Kevin Gillespie combines his passions in “Sabertooth”.
Chef Kevin Gillespie grew up hunting and fishing with his father and learning to cook from his grandmother. An aspiring nuclear engineer, he never expected to lead the kitchen at some of the country’s most established restaurants, much less earn nationwide fame as a celebrity chef.
But every life takes its own set of twists and turns. Today, the “Top Chef” alum and James Beard Award finalist owns multiple restaurants in Atlanta, including Gunshow and Revival. But a cancer diagnosis and resulting renewed focus on health have him returning to his roots both in hunting and in television.
Recently, Gillespie produced and starred in “Sabertooth,” a spinoff of the popular “MeatEater” Netflix hunting series he’s also involved in. The new show features Gillespie hunting, fishing and/or foraging, then preparing a sophisticated meal from his findings for friends and family. The first episode aired Aug. 5 on YouTube, and at least two others will follow.
“It allows viewers to see where the ingredients come from and showcases just how far wild ingredients can be taken. It is one of many avenues to foster sustainability in the future,” Gillespie says. “I would encourage people to check this show out whether they like hunting or not. If we do it right, it might make people question what they think of as hunting.”
Each episode takes place in a different area of the country, including Texas, Arkansas and Georgia. In one, Gillespie fishes bass, forages plants from around Atlanta and pursues deer, ducks, quail, hogs and doves. He turns the fruits of his labor into an immersive tasting experience, either in a restaurant kitchen or outside wilderness-style.
“The goal is to showcase elevated food. It’s meant to be aspirational,” he says. “My family didn’t have any money. We relied on hunting and fishing to put food on the table.”
Founding chef of Red Beard Restaurants, Gillespie is still heavily involved in the businesses he started, but his focus has turned to coaching and mentoring. Due to his diagnosis and resulting surgeries, he says he doesn’t have the physical stamina for the long hours in the kitchen anymore.
“It makes me sad that this thing I love, that I’ve made my career doing, isn’t something I can do,” he says. “I miss cooking for people who’ve never tasted my food before. This is a creative way to do that while still [spreading awareness of] my restaurants.”
Gillespie says he has additional projects in the works, including “a significant future to [my] involvement at ‘MeatEater,’” but is not at liberty to share details yet. He’s also planning to reopen Ole Reliable, his order-at-the counter, breakfast and lunch spot in the Georgia-Pacific Center downtown. It has been temporarily closed due to lack of office workers during the pandemic.
For now, fans can find Gillespie making surprise appearances at his restaurants and catch him in action on “Sabertooth.”
Foodie Tastemaker Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Contributing Editor at Atlanta Magazine. Restaurant Aficionado and Mother of Two.