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Ten Questions with Chef Rusty

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Inline Text_Chef Rusty
Photo courtesy of Chef Rusty Hamlin

Chef Rusty Hamlin is on the road a lot. As the chef for the Zac Brown Band on tour, he shops locally at each stop, then goes back to create something delicious out of his 54-foot mobile kitchen. We recently caught up with him, and we couldn’t help but pick his jambalaya-cooking and gumbo-loving brain a bit. The man from Baton Rouge was happy to oblige.

  1. What is your approach to cooking?
    I use a lot of traditional recipes and draw a lot of inspiration from Louisiana cuisine. Everyone in Louisiana works hard to make everything great, especially food. We take pride in using fresh and local ingredients and turning them into something great.
  2. Tell us about Cookie.
    Cookie is a 54-foot mobile kitchen stocked with professional-grade appliances, which include smokers, grills, etc. Cookie feeds about 200 lucky fans each concert.
  3. That’s at the band’s Eat and Greet. How does that work?
    When Zac Brown Band goes to a town to perform, I go out and meet as many local farmers and purveyors as possible. I go to farmers markets and buy whatever is local and fresh. These are the ingredients I use to feed the 200 local fans.
  4. What was your ah-ha cooking moment?
    Sitting next to my mom when I was 4 years old and she was making jambalaya. She would give me a tablespoon of the ingredient, and if I guessed the ingredient correctly, she would give me a nickel.  My second ah-ha moment is when I moved from Baton Rouge to Atlanta to get involved in the restaurant business.
  5. How long have you been with Zac Brown Band?
    5 years
  6. What is the one cooking tool you cannot live without?
    Tongs
  7. What is the one thing that is always in your fridge?
    Duke’s mayonnaise
  8. What is your perfect fall/winter meal?
    I love soup. My favorites to cook are pumpkin, butternut squash, chicken rice, vegetable — the heartier the soup, the better.
  9. What is your favorite southern meal?
    Anything Lowcountry boiled. I love shellfish — crab, lobster, oysters, clams, etc.
  10. What is Zac Brown’s favorite dish?
    Bacon. He loves bacon. His favorite is for me to cook a rack of ribs, remove the bones, roll it up with a latticework of bacon, tie it with string, smoke it then slice it.