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in the kitchen with: kevin gillespie’s brunswick stew

by Kristina Gill

Grace and I are both from the South so we love it when there’s an opportunity to feature a traditional Southern recipe.  This week, Top Chef favorite Kevin Gillespie shares with us his recipe for Brunswick Stew.  Some of you may ask “Stew??  In the summer?”  but in Atlanta, Kevin’s home, its eaten as an accompaniment to barbecues, with white bread to soak it up.  In other places, like in Virginia at the Bonney household, Brunswick Stew was served in winter.  Personally, I think any season is the right time for good food, and as Matt Armendariz said (who photographed this recipe for us today), “It’s freakin’ delicious!!!!” –Kristina

About Kevin: Chef Kevin Gillespie’s true passion lies in serving his customers quality food every day.  This enthusiasm means incorporating the use of fresh, organic and sustainable ingredients in all of his dishes.   His goals as executive chef and partner of Woodfire Grill are to increase the usage of local products, make seasonal dishes more exciting, and create a youthful atmosphere at the restaurant. [Portrait of Kevin by Broderick Smylie, Photography by Matt Armendariz, Styling by Adam C. Pearson]

CLICK HERE for the full recipe and more about Kevin after the jump!

More about Kevin:

Gillespie, an Atlanta native, began his culinary education at the Art Institute of Atlanta.  After graduating with honors, Gillespie went on to hold different positions at several well-known Atlanta restaurants including chef de partie at Atlanta Grill at The Ritz-Carlton, sous chef at TWO Urban Licks and chef de cuisine at Woodfire Grill.  He enjoyed his time at each of these places but found a true connection at Woodfire, where he originally stayed for two years.

In the summer of 2008, Nicolas Quiñones and Bernard Moussa of Five Senses Restaurants, LLC purchased Woodfire Grill and made Gillespie the new executive chef.  They felt that in order to carry on Woodfire Grill’s reputation and mission, he was the most qualified for the position.  In early 2009, Gillespie joined Quiñones and Moussa as a partner in the restaurant.  Through his training, skill and passion, Gillespie maintains the values and ideas on which the restaurant is based.  In addition to achieving this partnership at the restaurant, Gillespie also earned a spot on Bravo’s Emmy and James Beard Award-winning series “Top Chef” for the show’s sixth season in Las Vegas in 2009.  Proving to be a top contender by winning several “Quickfire Challenges” and “Elimination Challenges,” he stood out as one of this season’s final three chef-testants who competed for the “Top Chef” title in Napa Valley.  Gillespie was also voted “fan favorite” by the viewers of “Top Chef.”

As a rising young culinary star that brings more than just good food to the table, Gillespie was named one of Mother Nature Network’s top “40 Chefs Under 40” in November 2009 for linking farms to forks and promoting better health for people and the planet.  In February of 2010, he was honored as one of Gayot.com’s “Top Five Rising Chefs” and named as a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef of the Year” award.  A few months later, in June, Gillespie was invited to prepare a meal at the James Beard House in New York City and was also featured on “Cooking with Emeril” on SIRIUS Satellite Radio.

Gillespie currently resides in the Ormewood Park neighborhood of Atlanta.  He is a member of Slow Food Atlanta, Southern Food Ways Alliance, Chefs Collaborative and the Society for the Preservation of traditional Southern Barbecue.  In his spare time he enjoys camping, playing music and barbecuing.

Brunswick Stew

(Recipe as written is for 30 servings; The numbers to serve 8 are in parenthesis)

1lb smoked chicken thighs (1/4 pound)
3lb fresh pork shank (3/4 pound)
1lb grassfed beef cheeks (1/4 pound)
2qt canned peeled tomatoes (2 cups)
1qt fresh shucked white corn (1 cup)
2qt pork stock (2 cups)
1c apple cider vinegar (1/4 cup)
1c homemade vinegar based barbecue sauce (1/4 cup)
1c Louisiana pure pepper hot sauce (1/4 cup)
2Tbl fresh ground black pepper (1.5 teaspoons)

Combine all meat into a very heavy bottomed dutch oven with stock. Bring to a boil and skim to remove any particles that reach the surface. Cover and reduce heat to medium low. Continue to simmer covered until meat has completely fallen apart and is easily shredded. Remove from heat and allow to sit at room temperature  for 10 minutes. Skim any particles on surface. Strain meat from stock and reserve both separate. Hand chop all meat very fine and reserve. Strain stock through a triple layer of cheese cloth and combine back with meat.  Chill this mixture overnight.

The next day put the mixture back into the same pot and reheat to a boil. Add tomatoes, crushing them in your hand while you add them to the pot.  Add vinegar, barbecue sauce, hot sauce, and black pepper. Season with a small amount of sauce and let this mixture simmer for 40 minutes. Add corn and allow it to simmer for a further 20 minutes.   Reseason with salt and any additional vinegar or hot sauce to taste.

Why Kevin Chose this recipe

I chose the recipe because it is a basic, but good example of the style of Brunswick stew that we ate growing up.  This could be eaten with either cornbread, or white bread. I like it with saltines as well. It is hearty enough to have as a meal, but is a natural accompaniment to chopped pork and coleslaw.

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  • How awesome to feature Kevin! I’m from Atlanta and have had the pleasure of working with Kevin at Woodfire many moons ago – he’s clearly very talented, but more than that, just an all-around good guy!

  • I surprised my hubs with a trip to Atlanta (we live in Nashville) to go to the Woodfire Grill. We had the tasting menu and it was probably the best meal I’ve ever had. The man is a genius. AND, they sent us an autographed copy of the tasting menu a few weeks later. Very cool.

  • Having a very NC/VA family, stew was a staple, winter or summer. I have fond memories of helping make a huge cauldron of the stuff at family reunions. Only sans cornbread. We went for hush puppies and hoe cakes on the side. Awesome variation on a recipe with almost endless combinations. And Kevin was awesome too. Love the pig tattoo.

  • I heart Kevin! He was my fav on Top Chef and it is so fun to see one of his recipes on D*S. It looks super tasty, I’ll be trying it for sure.

  • If you live in Atlanta, Kevin Gillespie has teamed up with Morelli’s ice cream (Ormewood area), and they have introduced some pretty epic flavor combinations.

  • Is there a recipe for the homemade vineger based bbq sauce? Or is there a premade product we could substitute?
    I loved Kevin on Top Chef and can’t wait to try this recipe.

  • Kevin was my all time fav on Top Chef. It’s great to see all these talented young Chef’s featured on D*S. This stew looks tasty, cornbread and husbpuppies..oh my!

  • When I saw this post I thought, “oooh, I love Brunswick Stew.” Then I saw Kevin and I thought, “awww, I love that guy.” Needless to say, I am super excited about the combination!

  • oh my goodness, i can’t stop my mouth from watering! rob & i have a mild obsession with all things kevin gillepse and have been planning a trip to atlanta just to eat at his resto. and now this luscious recipe! i’m in pig heaven.

    thanks for sharing, d*s team!
    sylvie of silver lining

  • Being from Brunswick, GA, where this amazing dish was born, I am super excited about this. Go Kevin!

    Make sure you serve it with some sweeeeet tea, y’all!

  • @peachy lefevre : My family would disown me if I didn’t contest that Brunswick County, VA invented the stew. :)

    Even though the origins are debatable, it still doesn’t take anything away from this awesome dish.

  • @melissa I think he is single now! At least, he’s no longer married…

    Anyway, he is the nicest dude ever. I would love to just hang out with him and talk about tattoos and delicious beer while having pork belly.. yumm

  • where do you get smoked chicken thighs, and pork stock, or how do you concoct them? I looked up beef cheeks and now know I’m going to my butcher for help with that one, but the other two are a little surprising–I’m a northerner maybe that’s my problem…

  • i’m embarassed to admit that i live in atlanta and have never tried woodfire. sad. but i have only heard the best things about kevin! and brunswick stew is a must.

  • Where is the squirrel? My wife is from the south and she was disappointed that you did not mention the historical roots of this stew.

  • Kevin Gillespie’s is my favorite Top Chef contestant. I’m so excited to make this stew!! My husband and I were trying to make it to new years eve at Woodfire Grill. But ended up not being able to. Next time I pass through Atlanta its a must to stop in.

  • @Derek: hahah…YES! I have heard that Virginians also claim the dish. I will say that I have a picture of me in the “original pot in which the first batch was prepared”
    who knows really…the important thing is that it’s deee-licious and everyone should try this recipe STAT.

  • mmmmm! one of the things i miss most about living in richmond, va…the brunswick stew festival!

    i’ll have to try this and bring back some great grad school memories :)

  • Oh man! I met him at jct kitchen in atlanta ( which you have to try grace…after woodfire grill of course) I was so star struck when i saw him and he was as nice as could be! of course! I am an atlanta girl so brunswick stew is close to my heart!

  • to Stephanie, were you the young woman who stopped by our table to get a picture when we were there for my birthday? I can attest that he is a very cool guy, very laid back in some ways, intense in others and one thing he is truly intense about is his BBQ & Stew. The sauce he uses is his own, not yet available in stores, but it is a very tart sauce, so when substituting make sure you pick a tart version. Enjoy the stew :)

  • I lived in Atlanta from 1960 to 1963, and there was a drive-in that served Brunswick Stew (can’t remember the name), and we went there all the time and had B Stew..I’ve looked for the recipe for years, and here it is. Thanks

  • This is quite delayed, but for anyone without a smoker, it isn’t too hard to convert a cheap little grill (we have a$20ish dollar kettle grill) into a smoker. There are ideas and plans all over the internet for making a homemade smoker, but this one was easy, clean, and inexpensive.

    Good luck! And ditto to everything anyone has said about Kevin. My boyfriend and I went on our 2 year anniversary, and even had personalized menus with our names printed on the menu and were completely pescetarian. I’ve never felt more special out dining.


  • My cousin brings this stew to us in Westerville, Ohio, two or three times a year. We are having some today with some french bread and homemade butter. We love this stew!

  • For anyone having trouble finding smoked chicken, I just discovered they have it at the local Whole Foods on the barbecue bar. My father is addicted to it.