We are thrilled to feature Chef Peter Dale of Athens fame on our menu this week! Chef Dale is the Chef & Owner of The National, Seabear, Condor Chocolates, and Maepole—some of Athens' most beloved dining spots. His Mediterranean-inspired Beef Kofta with sweet potato, chickpeas, yogurt & pomegranate molasses meal kit will be available to order through October 22nd.
Chef Dale graduated from UGA in 1999 with a degree in Public Relations, and shortly thereafter decided to pursue cooking. He initially planned to attend culinary school, but began an apprenticeship at Five & Ten and then an internship at La Broche in Madrid, Spain, and between the two experiences and his deep interest in food, culinary school no longer was necessary. In 2007 he opened The National in downtown Athens with Chef Hugh Acheson, and the rest is history. Chef Dale answered some questions for us below, so keep reading to learn more!
Why did you become a chef? Did you always want to be a chef?
I have always loved eating, but becoming a chef came later. After a few years working at a desk, I realized I need to be moving around and doing something with my hands. My family always entertained a lot and it didn't take long to make the connection between my love of hospitality and how I want to work.
How would you describe your culinary style?
Someone once wrote that my food is lush, and I take that as high praise. I want a dish to have lots of textures, flavors, colors, and the result to be greater than the sum of its parts. My passion is the Mediterranean but looking at it through a Southern lense.
What does supporting the local food community mean to you?
While many of us have the privilege to eat whatever we want, I think it's so important to make sure everyone has access to fresh, healthy food. Connecting all of our neighbors to the bounty of local farms is not only good for our health, but also our economy. Everybody wins.
What’s your number one piece of advice for home cooks?
Canned beans and legumes are cheap, healthy and delicious. For example: 1 can white beans + 1 chopped tomato + 1 tablespoon capers + splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar + salt and pepper to taste = delicious side dish.
How has The National (as well as your other restaurants) adapted to the new foodservice landscape that we’re all experiencing as a result of Covid-19?
One of my top considerations these days is how the food is going to hold-up after travel, and how it will taste even if it's not piping hot. At The National, that means some of our favorite fish aren't good options. We've also worked hard to source compostable and recyclable containers for all the to-go food we're buying.
Can you tell us about the International Wednesday takeout menu that The National is currently offering each week?
I am blessed to have a diverse kitchen team who have lots of culinary interests beyond what we typically serve on the menu. Each week they create a menu highlighting a different culture's cuisine. We intentionally make the price point more accessible so that busy families can rely on The National for weeknight meals, not just weekends and special occasions. (G&G note: Learn more about The National's current to-go services here.)
Lastly, but so very importantly… if you were a fruit or vegetable, what you be and why?
Definitely a pomegranate, my favorite fruit! The seeds have a beautiful color, they pop in your mouth, and add drama to dishes both savory and sweet.