Chef Holly Chute’s career journey is truly a farm-to-fork story. A Yankee from New York, Chef is the State of Georgia’s most prominent champion of all things Georgia food from farms and ranches to food makers, restaurants, and chefs.
I first met this talented chef a few years ago at a local Atlanta farmers market where she was promoting Georgia foodpreneurs. As you might imagine, anyone whose job it is to help small business food makers has my heart.
Our paths crossed again when I was honored to join the prestigious Les Dames d’Escoffier. Chef Holly is a past president of the Atlanta Chapter and remains actively involved supporting women in the culinary arts and hospitality industries. As I got to know her better I knew I had to share her story with you.
Chef Holly tells us about her life as the chef for Georgia Governors, what is was like to cook at the famous James Beard Foundation kitchen, her thoughts on the ‘new restaurant’ experience and so much more. Please meet my friend Holly Chute, Senior Georgia Grown Executive Chef. Georgia Grown is a program under the Georgia Departments of Agriculture and Economic Development.
Chef Holly Chute On Chef Holly Chute
I am organized in the kitchen, very much a list maker. I want anyone to step in and see what is done and what needs to be done. I am not as meticulous as I would like to be. I like to keep the atmosphere fun but professional.
Diva Foodies: How are you able to bring it all together? Your career has presented a unique opportunity to work with chefs, farmers, food makers, and restaurateurs. For good measure let’s add a few politicians to the mix. How have you managed to ensure that each point of view gets a seat at the table?
Chef Holly Chute: I definitely had a unique career. Working at the Governor’s Mansion, I developed a personal relationship with the Governor and their family. I had unique access as I served breakfast to the Governor, a lot of times just him and me in the kitchen. This gave me the opportunity to learn the reasons behind decisions and to express my point of view.
I was the face of the food of Georgia. I fed guests from all over the world the food from our farmers and producers. I tried to showcase the bounty of our state breaking down the perception of fried Southern food while adhering to dietary restrictions and religious beliefs.
Diva Foodies: Especially in your role of Senior Executive Chef for Georgia Grown, you work with people who have multiple interests and points of view from farmers, food makers and even politicians. What is the common denominator that you use that brings them to a ‘common good goal?’
Chef Holly Chute: Despite personal beliefs or opinions, we all have a common goal of promoting the #1 industry in Georgia — Agriculture.
We have an incredible bounty of quality products statewide. From small farms to industrial farms to value added producers, Georgia has the advantage of climate, variety of soils ecosystems throughout the state. Georgia Grown helps bring this together for large and small businesses alike. We have the ability to promote products statewide, nationally and internationally to help all levels of business. We provide resources to learn about and access grants to grow their businesses.
It is exciting to see our value added “foodpreneurs” go from renting shared kitchen space to building their own facilities. We are fortunate to have a “family” of Georgia Grown members that as they grow, they help those behind them with advice and encouragement.
Diva Foodies: Although you are one of Georgia’s biggest advocates for the state’s farm-to-fork and agriculture industries your story begins in New York. When it comes to the culinary world what are common experiences that transcend geography?
Chef Holly Chute: It is important to use the best ingredients that your budget allows. I find it important to develop relationships and trust with farmers, purveyors and your staff.
Diva Foodies: For many chefs to cook at the James Beard House is a pinnacle of their careers. You’ve brought Georgia chefs to this prestigious event for (to date!) five times. Georgia Grown hospitality is one of the most anticipated experiences. Please give us some of the back-story. How did the first invitation occur? What is the most challenging aspect of cooking in a NYC brownstone?
Chef Holly Chute: The founder of the Savannah Food & Wine Festival secured a dinner at The James Beard House. She approached me about Georgia Grown hosting this dinner. After preparing and serving the meal with the Georgia Grown chefs, The James Beard Foundation gave us an annual invitation to return each year with that year’s class of Georgia Grown chefs
The most challenging part is cooking with 5 other chefs that you have never cooked with in a very small kitchen.
Diva Foodies: Through the last year many of your culinary and agriculture friends and colleagues were hit pretty hard. We are very much looking forward to restaurants reopening at full capacity. What do you see as some of the lessons learned you feel will impact businesses going into the future?
Chef Holly Chute: I don’t think we will return to the way we dined in the past.
As a society we have become more reclusive with everything available at our fingertips. I think there will always be the need for socialization but people have become accustomed to ordering food for delivery and not having to leave home.
With the addition of cocktails and wine to go, people don’t have to worry about drinking and driving.
Diva Foodies: Now that we have a little more perspective about life during Covid, for you what was the good, bad, and ugly?
Chef Holly Chute: For me, having the time to walk and take better care of myself. I have more time in the day to plan and cook good food. I am a people person, so I definitely missed personal interaction. As I believe with most people, wearing a mask is a definite inconvenience.
Diva Foodies: As is Diva Foodies tradition, please wrap this any way you’d like.
Chef Holly Chute: I am definitely honored and have been blessed to have been offered the job at the Governor’s Mansion one year out of culinary school. But as a result of this, I missed out on the opportunity to work under and be mentored by other chefs. Then, when I was ready to leave, they created a position at the Georgia Department of Agriculture where I have my dream job working with farmers and producers representing Georgia Grown.