Punk Rock Food
Meet the renaissance man of Birmingham, Alabama’s food community. Roscoe Hall II calls himself the “Punk Rock Voice of Food.” A chef and an artist, he does a little bit of everything—from his position as operations manager for three projects at the Pizitz Food Hall to his work supporting local nonprofit Jones Valley Teaching Farm. He’s also the proprietor of Punk as Food, a tongue-in-cheek food styling blog. We caught up with him to get his take on Birmingham’s food scene and where the city is headed.
How did you get involved with food?
I was raised in Chicago, but my family is from the South—my grandfather opened Dreamland Barbecue in Tuscaloosa in 1953. I moved to Birmingham when I was 17 and finished high school. I worked at Bottega, where Frank Stitt taught me how to cook, and I worked a little at Fonfon and Hot and Hot. I was young then, and didn’t even realize how much I was learning.
You’re a strong proponent of Jones Valley Teaching Farm. Tell us about that.
It’s one of the best things about the city. It’s the main attraction for people like me who care about the next wave of food in the city. I’ve been a resident chef with them for Twilight Supper, a dinner series that fundraises for urban community gardens.
Tell us about the urban community gardens.
They teach kids to garden and supply produce to cafeterias. And they also sell the produce at a student farmers market. You have these kids on Saturdays pushing kale and yams, and it’s amazing. It’s changing a lot of these kids’ lifestyles.
Where do you like to eat in town?
I love Chez Fonfon and Bottega, and anything Hastings. El Barrio makes some of the best stews and quesadillas. And I love barbecue—Saw’s is great. But I’m a cook, so I also love the kind of places that have wings and I can hide out and not see people.
What’s next for Birmingham?
I see it becoming a chef-driven city. People are opening their own places, like that second wave of the French Laundry. We have the infrastructure in terms of urban farming, and so many abandoned buildings downtown. All it takes is a few of us to tackle it.