Behind the Scenes: Chef Drew Van Leuvan of Seven Lamps

Many diners know Springer Mountain Farms for their flavorful, antibiotic-free chicken that is featured on many menus around town. Each quarter, Springer Mountain Farms recognizes the hard work of one of Atlanta’s chefs, and this quarter’s “Celebrate the Chef” award goes to Seven Lamps’ Chef Drew Van Leuvan. The award is given to a chef of a high-end restaurant with excellent service whose innovative menu features Springer Mountain Farms chicken. Here, we talk with Chef Van Leuvan about how he’s featuring chicken at Seven Lamps.

What distinguishes Springer Mountain Farms from other chicken farms?

Springer Mountain Farms chicken has a clean, almost vegetal flavor while most mass-produced chicken either has little to no distinct or recognizable flavor. You have to mask the mass produced birds with additional flavorings in order to achieve the impact desired. By simply adding the milk and floral curry spices to our preparation, we create a harmonious and balanced flavor profile.

Tell us about your favorite dish currently on the menu.

The Chicken Sausage is one of the most admired dishes I've created. The flavors are familiar, yet make you say wow! The Springer Mountain Farms chicken thighs we use for the sausage are juicy and provide the perfect catalyst for the sausage farce. I soak fresh corn tortillas in heavy cream, which I use as my binder and then grind the chicken thighs, pork fat back, fresh and dried chilies and other seasonings together and then stuff in a sheep's casings. Then end result is a sausage which tastes similar to pozole.

Seven Lamps is known for incredible cocktails. How much coordination does the cocktail menu have with the food menu?

I have worked with our beverage team about a pairing that would showcase all of the nuances, and bring our dishes to life. Kevin Bragg & Madison Burch, our beverage managers at Seven Lamps came up with a cocktail called “Barrel Rider.” The cocktail is made with Four Roses Bourbon, Zucca, tawny port & cardamom. The depth and booziness of the cocktail along with the subtle hint of cardamom pair nicely with the all of the depth of flavors provided by the Wood Roasted Springer Mountain Farms Chicken Breast that features Logan Turnpike Grits, spicy braised Tuscan Kale, confit pork belly, pepperoncini peppers.

Besides Springer Mountain Farms, what other local Georgia products do you source?

I source many different items from farms for many different reasons. I use Georgia Olive Farms for my Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Being in Georgia we are blessed with a long growing season, which allows us to have local produce almost throughout the year. I generally receive arugula and most of our root vegetables from Crystal Organics.

We hear you were invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City on February 18. How does it feel to have that honor?

I cannot explain how humbling an honor it is to cook at The James Beard House. I don't think the experience will sink in until after the event on our way home. My staff and I are so very excited to have been asked to cook at this prestigious and world-renowned home. We are preparing to offer a sneak peak at of the menu we will be cooking in NYC, at Seven Lamps on February 11. We are preparing a 5-course meal with 3 canapés for our guests.