Chef Scott Peacock will talk about his career, his fascination with biscuits, and the role food plays in shaping our memories and cultural traditions for a special event Tuesday, Oct. 20.
The Arts Circle Live event is presented by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts. It is available to Arts Circle members or those subscribing to the Virtual Arts Pass, from $29 a month, which grants exclusive access to artists and events presented by AEIVA, UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center and ArtPlay. For more information, email Savannah DeRieux at email@example.com.
John Fields, who is the Lydia Cheney and Jim Sokol Endowed Director of AEIVA, will sit down with Peacock via Zoom for the 6 p.m. virtual event. They will be joined by artist Celestia Morgan, a UAB College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Art and Art History alumna whose photograph “Flour, Milk, Salt” uses her grandmother’s biscuit recipe as an anchor to her own familial identity and connection.
Widely recognized as a culinary treasure of the American South, Peacock is one of the nation’s most respected and influential chefs. He has been at the forefront of the local food movement since the early 1990s, when he and his longtime friend and collaborator, the culinary legend Edna Lewis, co-founded the Society for the Revival and Preservation of Southern Food. They organized symposiums that drew the participation of highly respected writers and food professionals from all over, laying the groundwork for what is now the nationally revered Southern Foodways Alliance, according to his bio.
Born and raised in rural Alabama, Peacock was chosen in 1987, at the age of 24, to man the kitchen of the Georgia Governor’s Mansion. In 1995, he became the opening chef of Atlanta’s Horseradish Grill, where he built a reputation for restoring purity and refinement to Southern cooking. In 1998, he joined Watershed restaurant in Decatur as executive chef, where both he and the restaurant received numerous honors. The James Beard Foundation named him Best Chef in the Southeast in 2007, and a semifinalist for Outstanding Chef in America in 2009. That same year, Saveur magazine cited Watershed as one of “Twelve Restaurants That Matter.” Food & Wine Magazine, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary, proclaimed his fried chicken and biscuits among the 40 best recipes ever.
Peacock left the restaurant business in 2010 to focus on writing and to document the traditional foodways of Alabama, as told through oral histories of its longest living residents. That year, he moved to the rural town of Marion in the heart of the Alabama Black Belt, where he grows antique heritage grains, including the extremely rare original biscuit wheat varieties, Purple Straw and White Lammas, as well as several strains of historic indigo.
In 2017, Southern Living Magazine named him one of their Southerners of the Year. In 2018, he became president of the nonprofit Alabama Black Belt Foundation. Most recently, he oversaw renovation of the kitchens at Reverie, an 1858 Greek Revival mansion in Marion. He uses the kitchens as a base for group and individual culinary explorations of the Alabama Black Belt.
Peacock’s extraordinary longtime friendship with Lewis has been celebrated throughout the media. In 2003, the two chefs published the best-selling cookbook “The Gift of Southern Cooking,” which was a nominee for best regional cookbook in both the James Beard and International Association of Culinary Professionals cookbook competitions.