What happens when you mix Italian culinary traditions and techniques with locally sourced Southern ingredients? For one thing, people will start paying attention. This is the innovative food Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman have become known for at their Memphis restaurants Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Hog & Hominy, and this year they were named some of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs.
The duo also releases their first cookbook, Collards & Carbonara: Southern Cooking, Italian Roots, this month. It earned a rave review from Eater and is also our pick for September’s Cookbook Club – scroll to the bottom of this post for more details!
Here, we ask Andrew and Michael all about their Italian families, their dynamic in the kitchen, and some of their favorite things to cook at home.
You both grew up in big Italian families. How did that influence your approach to food?
Growing up in big Italian families, both of our family celebrations revolved around food as a way to bring everyone together.
Michael: When I was growing up, Maw Maw, the matriarch of our family, lived in my parents’ house, and we had a very special bond that revolved around food. I loved watching her as she ran the pasta machine with her girlfriends and accompanying her to the market, learning that half a shopping bag of greens is only enough for two people. I will never forget the way her saffron risotto with chicken gizzards influenced my entire upbringing, or how her biscuit dough doughnuts were always the greatest surprise for my brother, Richard, and me. Maw Maw loved to feed people and to make her family happy. I have that inherent desire as well, and see where I am today as the product of Maw Maw informing and inspiring my passion.
Andrew: Every Sunday after church, I had Sunday meals with the family. I will never forget those meals, and the miracle of food that came each week. My maternal grandmother, Memaw, and paternal grandparents, Maw Maw and Paw Paw, would prepare meals of smoked Boston butt, lasagna and amazing tomato gravy for cousins, uncles and aunts. They would wake up at 6 a.m. to pray and start cooking directly afterwards for our 11:30 arrival. Those special Sundays, and memories, are why I do what I do today. I cannot wait to watch my son grow up and enjoy the same.
What’s the story behind Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen?
We have always been best friends. After years of hard work in culinary school and traveling and studying in Italy, we decided it was time to go for the gold and open our own place. It was a dream come true to finally open AMIK, where we could share what food means to us and hopefully bring a little bit of joy to our guests every night.
You’ve been friends for ages. What’s your dynamic in the kitchen? Who does what?
We have a calmer kitchen demeanor than you might expect. Of course, things get hectic and there have been arguments. But at the end of the day, this is what we love to do, and we’re partners and equals in our vision and our business. We fully enjoy our time in the kitchen, even if we’re in the weeds — it’s exactly where we want to be and what we’ve been working up to all these years.
What was the most important thing you learned while studying cooking in Italy?
We slaughtered and broke down our first farm-raised pig while studying in Italy. Every single bit of the animal was used, and the pig itself was respected and treated well while it was alive. In Italy, each and every ingredient is carefully sourced, and food is brought together in a simple way that fully lends itself to the quality of the components, many of which can be traced back to small family farms and businesses. People there treat food as a way of life, a unifying force, and a reason to take time out of a busy day to relax and breathe. Experiencing and living this culture had the biggest impact on us.
How would you describe the menu at AMIK? What’s unique about it?
The menu at AMIK is a compilation of family classics that we grew up with, like Maw Maw’s Ravioli; Italian pastas underlined with rustic Southern ingredients, like Chitarra with Benton’s bacon, trout roe and lemon conserva; and dishes that pay homage to animals from our favorite responsible, small farms, like Newman Farm Lamb with smoked potato, sunchokes, spring onion, peas and lamb sugo.
How do you combine Italian and Southern cuisine into cohesive dishes? Can you describe how you approach it? What’s the connection between them?
The South has always been about locally sourced, awesome ingredients, from fish and meats to grits and bourbon. We see this artisan and local movement as similar to the honest principles in old-school Italian food culture that has impacted us so significantly. We love to bring rustic, rough-around-the-edges ingredients to some of the most refined and elegant Italian cooking techniques.
What are some of your favorite Southern ingredients to work with?
Heritage Berkshire pigs from our friend Mr. Newman at Newman Farm in the foothills of the Ozarks. We love to use Hana Farms beans and peas, and we’re getting amazing tomatoes, corn and vegetables from Woodson Ridge Farms out of Oxford.
What’s an ingredient you use constantly that might surprise people — a “secret weapon?”
People may be surprised by the amount of different stocks that we use, from chicken stock and duck brodo, to beef stock, lamb stock, smoked chicken stock, schmaltz, neck-bone gravy, pork stock, ham-hock brodo and parmesan broth. Great stocks make a huge difference, and we love to be innovative with them.
Do you cook at home? If so, what’s a go-to meal?
Andrew: I grill everything. I hate cleaning my kitchen at home.
Michael: I love making breakfast for the family, especially pancakes. And pasta for Katie and I. My son Cory likes to help.
What’s the best cooking advice you ever received? And the best you’ve ever given?
The best advice is to always stay humble and keep learning. It’s amazing to feel success, but it’s most important to stay true to your roots and to keep pushing yourself.
What’s a dish you could eat over and over again and never get sick of?
Both of us could eat at Mike Lata’s restaurant, FIG, in Charleston, for the rest of our lives and it would never get old. We’ve had some of the best chicken liver pate, razor clams, crudos, fresh local fish and bites of pork and beef that we will forever remember at FIG.
Love collecting cookbooks? Enjoy trying new recipes? Join us for a monthly Cookbook Club class. Led by our talented culinary experts, these exclusive cooking classes showcase recipes from a different cookbook each month.
- Each 1½ – to 2-hour class features cooking tips and techniques and a three-course tasting menu from the book’s best recipes, prepared while you watch.
- Class fee of $75 includes the cookbook with signed bookplate.
- Participants receive a 10% discount on store purchases the day of the class.
- Available monthly at select stores; class times vary by store location.
- Space is limited and reservations are required. Call a participating store to register.