James Beard Award Winner and Top Chef judge, Hugh Acheson, teamed up with Captain Morgan this holiday season to launch the Captain’s Table, which inspires people to entertain adventurously and submit their Captain-themed recipes and tips using the hashtag #CaptainsTable. Every time the hashtag is used across Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram (through the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, 2014), the brand will donate $1 to its charity partner, WhyHunger. We sat down with Hugh to talk recipes, reality food shows, and the cuisine trends that really need go away—see what he had to say below.
OK!: Tell me all about what you made tonight:
Hugh Acheson: We brought a bunch of charcuterie from the restaurant in Atlanta and we made a brined pork tenderloin, with a lacquer of a rum sauce on top. Underneath are apples and sweet potatoes and crisp brussel sprouts on the side. Then, we made two different cocktails; one is a cranberry-based cocktail, and one one has brown sugar simple syrup, with star anise in it.
OK!: Are you a big Thanksgiving person yourself? Or is it one of the holidays that you have to pump yourself up to think about recipes for?
HA: I think the only holiday I’ve never really been into is New Year’s Eve, because I’ve worked every one. But no, I’m really into the idea of celebrating Thanksgiving. It’s good to get the family around the table and invite the neighbors over, and make a rum punch, or something like that. Rum has got a really deep affinity in my family because we are from the Caribbean.
OK!: Can’t go wrong with rum during the holidays. Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving dish?
HA: The traditional roast turkey is great, but awesome leak stuffing, and things like that are really good. I make a leak bread pudding, but then there’s roasted baby turnips, and turnip greens, and sweet potatoes and yams—all that sort of stuff.
OK!: What would you say to somebody who always makes the same dishes every year?
HA: I think you have to just go out there and take a risk. Go to the farmers market and buy some fresh green beans and go buy a copy of The Joy of Cooking, and try something from scratch.
OK!: What about fun ideas for plating and seating?
HA: Sometimes I just spread out old maps on the table, as the “table cloth.” Then, the kids have something to look at and you can put crayons out there for them to draw with. You also want to have a good selection of fun beverages for people to enjoy, responsibly. And make sure people are talking about the right things; getting family together sometimes can be a mischievous event, people want to battle away, but at the end of the day you’re with family and trying to celebrate this stuff.
OK!: Having been on Top Chef, what are some of your other favorite shows about food?
HA: I like Anthony Bourdain’s show and I love Iron Chef. It’s fun to watch because I know a lot of people who are competing on it and I think Chopped is really well done.
OK!: Dream celeb to cook for?
HA: I have cooked for a lot of pretty amazing celebrities—from Madonna and Peter Gabriel, to U2. So to me, being in a kitchen is making sure that everything that goes out of there is worthy of everybody, and equalizing the playing field. But I still get giddy when celebrities come in.
OK!: Which food trends are you into and which are you over?
HA: I’m really into the use of vegetables, not vegetarian, but vegetable-centric. Then you know, this challenge of the best pizzas and the best burgers is kind of getting old. I still love a good burger and a good pizza, but not everyone should try to open up a burger restaurant.
Have you been to any of Hugh’s three restaurants in Georgia? What are you making this holiday season? Comment below or tweet us @OKMagazine.