A taste of Starkville’s culinary scene was on display this month at the annual Atlanta Food and Wine Festival on June 2-5, and the best description was “smokin’“! Chef Ty Thames, owner and executive chef of some of Starkville’s most celebrated restaurants, joined the Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau for two events showcasing the tastes of the New South being created by Starkville restaurateurs. Chef Ty was among a select number of regional chefs selected to participate in the fifth annual Rathbun’s Watch List party merging up-and-coming culinary and interior design talent. In addition, Visit Mississippi invited Starkville to participate in Mississippi’s “Southern Road Trip” tent, part of the much-visited Tasting Tents event in Piedmont Park on the last day of the festival.
Starkville earned its “smokin'” moniker on Saturday, June 4 during the exclusive Rathbun’s Watch List Party. Ty Thames was one of eleven chefs and mixologists from across the South, and the only chef from Mississippi, to be featured at this popular high-end event. The Rathbun’s Watch List Party is an annual part of AFWF, begun by Atlanta culinary icon, Chef Kevin Rathbun. The event, held at the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center, features a unique combination of culinary and decorative arts, as chefs are matched with talented interior designers who build out serving spaces to correspond with the cuisine showcased.
For the Rathbun event, Chef Ty served up a molasses braised pork cheek over bone marrow rice grits, with herb cream, curry fried golden raisins, apple dust, and finished on site with hickory smoke which was delivered via Ty’s “smoking gun,” a popular curiosity throughout the entire weekend. Starkville’s featured ADAC space was designed by Anna Braund, an award-winning Atlanta-based designer (pictured below), who took inspiration for her smoky gray design scheme from Ty’s hickory-smoked technique.
On Sunday afternoon, Starkville was invited by Visit Mississippi to participate in its sponsored “Southern Road Trip” Tasting Tent. The Tasting Tents are a hugely popular component of AFWF, as culinary enthusiasts from around the country sample the tastes of the South. The Starkville booth not only saw visitors from the Southeast, but from as far as Hawaii and Maine as well!
Starkville’s exhibit space was styled by Thyme in Starkville, and featured a rustic-inspired theme using wood and copper elements, terra cotta pots of rosemary, thyme and tomato plants, and featuring a hand-painted oversized cutting board. Visitors enjoyed a sampling of Chef Ty’s pork dish with hickory smoking on-site. Deep South and Company, a wholesale and design division of Starkville’s Deep South Pout, provided custom “Starkville is Smokin'” tee shirts to our booth team to reinforce the theme.
The Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau extends a special thank you to Visit Mississippi for their sponsorship of the Southern Road Trip tent, and for including Starkville in its showcase. In addition, we were pleased to meet Dominique Love, the founder of Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, and share our dish with her as well as the memorable experiences of this outstanding event.
In their wrap-up critique of the Mississippi culinary delegation, the AFWF team wrote that “Starkville is quickly advancing as one of Mississippi’s culinary hot spots,” with Chef Ty Thames’ Restaurant Tyler “at the forefront.” We have to agree!