Who has inspired Chris Hastings’ culinary career?
There are so many. François Lecoin who was a Frenchman I worked with at The Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta. I was the assistant sous chef and he was an old-school French guy. He was so strong in his technique and his passion for food, and really taught me a lot about leadership, great cooking and doing technically smart work. Franz Mitterer was the executive chef at the time. He’s an Austrian and he assembled a collection of chefs from all over the country and the world — Swedes, Germans, Austrians, Americans, and a lot of Europeans. I’d also include Frank Stitt here in Birmingham. He’s a legend. Frank is a great teacher and orator. He really can explain well and teach the things that he has in his mind about food. I also had the good fortune to work with Bradley Ogden in San Francisco when we opened up the Lark Creek Inn. That was a great experience. He really taught me the farm-to-table thing. We would shop at the market at Civic Center and Terra Linda several times a week. I learned to develop relationships with the farming community on a personal level and learned how valuable it is to know the farmer, the farmers’ wives and parents and children. That was a real light bulb moment for me. That’s probably the biggest influence on how we cook today. Though the European influence and Frank’s influence was huge, at the end of the day I’d probably align myself most with the California style of thinking where food comes right from the farm to the table — a healthy, clean kind of reinvention of Southern techniques and other techniques that I’ve come across.