Chef Kevin Gillespie’s true passion lies in serving his guests quality food every day. This enthusiasm means incorporating the use of fresh, organic, and sustainable ingredients in all of his dishes. In May 2013, he opened his restaurant, Gunshow, in the Glenwood Park neighborhood of Atlanta. The restaurant features a unique dining style where Gillespie prepares both refined and rustic dishes and sends them out to the small dining room for guests to choose from. The menu is ever evolving with wonderfully delicious food that is seasonally-rooted, locally-focused, and unlimited in its stylistic boundaries. In February 2014, Gunshow earned the seventh spot on GQ Magazine’s list of “12 Most Outstanding Restaurants.”
Gillespie recently finished up a national book tour to promote his debut cookbook Fire in My Belly, which was released in October 2012, and was named a 2013 James Beard Award Finalist in the Cookbooks: American Cooking category. For Pure Pork Awesomeness, Gillespie teamed up with best-selling cookbook author David Joachim, who worked with him on Fire in My Belly.
Fire in My Belly includes more than 120 recipes that celebrate quality ingredients and mirror the kitchen at Woodfire Grill but were developed specifically for home cooks. The book provides a glimpse into the formative years of a rising culinary star while showing readers what to do with great seasonal ingredients through one-of-a-kind chapters like “Foods You Thought You Hated” and “When I Want to Eat Healthy.” Publishers Weekly calls it “an impressive cookbook debut…with commentary that is just off-color and honest enough to be quite funny.”
An Atlanta native, Gillespie began his culinary education at the Art Institute of Atlanta where he was able to apply several scholarships he had previously earned from cooking competitions and other academic success. During school, Gillespie was determined to gain the experience he needed to become a successful chef. While carrying a full course load at the Art Institute, he worked part time at various restaurants perfecting his craft. After graduating with honors, Gillespie went on to hold different positions at several well-known Atlanta restaurants including chef de partie at Atlanta Grill at The Ritz-Carlton, sous chef at TWO Urban Licks and chef de cuisine at Woodfire Grill. He enjoyed his time at each of these places but found a true connection at Woodfire, where he originally stayed for two years. In August of 2006, Gillespie headed to the West Coast where he went to work as executive sous chef at Fife Restaurant in Portland, Oregon. After a year and a half there, he missed his family and friends in the South and returned to Atlanta. Gillespie came back to Woodfire Grill to continue to work for his friend and teacher Michael Tuohy.
In 2009, Nicolas Quiñones and Bernard Moussa of Five Senses Restaurants, LLC purchased Woodfire Grill and promoted Gillespie to executive chef. They felt that in order to carry on Woodfire Grill’s reputation and mission, he was the most qualified for the position. During Gillespie’s time at Woodfire Grill, the restaurant was featured on CNN and in Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, and Men’s Health as a dining destination for visitors to Atlanta. Through his training, skill, and passion, Gillespie maintained the restaurant’s values and ideas until his departure in December 2012.
In addition to the partnership he achieved at Woodfire Grill, Gillespie also earned a spot on Bravo’s Emmy and James Beard Award-winning series “Top Chef” for the show’s sixth season in Las Vegas in 2009. Proving to be a top contender by winning the most “Quickfire Challenges” and “Elimination Challenges” in the history of the show, he stood out as one of this season’s final three chef-testants who competed for the “Top Chef” title in Napa Valley. Gillespie was also voted “fan favorite” by the viewers of “Top Chef.”
As a rising young culinary star who was bringing more than just good food to the table, Gillespie was named one of Mother Nature Network’s top “40 Chefs Under 40” in November 2009 for linking farms to forks and promoting better health for people and the planet. In February of 2010, he was honored as one of Gayot.com’s “Top Five Rising Chefs” and named as a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef of the Year” award. A few months later, in June, Gillespie was invited to prepare a meal at the James Beard House in New York City and was also featured on “Cooking with Emeril” on SIRIUS Satellite Radio. In 2010, Gillespie was selected as a Celebrity Chef Ambassador for the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and also received The Art Institute of Atlanta’s Distinguished Alumni Award for his outstanding accomplishments in the restaurant industry. Gillespie accepted this alumni award in December 2010 at the school’s graduation ceremony where he also served as the commencement speaker. In 2011, Gillespie was again named a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef of the Year” award and nominated for Food & Wine’s “The People’s Best New Chef.” Gillespie has even been honored in cartoon form; in September 2011 he performed the voiceovers for his own character on the season premiere of “Squidbillies” on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. In this episode, the main character is dying from asbestos exposure and gets three wishes granted, one of which is to have a meal prepared by Chef Kevin Gillespie. In November 2011, Gillespie served as a keynote speaker for the international conference of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a worldwide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage, and hospitality. In December 2011, he was named one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30” in the magazine’s listing of tomorrow’s brightest stars.
2012 was another successful year for Gillespie, as he was named a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef of the Year” award again in February and “Best Local Chef” by Georgia Voice in July. Gillespie was also chosen to join Leadership Atlanta’s LEAD Atlanta Class of 2013, a prestigious leadership development and community education program, and hosted Co+op, Stronger Together’s video series celebrating the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives. In this series, Gillespie traveled to food co-ops across the country to share their passion for delicious food and their local communities. In addition to his fall book release, Gillespie was the featured chef in a Fine Food and Wine Cruise to French Polynesia in September, giving travelers an exclusive culinary travel experience.
Gillespie was included on Atlanta Homes & Lifestyle’s list of “10 Under 40” for 2013. The magazine’s list featured local tastemakers who continually make a positive contribution to the Atlanta community and make the city a better place to live. In May 2013, Gillespie appeared as a judge on the Destination America show SMOKED, where barbecue pit masters compete for ultimate bragging rights. For the second year in a row, he competed in the Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival chef competition and won. In 2014, Gillespie was a contestant on Esquire Network show Knife Fight.
When he is not at the restaurant, Gillespie can be found participating in culinary events around the country including the Charleston Food and Wine Festival, Serenbe Southern Chef Series, Charlie Palmer’s Pigs & Pinot, High Museum Wine Auction, Music to Your Mouth Festival, and Top Chef: The Tour. Additionally, he has previously partnered with Morelli’s Ice Cream to create a selection of seasonal sundaes for the shop.
Gillespie currently resides in the Serenbe Community, southwest of Atlanta, with his wife, Valerie. He is a member of Slow Food Atlanta, Southern Foodways Alliance, Chefs Collaborative, Georgia Organics, Community Farmers Markets Chefs Advisory Board, and the Society for the Preservation of Traditional Southern Barbecue. In his spare time, he enjoys camping, playing music and barbecuing.