Dining in Dixie: Zac Brown’s La Mesa del Sur
Country music fans are already familiar with the name Zac Brown; he’s the founder and lead singer of the Atlanta, GA-based Zac Brown Band. In addition to playing to sold-out arenas all over the country, the multi-talented musician has a varied and lengthy resume that includes artistry, myriad philanthropic and humanitarian efforts, and restaurant and nightclub ownership. Housed under the umbrella of his Southern Ground company are a number of music, charity and culinary focused ventures. With its vibrant red exterior, Brown’s La Mesa del Sur sits on the main thoroughfare in quaint Senoia where antique and thrift shops coexist with boutiques and cafés. The hard-to-miss boldly colored storefront should tip off patrons as to what’s in store; chef Josh Butler, a 19-year kitchen veteran who’s certainly not afraid to experiment with in-your-face flavors, is at the helm and deftly fuses southern, Latin and Tex-Mex cuisines. The result is a hybrid menu of traditional eats like carnitas and carne asada tacos and more creative dishes like a deconstructed lobster BLT or a citrus-marinated pork slider with collard greens and pimento cheese on a cornbread bun.
Butler’s take on southern cuisine and his knowledge of melding a variety of flavors are not newly acquired skills–he’s a native of the Florida panhandle and spent 13 years cooking in the Governor’s mansion where he became the youngest executive chef to ever hold the position. He then went on to work the celebrity circuit by serving as a personal chef to Atlanta’s own dramaturge Tyler Perry. He has also been a guest chef at the White House four times, delivering sophisticated dishes to some of the world’s most renowned leaders and honored guests. Butler’s food philosophy is clear as evidenced by the number of seafood offerings on La Mesa’s menu; he is a huge proponent of sustainability and has spent many years supporting local vendors and farmers.
Though the young chef has a penchant for developing seafood-focused menus, he doesn’t limit himself to any one style of cooking. In fact, his interest in varied cuisines led him to his current project–the development of not only one but two multi-influenced menus at both Southern Ground Social Club and La Mesa del Sur.
To learn more about Chef Josh Butler and Southern cuisine, stay tuned for my latest article for New York-based travel company Fare Buzz.