 1994. I remember the first moment I heard their tracks; in the third story of a rented house on a square in Savannah, Georgia. Just like that my life changed.

Davia and Nikki met and began collaborating in the late 1970s, hosting a weekly radio program in Santa Cruz, California. Their name was taken from two eccentric brothers—Kenneth and Raymond Kitchen—who were stonemasons in Santa Cruz in the 1940s. One night, they were discussing the Kitchen Brothers, who were featured in a book about Santa Cruz architects, as prep for an interview with the book’s author—while also cooking dinner for a group of people on the commune where Nikki lived—and got caught up in legends of local masonry (chimneys, yogi temples, Byzantine bungalows…), and food prep fell to the wayside. Dinner that evening was a disaster, and The Kitchen Sisters were (laughingly) born.

Oral histories heavily influenced their style of radio production. Over the years, they have produced a number of series, such as Lost & Found Sound, The Sonic Memorial Project, The Hidden World of Girls, and Hidden Kitchens. Regardless of topic, Davia and Nikki find a way to build community through storytelling.

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Beginning today, Alabama Chanin is launching a Chef Series for The Factory Café. Each month, we will feature seasonal dishes on our menu from chefs (or restaurants) that share our values of celebrating place, artisanal craftsmanship of all kinds, and, simply said, good food.

Our focus through these collaborations will be on regional chefs and regionally-inspired cuisine—dishes that we can recreate in our café by locally sourcing ingredients. In the upcoming year, The Factory will host brunches, dinners, book signings, and even cooking and cocktail workshops with an array of chefs.

A few years ago, I made an extraordinary trip to Blackberry Farm, located in beautiful Walland, Tennessee, on the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Ever since that first journey (thanks to friends at the Southern Foodways Alliance), I’ve had a deep appreciation and respect for the artisans and chefs working at the Farm—and have loved using their cookbooks in my own kitchen.

From making biscuits to hosting an upcoming Weekend Away Workshop, my relationship with Blackberry Farm has grown over the years. So, I was thrilled when Chef Joseph Lenn and Blackberry Farm agreed to launch our Chef Series in the month of April.


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I have a deep respect and admiration for the work happening at Rural Studio, located in Hale County, Alabama. Founded in 1993 by the late Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee and D.K. Ruth, the studio is now celebrating its 20th anniversary.

After having the chance to visit the stunning Yancey Chapel in 2008, I noted on the Journal that “the work and life of Samuel Mockbee is a yardstick for us to hold up to our lives each and every day to take measure of the road that we walk on this planet.”

I will be heading to Hale County this weekend, for a special dinner and pig roast as part of their yearlong 20th anniversary celebration. My friend (and acclaimed chef) Scott Peacock is preparing the menu and family-style meal. The evening will be a celebration of Rural Studio and an acknowledgement of their ongoing community project at Rural Studio Farm—where students are working to construct a greenhouse, irrigation system, planter beds, and more. In fact, a few of the vegetables that will be served over the weekend were grown by students at the farm. The Hale County community is contributing to the dinner, providing fresh hen eggs for deviled eggs and the local pig that was raised to be roasted just for this occasion. Friends of Rural Studio are also making contributions—Alabama Chanin donated 170 organic cotton jersey napkins for the event, which students of the studio will manipulate and design for the dinner. It will be an evening filled with laughter, community, delicious food, and storytelling.


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In the tradition of old-time quilting and sewing circles, join us at The Factory the first and third Tuesday of each month to sew and socialize. Spend the morning working on your latest project in the company of fellow sewers, while sharing inspiration, encouragement, fellowship, and maybe even a bit of light-hearted gossip. (It is speculated that the phrase “chew the rag” originated from the gossiping that took place while ladies worked together in a sewing circle.)

Coffee, tea, and lunch (after 11:00am) will be available for purchase from The Factory Café. Please bring your own fabric and sewing notions or find them in The School of Making store.

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Heath Ceramics is celebrating 10 years of design by showcasing interpretations of time in the form of one-of-a-kind clocks designed by friends and collaborators. I was honored to design and contribute two clocks, featuring Alabama Chanin’s etched Camellia pattern. It’s really common in my family to hang plates on the wall, and I was inspired by this tradition. I remember all the plates on the walls at my grandmother’s house, and I have continued the practice by hanging Heath + Alabama Chanin plates on the wall in my own kitchen. It made perfect sense to design clocks that reflected that tradition. Heath10Clock-NatalieChanin2-WEB The Alabama Chanin clocks will be available at Heath’s Design in Time show this weekend, along with several other collaborations and interpretations. The show opens this Saturday, December 7 from 5:30pm – 8:30pm at both the San Francisco and Los Angeles showrooms. xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

Photos courtesy of Heath Ceramics.


The Factory @ Alabama Chanin

Join us for the grand opening of The Factory

Live Music + Cocktails + Shopping
Monday, November 18th, 2013
5pm – 9pm

Alabama Chanin store + 2013 Holiday Market
November 19th – December 23rd
Monday – Friday 8am – 4pm

Open Weekdays 8am – 4pm

For more information, visit:
or call +1.256.760.1090


This year, with MAKESHIFT 2013, we expand ideas that were born from MAKESHIFT 2012 to create a global conversation among artists, designers, and makers. The first part of the MAKESHIFT 2013 SERIES took place at the Standard, East Village where panelists and conversation guides Cathy Bailey – Heath Ceramics, Rosanne Cash – Singer/Songwriter, Natalie Chanin – Alabama Chanin, Jessamyn Hatcher – Professor of Global Studies, NYU, Nathalie Jordi – People’s Pops/Writer/Author, Tift Merritt – Singer/Songwriter, Andrew Wagner – Krrb, and Kristen Wentrcek – Wintercheck Factory, shared their stories and experiences involving collaborative projects and making within their industries. Throughout the evening, guests were invited to express their thoughts from the conversations, literally or conceptually, using an organic cotton tote bag from Alabama Chanin as a blank canvas. A variety of materials were also provided to design, decorate, and customize each bag.




Over the four days of New York Design Week (May 19-22, 2012), Alabama Chanin–in collaboration with its fashion and design partners–is organizing a series of talks, workshops, and gatherings with leaders in the fashion, design, and craft/DIY communities. The events bring together a dynamic combination of industry leaders to explore the ways in which the fashion, art, and design worlds are inextricably linked to the world of craft/DIY and how each of these worlds elevates the others. We look to create an intersection–a meeting point–to explore, discuss, and celebrate the role of local production, handmade, and craft/DIY in fashion and design as a way to empower individuals, businesses, and communities.

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It’s the time of year when most of us start to look back at the past year to take stock and plan for the next. As a company, Alabama Chanin is no different. With a lot of help from our friends, we’ve brought the year to a (BIG) close with our first online Garage Sale.

This online event seems indicative of what an amazing year (decade) it has been. We were, quite honestly, bowled over by the outreach of support, excitement, and, well, love for what we do at Alabama Chanin.  (We will be doing it again soon. Check our events page for updates and/or join our mailing list to stay in touch.)

Looking back on the whole year, it’s staggering to see just how many projects we’ve tackled, people we’ve met, and journeys we’ve taken – all infused with the same love that we experienced during our Garage Sale. Honestly, I can hardly believe that so many things happened all in one twelve-month span. It’s been 12 (REALLY) good ones.

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My first sewing project was a “picture” of a flower that I made when I was about seven. I chose green and purple ribbon for the stem and petals, respectively, and a white button for the bloom’s center, which I attached to a square of quilted light blue Swiss dot fabric – aka the sky – with long, sloppy stitches.

It’s not a masterpiece by any means, with its loose stitches, unfinished edges. But precision is supposed to be beside the point when you’re a kid learning a new skill; the fun lies in the creative process, not necessarily the finished product.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had a rather hard time remembering this. I’m more than a little neurotic, and a bit obsessed with perfection, whatever that means. My natural inclination to create with abandon is at permanent odds with my OCD-driven desire for unsullied excellence, and it’s not always pleasant.

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Our BBQed dresses have been carefully hung along side the stunning photographs of Landon Nordeman and the smell of barbeque fills the room. We are en route to a weekend of storytelling and out-of-this-world food (and spirits).


Join us tonight in Oxford, Mississippi, for Punch, Pictures, and ‘Cue Couture, as part of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s 15th Annual Symposium, Barbecue: An Exploration of Pitmasters, Places, Smoke, and Sauce.

The Powerhouse
13 South 14th Street, Oxford, Mississippi 38655

Opening reception:
October 18th from 4:00pm – 6:00pm
(The reception is free and open to the public and will feature the cocktail stylings of Greg Best from Holeman & Finch Public House in Atlanta, Georgia.)

Show runs through November 2, 2012 from 9:00am – 5:00pm each day.

Thank you to the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Melissa Hall, and John T. Edge for the inspiration and hard work that helped make this exhibition possible.

1006 Van Buren Avenue
Oxford, Mississippi

Thursday, October 18th: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Friday, October 19th – 20th: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday, October 20th – 20th: 9:00am – 6:00pm
Sunday, October 21st: 9:00am – 2:00pm


Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee, to view “Creation Story: Gee’s Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial.” I spent forever moving from one quilt to the next – leaning as closely in as I could without being reprimanded. No matter how many times you see those beautiful pieces, they never fail to amaze and inspire. The quilts, while spectacular, were meant for everyday use and were made with whatever materials were available. The personal stories associated with each quilt drove that point home. Each was described by the maker in simple terms and plain language, as if what they produced was no big deal, as though anyone could do it. I was particularly taken by the quilts of Missouri Pettway, both intricate and simple in their constructions. One quilt, made from her husband’s work clothes, demonstrated the love that went into each and every one of these works of art. I felt a lump rise in my throat as I read the description, as told by the quilter’s daughter, Arlonzia:

“It was when Daddy died. I was about seventeen, eighteen. He stayed sick about eight months and passed on. Mama say, ‘I going to take his work clothes, shape them into a quilt to remember him, and cover up under it for love.’ She take his old pants legs and shirttails, take all the clothes he had, just enough to make that quilt, and I helped her tore them up. Bottom of the pants is narrow, top is wide, and she had me to cutting the top part out and shape them up in even strips.” Continue reading


Last week, a group of friends in our community gathered together at one friend’s home to fill the living room with piles of their unwanted clothing that they then “shopped”. Part of the “Swap, Don’t Shop” movement, these women, friends and family, got together for their bi-annual clothing exchange party called ‘The Big Swap’. Interested in this growing alternative to shopping, we joined the party and brought along some of our lovingly worn Alabama Chanin garments to exchange.

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If you’ve spent any amount of time at The Factory you know a thing or two about biscuits. There’s at least a dozen different recipes in the Alabama Chanin library, and Natalie can make some of the most flakey mouthwatering creations you’ve ever tasted with no measuring cup in sight, all while wrangling a six year old.

My grandmother had similar powers, but they must skip two generations as I haven’t quite mastered the technique. However, what I lack in skill, I make up for in appreciation. So when the opportunity to attend the International Biscuit Festival and Southern Food Writing Conference presented itself, my heart nearly leapt out of my chest. Storytelling, biscuits, Blackberry Farm = “Yes, Please”.

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We will host our first One-Day Retreat of the fall season in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley on Sunday, September 16th. Our day will be spent in a restored nineteenth century factory and will feature local food from Barbara Goldstein of Blima’s.

We were able to talk to friend Melissa Auf der Maur from Basilica to find out a little more about the history of the space, future plans for the center, and where to spend the rest of our weekend in the Hudson Valley.

Below we share what learned – which includes lessons on historic preservation and roof gardens.


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After taking time to reflect on our recent week in New York for MAKESHIFT, I’m already thinking about MAKESHIFT 2013.

Here are some highlights from the conversation at The Standard Talks. We reported the MAKESHIFT events here on the blog throughout the week, and had great press coverage from the New York Times, Style.com, Page Six, and Jezebel. Here’s a recap of our memorable conversation.

From The Standard Talks panel discussion:

Andrew Wagner began with a grand introduction and also referenced Ettore Sottsass’s essay, ‘When I Was a Very Small Boy’.

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It’s a mouthful. But then, as people (and especially Southerners) do have an undying love for the complexity of words, stories, and the beauty of textiles.

Last Tuesday night at The Standard, East Village, we were riveted by Jessamyn Hatcher’s stories of processing unwanted clothing in a clinic format. Today in New York City, you have the rare and amazing opportunity to experience Human-Textile Wellness first-hand with a stellar team including Jessamyn, Professor, Global Liberal Studies, NYU, Hanna Astrom, Designer, Sarah Scaturro, Textile Conservator, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (and incoming conservator at the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art), Michelle Zahabian, artist and co-owner of JEM, and the fascinating Emily Spivack, Creator and Editor, Worn Stories (www.wornstories.com) and Sentimental Value (www.sentimental-value.com).

Run, don’t walk:

You are invited to attend a


Sunday, May 20, drop-in from 11am-3pm

@ JEM Fabric Warehouse

 355 Broadway, between Franklin and Leonard


The Human-Textile Wellness Center is a research lab run by Jessamyn Hatcher that documents people’s relationships to their clothing, and a place where you can come to repair, alter, and transform your garments, and share stories about textiles that are meaningful to you.

Meridith McNeal, “Palm Portraits” (used with kind permission of the artist)



Crafting Fashion, a pop-up shop curated by Alabama Chanin and Billy Reid, featured designers- Alabama Chanin, Susan Cianciolo, HEATH Ceramics, George Esquivel, Hugo & Marie, Imogene + Willie, Pamela Love, Leigh MagarMaria Moyer, Billy Reid, Albertus Quartus Swanepoel, Tucker, and Kenlynn Wilson. Thanks to everyone for the great turn out. And a bigger thank you to Billy Reid and his staff for their hospitality and Tift Merritt for the beautiful performance.

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We had the best intentions of posting lots of pictures and stories from our Makeshift event yesterday and the day just got away from us. There IS so much more to come and to write about, but for the meantime, here some great pictures of the making process at The Standard East Village on Tuesday night.  More to come soon… xoNatalie

Join us for our Crafted Fashion pop-up shop tonight at the Billy Reid store 6pm-until at 54 Bond Street in New York City, with a performance by Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Tift Merritt at 8pm.

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Our conversation for MAKESHIFT is about finding the point where the professional worlds of craft, fashion, design, and DIY intersect. It is our belief that the simple act of MAKING will be found at that point of intersection. However, it is also our understanding that this convergence has yet to be defined, because there are nearly as many interpretations of it as there are people in the world.

We believe that by MAKING together we will become more aware of how to use our understanding of this intersection as a tool to affect change in our local communities at the micro level, and the world community on a on a grander scale.

This may seem like an idealistic goal. It is idealistic, but there are growing numbers of writers, thinkers, designers, and creators who believe it is attainable.

“When I Was a Very Small Boy,” the Ettore Sottsass essay about the act of making , embraces the idea that when we are young, we don’t have preconceived notions about what or how to make, we just DO. And in DOING we learn. In the last paragraph, he says, “I’d like to find somewhere to try out things, together…” In keeping with the Sottsass essay, we believe that by taking ourselves out of our comfort zones and trying something new, we can evolve together. This evolution is attained by exploring, not thinking or judging.

As design and craft professions (of all mediums) have emerged, walls have grown between these practitioners and new ways of thinking.  By living and working within these walls, we close ourselves off from new experiences and more evolved ways of thinking and doing. MAKESHIFT is about reawakening to the wonders we find when we move beyond those walls and step out of our comfort zones. Our hope is that, by initiating this step and beginning this conversation, we will find a natural— and comfortable— meeting place that fosters unity. We further believe that by finding this meeting place, every maker, as well as the designs, products, and lives they touch, will be enriched.

Join us tonight @The Standard, East Village, at 7pm for the first of our MAKESHIFT events for New York Design Week.


I’m almost certain she’s the coolest person I’ve never met.

Several pieces of evidence have led me to this conclusion; the first is this article from the NY Times and the second was probably the conference call that spurred our upcoming Visiting Artist event. Natalie and I were hunched over the speaker phone in my office exchanging ideas about “loom rooms,” home-made bitters, and interactive art exhibits with a very agreeable Levine.

She ended the call saying she had to open her art gallery/skate shop a few blocks away.

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I have been taste testing tonight for our Holiday Market and cocktail party this Thursday evening. Come by The Factory to visit with great artists and musicians and, of course, to try my Alabama Royale:

Fill glass with Belstar Prosecco
Add two wedges of organic lemon
Drizzle with a teaspoon of Elderberry Syrup

Sip + enjoy (responsibly).

Thank you to Brian Herr with International Wines in Birmingham for the lovely Belstar Prosecco!


While I was away having fun at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium last weekend, my daughter Maggie was working hard at eating doughnuts and designing t-shirts for our new children’s line.

The top design features a glass of “sweet tea” on the t-shirt front – not iced tea as it “has to be sweet to be tea.” This is from a girl who thinks that doughnuts should be considered a vegetable.

Our children’s line launches next month in New Orleans at Angelique Baby on Magazine Street as a part of our New Orleans and Ogden Museum traveling show.

I can’t wait to get back to NOLA.  See all of our upcoming events here.




We left the Hotel Chelsea in New York City that morning on my 1970’s era Schwinn “Stardust” bike – white with the beautiful banana seat. Our plan was to head down to Pastis in the Meat Packing District to meet a dear friend for his birthday breakfast.  Another dear friend from Vienna was visiting, without her daughter for the first time in 6 years (and after surviving both breast cancer and her daughter’s Leukemia). This day was meant to be a celebration of life.  I was doubling her on my bike.  We were happy.  It was New York Fashion Week. We felt beautiful. We were living the dream.

We arrived at Pastis and had just received our coffee when the first plane struck the first tower.

By the time we rode my small bike back up to The Hotel Chelsea, the second tower had been hit.

It happened as we were riding my bicycle back up 8th Avenue.  I was navigating morning traffic and our backs were turned as the world changed. The first tower fell moments after we arrived back to the hotel and turned on the TV.  Our day of joy became a nightmare.

It was strange, but the morning went on – business as usual; we just didn’t know what else to do.  A bike messenger arrived to pick up samples for Vogue magazine. Should have been exciting right?  It just felt wrong. He collapsed into a chair at our table and sighed.  Friends of his, other bike messengers, had been delivering packages in the tower.  There was no word from them.  He stared at his cell phone. Silence.My girlfriend visited the towers the previous morning at 9:00 . You can see her photos above from the observation deck of the South Tower – looking down – on 9/10.  The photos below are taken from the Meat Packing District looking up on 9/11.  You can see the smoke rising just above the white truck on the left.  We all know the rest of the horror.

A decade has now passed and our country continues to struggle with the aftermath from that fateful day. I am still wondering what has changed for our country since September 11, 2001. I am still coming to terms with my feelings about that day and everything that has happened in its wake.

When Osama Bin Laden fell, I felt nothing. College students marred by 9/11 cheered his death, but I felt no healing.  Shouldn’t I be happy?  Why shouldn’t this act of vengeance make something better?  It hasn’t erased the images of human beings leaping to their deaths. It hasn’t stopped the civilians – many of them children – being killed in the name of something today and every day. I felt no healing. I only felt sadness.

So, what to do this weekend as we look back in memorial to a decade ago? I have only one answer: In a situation where I know that there is nothing I can do to make a difference, I know that I have to change myself.

From page 15 of An Open Heart by the Dalai Lama – edited by Nicholas Vreeland:

“In India there exists a caste system; members of the lowest caste are sometimes referred to as untouchables…. Economically, they are extremely poor. I often tell them, ‘You yourselves must make effort; you must take the initiative, with self-confidence, to bring about changes.  You cannot simply blame the members of higher castes for your situation.’”

What can I do to make a difference?

There is just so much in the world to change and do that it overwhelms me.  So, I choose to do what I can in a personal way. I have made my own “grassroots” 9/11 project.  I commit over the next month (perhaps the rest of my life) to this manifesto:

1) I will not complain.  (In this big beautiful life, I should have so little to complain about. And yet…) When I find myself in a situation where I have the urge to complain, I will, instead, react positively – however small my actions, I will do something to improve each situation.

2) I pledge to be a PeaceBuilder. My daughter’s kindergarten class (and entire school) says the PeaceBuilder’s Pledge each morning directly after the Pledge of Allegiance. This seems like a pretty good place to start as we begin to reflect on the last decade:

The PeaceBuilders Pledge:

I am a peace builder.

I pledge to praise people, to give up put downs, to seek wise people, to notice and speak up about hurts I have caused, to right wrongs and to help others.

I will build peace at home, at school, (my work place), and in my community each day.

Who’s with me?  If you are, print out the PeaceBuilder Pledge and post it in your place of business, community, kitchen, office, local bar, post office, coffee shop, hair salon, and place of worship.  Print it as a post card, send it out, and make it your social media status for the upcoming weekend.

For me, I commit a month – 4 short weeks – of practicing non-complaining and peace-building in my life as a way to honor and acknowledge the anniversary of 9/11 and other atrocities of war that are still taking place each and every day.

I am excited to discover where this will take me.

I will be a PeaceBuilder. Indeed.

(If you are interested in adding PeaceBuilder’s to your child’s school curriculum, you can contact them here.)


If you are in New York for Fashion Week, mark your calendar for the opening of YIELD on September 10th at the Textile Arts Center.

Thanks to Holly McQuillan and Timo Rissanen for including our work in this important installation.

And learn more about zero waste in Subtraction Cutting School, by Julian Roberts.



The Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum has announced their upcoming National Design Triennial series for spring 2010.

“Why Design Now?” will be on view from May 14 through January 9, 2011, and will explore the work of designers addressing human and environmental problems across many fields of design from architecture and product design to fashion, graphics, new media and landscape design. Organized by Cooper-Hewitt curators Ellen Lupton, Cara McCarty, Matilda McQuaid and Cynthia Smith, the Triennial will be global in reach for the first time, reflecting the connectedness of design practices and the need for international cooperation to solve the world’s problems.

We are incredibly humbled & proud to announce that Alabama Chanin will be featured alongside esteemed designers like Martin Margiela in a section entitled “Prosperity:”

Progressive designers and entrepreneurs are building engines of prosperity that enable local communities to use their own resources to create their own wealth, as well as to participate in the global economy. Projects on view include a number of items that address basic necessities, such as a pearl millet thresher and a low-smoke stove developed for use in India; examples of slow design such as hand-made, limited-edition clothing by Alabama Chanin; and works made in collaboration with international designers and local craftspeople like the Witches’ Kitchen Collection, Design with a Conscience Series, manufactured by Artecnica.

The exhibition opens on May 14th, 2010 and runs through January 11, 2011 and will include garments and fabrics from our Alabama Chanin collections.

Thanks to all of our supporters who have helped to make this possible.

Natalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin


Forgive me for taking a vacation just after the holidays; BUT, I am headed out today for my first vacation – on my own – in 10 years (snow permitting)… very excited & for good reason:

Taste of the South @ Blackberry Farms

Alabama Chanin donated one of our Textile Stories Quilts to the auction benefiting the Southern Foodways Alliance at Blackberry Farm this weekend.

The quilt – shown above – is called Aunt Mag’s Chicken Recipe – a story from my favorite great-aunt about her secret recipe for fried chicken that she served only for her quilting circles.

Our entire series of quilts was inspired by the Oral History program  – a series of inspiring recipes, stories and films that are made, collected and cataloged by the Southern Foodways Alliance.

SFA Oral History:  The Story Behind the Food

Thank you to John T. Edge, Angie Mosier, Mary Beth Lasseter, Amy Evans, Joe York and a million more who make the SFA Oral History possible.

If you are not already a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, join today – if for no other reason than to receive your printed copy of Gravy.

Back next week rested and with recipes and stories for the next decade – Natalie