‘Taste Revival’ menu plays like jukebox as songs inspire Atlanta chefs

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EVENT PREVIEW

"Atlanta's Taste Revival: Local Chefs, Smokin' Jams." 7:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. for VIP ticketholders) Friday. $70 and $95 (VIP). 21 and older. Taste of Atlanta, Midtown at Tech Square (Fifth and Spring streets). 1-877-725-8849, www.tasteofatlanta.com.

Any fan of chef Ron Eyester knows of his affection for the Grateful Dead.

There is his Morningside restaurant, Rosebud, named after one of Jerry Garcia’s favorite guitars. And the Garcia-inspired dinners he started doing at Food 101 several years ago.

So when Eyester proposed the idea for this year’s “Taste Revival” — the Friday kickoff event for Taste of Atlanta weekend in Midtown — that the participating chefs each craft a dish inspired by a favorite song, everyone expected a Deadhead tie-in.

But Eyester veered south instead, and will present a dish of crispy popcorn shrimp, smoked Old Bay potato puree and radish slaw in honor of James Brown’s “Mashed Potato Popcorn.”

“When you have the name of the song right in front of you, sometimes you have to just go with it,” Eyester said with a chuckle.

The “Taste Revival,” affectionately subtitled “Local Chefs, Smokin’ Jams,” will also feature rockin’ specialties from King + Duke’s Joe Schafer with lamb ribs and charred greens, inspired by Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Mary Had a Little Lamb”; Adam Evans of the Optimist with octopus and smoked chicken leg skewers in honor of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird”; Bantam & Biddy’s Shaun Doty with hot chicken drumsticks to pay homage to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher”; Kevin Rathbun with picnic fried chicken motivated by Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken”; and Gunshow maestro Kevin Gillespie with tandoori chicken with coconut braised collards tied in with Gregg Allman’s “I’m No Angel.”

The latter offering has Eyester and Ford Fry, who will be on hand to cook as well as play with the all-chef band Five Bone Rack, curious about the connection (maybe the Allman Brothers legend is a fan of tandoor ovens?). But both pointed to Gillespie’s choice as proof of the lighthearted purpose of the exercise.

“The love of music and the love of food seem to go hand in hand. It definitely wasn’t a hard sell,” Eyester said.

While Eyester talks about the guitar at home that he can't really play — "It's definitely on the bucket list to learn," he said — Fry has the opposite problem. He can play, but, "My family hates it because I have all of these guitar amps all over the place, and when you play, you have to turn them up to get the sound you want. So I typically play when they're not home."

Atlanta’s Southern-roots-soul band Parker Smith and the Bandwith has been tapped to perform at the Friday night event, but attendees will get a taste of Five Bone Rack at some point.

“We try to go on later in the evening when most people have more alcohol in them. We don’t like headlining. The cool thing is, the bar is so low for us, whatever we do, we surpass people’s expectations,” Fry said.

The band, which originated about three years ago, typically runs through rock and classic rock covers from acts such as the Black Crowes, AC/DC and Aerosmith.

The lineup shifts depending upon chef/musician availability (Table & Main’s Ted Lahey has been handling lead vocals, but is currently swamped with his new Italian restaurant venture in Roswell).

Some familiar faces expected to produce some smokin’ jams — along with Fry — include Sheldon Wolfe from No. 246 in Decatur (vocals); Gary Minnie of Canoe and Livingston fame (drums); Zeb Stevenson of Two Urban Licks (bass); Buckhead Life Restaurant Group’s Jamie Adams (guitar); and No. 246 manager Christy Lee Faircloth (backup vocals).

Eyester hopes to maintain a concert setting vibe throughout the night and is working on a playlist of mostly Southern-related songs to spin between the bands’ sets.

His other desire is to have a couple of rock ‘n’ roll legends on hand as greeters.

“I told everyone we should get mannequins of Mick Jagger and James Brown at the entrance,” he said.

And maybe, of course, Jerry Garcia.

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