Growing up in Louisiana, fishing on the bayou, Erik Niel’s upbringing strongly influenced his cooking of Southern-inspired French classics. His restaurant, Easy Bistro & Bar, located in what was formerly the world’s first Coca-Cola bottling plant, is one of the most well-regarded restaurants in Chattanooga’s burgeoning food scene. The restaurant has a nationally recognized wine and craft cocktail program, and is one of the only raw bars in Tennessee that features seafood from all three coasts. In 2014, Niel and his wife, Amanda, assumed operations of Main Street Meats, a neighborhood restaurant and butcher shop that works closely with Chattanooga’s surrounding farmland to explore the distinctive flavors of the region. They are both deeply committed to furthering Chattanooga’s food culture. In 2016 and 2017, Chef Erik Niel was named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast. He was also voted “2016 Chef of the Year” by the Tennessee Tourism & Hospitality Association.