By James Oxendine

Star Chef Todd Richards, whose culinary fingerprints are all over Atlanta’s burgeoning dining scene, has had a dynamic 24 year long, career arch that has carried the Chicago naive from haute cuisine to hot chicken. The talented toque, musician -and soon to be author- has been a major player in the growth of Atlanta’s culinary canon beginning with his tenure at the Atlanta Four Seasons Hotel; a stint as Executive Sous Chef at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead; the Concept Developer for One Flew South, the nation’s top rated airport restaurant, and now with his latest, Richard’s Southern Fried, a fried chicken stand at the uber popular Krog Street Market. Over the last few years Richards has established himself as an expert in the fried chicken field by winning multiple competitions and stressing the importance of Southern food and its ability to bring people together.

Currently the Executive Chef at downtown Southern cuisine hotspot, White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails, the James Beard semifinalist ’ passion, creativity and commitment to Southern cuisine and community has earned him a spot on the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival’s Advisory Council as one of the South’s premier chefs. Richards recently gave me the hard hat tour of the soon to be open Richard’s Southern Fried and talked about the motivation behind the restaurant and its location; why he chose Atlanta as his home and what he wants visitors to the 2016 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival to take away from the event.

JO: With your background-and success- in fine dining, what made you decide to open a small fried chicken stall inside a neighborhood market?

TR: I wanted to create a space that allows people to sit down together and have a conversation around delicious food. Fried chicken is a Southern cultural icon that has brought joy to people for generations. I wanted to share my recipe which will fuse local ingredients with farm-raised chicken with the people of Atlanta. Richard’s Southern Fried offers me an opportunity to introduce my passion for Southern cuisine and culture in a new format that can reach an even wider audience.

JO: With your track record here in Atlanta, you could have opened Richard’s Southern Fried in any number of locations around town why did you choose Krog Street Market?

TR: It was important to me to have a restaurant in the neighborhood where I live. I feel that I am investing in my community. Krog Street Market is the perfect backdrop for Richards’ Southern Fried; it has unique culinary flair and prime location, important things you look for when opening a new restaurant.

JO: You have been in Atlanta since 1992, what brought you here and why have you stayed?

TR: I originally came looking for information about colleges in the area and my visit coincided with the National Black College Weekend event, that later became known as “Freaknik”. I was impressed with the information that was being shared in the various workshops such as career development. I stayed in Atlanta because of the tremendous opportunities for African Americans and the entrepreneurial energy that was so different from where I grew up. My culinary career was born when I had the privilege of training under Chef Darryl E. Evans at the Four Seasons for seven years, mastering his techniques and skills.

JO: What do you want the visitors to the 2016 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival to take away from this year’s event?

TR: I want them to get an understanding of how sophisticated food and agriculture is in the South. I want them to see how I rely on the local produce and product for menu development as well as the development of my community.