Q&A with Chef Billy Allin

Agrarian, Chefs, Meet

To celebrate the launch of Williams-Sonoma’s new Agrarian collection, we collaborated with Chef Billy Allin, the chef and owner at Cakes & Ale, the restaurant/bar and bakery on Georgia’s historic Decatur Square. Allin is famous for his seasonal menu, which features ingredients grown by his family in the restaurant’s rooftop garden.

 

We asked Allin to share his thoughts on edible gardening, which you can read in our Q&A below. Then scroll to the bottom of this post to try Allin’s delicious spring recipes — created just for our customers — yourself.

 

What is your first memory of growing produce?

My father planted a little patch in our back yard when I lived in Jacksonville, Florida, at age six. He planted tomatoes, green peppers and jalapeño peppers. I didn’t try the jalapeños, but I recall my father being unable to eat them because of their heat and a neighbor, Joe Crooms, sweating with every bite.

 

Why would you encourage others to try growing their own produce?

What tastes better than a tomato picked, still warm, on a slice of bread with mayonnaise, salt and pepper? Also, you can control the vegetable varieties and pick them when you want.

 

Do you use raised beds, a garden plot or both?

Both, depending on what I am growing.

 

What is your top growing secret?

Even in small gardens, crop rotation is essential and worm composting at home is a must. My restaurant composts all organic matter as well.

 

Do you plant heirloom or hybrid?

A little of both. Back to the tomato . . . a big juicy red tomato, mmmm.

 

Organic or chemicals?

Organic only!

 

Do you have any tips for beginners?

Experiment with what grows in your plot and make a plot diagram.

 

What are your favorite garden tools?

A really solid wheelbarrow, sharp shears and a rotary tiller.

 

What was your worst growing disaster?

An entire 20-foot row of carrots decimated by a growing population of rabbits eating all the tops.

 

What is your favorite vegetable or herb?

Favorite vegetables I look forward to this summer are peppers: regular red, green and yellow bells. Padron peppers and shishito peppers. Also our first spring harvest of asparagus we planted four years ago in our garden. Favorite herb is really a tree: fresh Mediterranean bay.

 

What new crops are you growing this year?

Baby mustard and dandelion green, blueberries and padron peppers.

 

Do you preserve or pickle any produce? If so, what?

Fairytale eggplant, pickled peppers, radishes and carrots, kumquat preserves and roasted peppers.

 

Our exclusive recipes from Chef Billy Allin:

 

Burrata with Asparagus, Sugar Snap Peas & Pistachio-Arugula Pesto
Grilled Coriander Poussin with Farro Verde, Roasted Carrots & Chioggia Beets

 

 

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