Chefs Tyler Thomas of The American and Chef Blake Rushing of Union Public House in Pensacola teamed up to highlight Southern farmers with a special emphasis on the Wiregrass Region at the third stop of Eat Y’all’s CONNECT Dinner Series on May 22.

{ The Wiregrass }

Bainbridge, Georgia is the perfect kind of sleepy Southern town you picture when you think of small town life. A town square surrounded by a historic business district lies at the heart of this city that is the heart of southwest Georgia’s Wiregrass region. Behind one of the historic downtown storefronts, you will find one of the region’s best restaurants serving up a modern take on Southern classics. The American Restaurant, owned by Chef Tyler Thomas and his wife Heather Thomas has gained a reputation for consistent excellence, locally sourced menus and a welcoming atmosphere.

We were welcomed by Chef Thomas and his staff on May 22, 2018 for the third Eat Y’all CONNECT Dinner Series stop on our Spring 2108 tour. Chef Thomas graciously served as Host Chef for this event held inside The American. Chef Blake Rushing of Union House Pensacola served as Guest Chef. This amazing team created a one-of-a-kind menu using the best Southern grown ingredients, mostly sourced from the abundance of farmers in the area. The Wiregrass Region is famous for its history as an agricultural epicenter in the Deep South. There is great diversity in crops among the hundreds of family owned farms in the area. We were very honored to have more farmers in attendance at this dinner than any prior dinner Eat Y’all has hosted in our history, a truly landmark honor for us.

{ Chef Tyler Thomas }

Currently the owner and Executive Chef of The American Restaurant in Bainbridge, Georgia, Chef Tyler Thomas built his successful culinary career from the ground up. Chef Thomas worked his first day in a restaurant the day he turned sixteen. After graduating from the Dedman School of Hospitality at Florida State University, Thomas was recruited and trained by Chef Rick Schwager, and he went on to help Schwager open four restaurant concepts. While serving as General Manager with Schwager, Chef Thomas was recruited by Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Prime Steakhouse in Houston, Texas. Following a successful run in Houston, Thomas’ culinary career would lead him back to the Deep South, and a girl would lead him to Georgia. After marrying his wife Heather, the happy couple located to Bainbridge, Georgia where they opened The American Restaurant in 2017.

{ Chef Blake Rushing }

Chef Rushing is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy and began his career working in the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants in London and New York. After developing his skills as a chef working alongside culinary legends like Gordon Ramsay and Daniel Boulud, Rushing returned to his Gulf coast roots. His first restaurant venture in Pensacola, Florida was Elise, which earned a nomination from the James Beard Foundation for Best New Restaurant. Other Gulf coast ventures include Spot On Catering and Type. Rushing’s latest Pensacola offering is Union Public House, which serves fresh, local ingredients in a pub style setting.

{ The Menu }

Chefs Thomas and Rushing created a menu overflowing with local Georgia flavor as well as ingredients from across the South. The first course featured basmati rice grown by Two Brooks Farm in Sumner, MS. Wood fire grilled Gulf shrimp was served over the rice in a sauce of Southern Tomato Gravy.

Diners then enjoyed a second course consisting of Simmons Catfish dusted in a golden coat of Delta Grind Cornmeal (Water Valley, MS) and served alongside spinach with blue crab, peach, maitake and Calamint Farms carrots (Milford, GA) pureed with miso.

Cornmeal Catfish { spinach, blue crab, peach, maitake, carrot miso puree, popcorn craklin crunch }

The dinner progressed with the third course of Smoked Butt Bullontino in a sauce of molasses pork jus, alongside charred ribs from Thompson Farms (Dixie, GA) served with “corn dog fried” jalapeños and pickled local red onions.

The Main Course was the focal point of the meal, and it did not disappoint. The Chefs prepared hand crafted raviolis stuffed with braised Grady Ranch short rib (Whigham, GA) and Lil Moo fresh cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy (Thomasville, GA). The ravioli were served in a truffle mushroom cream made with Pecan Ridge Plantation Pecan Truffle Oil grown and pressed in Bainbridge, GA.

Braised Short Rib Ravioli { handmade pasta, truffle mushroom cream }

The sweet finish to this meal highlighted the abundance of delicious Wiregrass produce. Local strawberries and basil courtesy of Calamint Farms flavored a homemade ice cream that was served with handcrafted puff pastry. Thompson Farms contributed a savory balance to the sweetness of this dessert by way of candied country bacon garnish.

The Bainbridge CONNECT Dinner Menu brought together two amazing Southern chefs with the best Southern grown and made ingredients from the Wiregrass Region and beyond. Several farmers were guests of honor. Our mission is to help farmers like these create sustainable legacies by connecting them to valuable relationships with chefs and the greater culinary community. This dinner brought all of these parties to the table to connect, and many of the farmers in attendance had personally planted, tended and harvested the ingredients enjoyed by the crowd. We are grateful to the farmers who work every day to provide delicious and nourishing products for our tables and restaurants, and we are so grateful that so many were able to join us for this amazing celebration of local Georgia flavor.

{ The Farmers & Makers }

Calamint Farms, Milford, Georgia
Delta Grind, Water Valley, Mississippi
Grady Ranch, Whigham, Georgia
Pecan Ridge Plantation, Bainbridge Georgia
Simmons Farm-Raised Catfish, Yazoo City, Mississippi
Sweet Grass Dairy, Thomasville, Georgia
Thompson Farms, Dixie, Georgia
Two Brooks Farm Rice, Sumner, Mississippi

{ All for a Good Cause }

A portion of proceeds from the event benefited The Refinery, a non-profit charitable organization created in 2013 to sustain the home of Still Waters, a safe place for women and children in south Georgia. The Refinery produces very high-quality candles made from regional and recycled resources and employs former residents of Still Waters. The Refinery formulated an exclusive scented candle that was given to each of our CONNECT Dinner guests and proceeds from the event helped them purchase new technology tools and supplies to help the business grow to meet demand and to be able to employ more women.

{ Pull up a Chair at Our Table }

We invite you to connect with Southern chefs, farmers and culinary makers through our digital magazine, product directory, podcast and events, including the CONNECT Dinner Series. Due to the overwhelming success of our Spring 2018 tour, Eat Y’all will expand the series with our 2018 Fall Tour presented by The Dairy Alliance with stops in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky and Virginia. Click here for the latest event information including CONNECT Dinner dates and locations.