That opportunity provided the research and development that led to the Alden, where Hucks is creating an intimate dining experience in a bright space with lofty ceilings and contemporary design elements.
The open, exhibition-style kitchen is the focal point, allowing guests to interact with Hucks and his team, and opt for a tasting menu with beverage pairings.
The weekly dinner and brunch menus showcase seasonal ingredients in dishes that blend Hucks’ international culinary explorations with Southern influences.
North African harissa and chermoula spice up his shrimp and grits with greens. A “Pan Asian” soft coddled farm egg is served with bok choy, ginger, and rice crackers. Local spring lettuces with cucumber dressing are plated with a melange of carrot, beet root, radish, hemp hearts, and Capra Gia chevre.
Last week before service at the Alden, Hucks sat down to talk about the long journey to opening his first restaurant, and how his life has changed since coming back to Atlanta.
“In 2006, I left the country on a backpacking tour that was going to last 18 months, and I stayed gone for seven years. That became a big part of my career,” Hucks said. “I soon realized that if I wanted to keep traveling, I was going to need to start working, too.”
By 2010, Hucks wound up in San Sebastian, where he went to work for legendary Spanish chef Juan Mari Arzak. And with that on his resume, he moved on to Denmark and found a place in the kitchen at Noma, with René Redzepi, the chef who invented New Nordic cuisine.
“After I spent two months at Noma, I finally realized that there was a whole new generation of chefs behind me, and I was getting older, and it was time for me to come back to the States and do something of my own,” Hucks said. “I hadn’t seen my mom and dad much over the years. And I had reconnected with my high school sweetheart while I was in Spain.
“Now we’re engaged and we live in my childhood home. I never thought I would wind up back in Brookhaven in that house with my high school sweetheart. It’s been pretty surreal. It’s a full circle sort of story. Here I am right back in my old neighborhood, cooking at my restaurant, 3 miles from the house I grew up in.”
Originally, Hucks wanted to open a restaurant in Brookhaven, but he could never find the right spot. With its rapid growth, Chamblee suddenly became a viable option, and in 2016, he began the process of opening the Alden.
“The timing worked out perfectly,” Hucks said. “And it goes without saying that there’s more than enough traffic and people around here. It’s a great area with plenty of commerce. We started from dirt building the restaurant. The whole focal point was the kitchen, and the convivial feeling of being among old friends and familiar faces, and really just breaking down the barriers between the diners and the chefs.
“And it was important that I had a small space so that we could manage the concept and the quality of what we were trying to do. I did a lot of research on the design of the open kitchen. I was really inspired by a couple of places that David Chang had done, and so it’s a similar design to KO in New York.”
After six weeks of business, Hucks said he’s getting a pretty good feeling for what guests think of his food and his restaurant.
“When it’s a open kitchen, and you make that connection with people, you have a great idea what people think,” he said. “I get right in their faces and I read their reactions and I know that we’re making people happy. But it’s a work in progress. And each day we try to do it better.”
5070 Peachtree Blvd., Chamblee. 678-395-6982, thealdenrestaurant.com.
More images from a First Look at the Alden in Chamblee
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