Deborah VanTrece shares details on her menu for new airport lounge and more food news

Atlanta-based Chef Deborah VanTrece speaks at the Centurion Lounge at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. The lounge has a locally-inspired menu curated by VanTrece.
Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Atlanta-based Chef Deborah VanTrece speaks at the Centurion Lounge at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. The lounge has a locally-inspired menu curated by VanTrece. Miguel Martinez /

Acclaimed Atlanta chef and restaurateur Deborah VanTrece is curating the menu at the American Express Centurion Lounge, which opened Feb. 14 in Terminal E at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The 26,000-square-foot lounge, the largest in the Centurion Lounge network, features a buffet of dishes developed by VanTrece, as well as the Reserve by American Express, a whiskey bar serving cocktails designed by Jim Meehan.

In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, VanTrece said it was important for her to make sure that American Express aligned with her brand, which includes local restaurants La Panarda and Oreatha’s at the Point and the Michelin-recommended Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours before she committed to working with the lounge.

“It was a big decision to say, ‘I’m going to relinquish a little bit of the control.’ People with the company assured me that this was about me and telling my story and serving my food. I wanted to be very clear that I didn’t just want to be a name that was going to draw in people.”

At the American Express Centurion Lounge at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, a large dining area has two buffets and tables for seating.
Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

icon to expand image

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Once she signed on, got to work designing the menu, which the former flight attendant called a “full-circle moment.” She called upon her catering background for scaling up her recipes for mass numbers of people while maintaining the integrity of the food.

“I wanted to show the southern part of Atlanta, but I didn’t want to lose sight of the global twists that I do with the food,” she said. “That was super important to me. The team was very supportive in understanding that you can’t have one without the other and still have my name on it.”

The opening menu includes dishes that have appeared on the menus at VanTrece’s restaurants or in her cookbook including three-cheese mac and cheese, braised greens, jalapeno joe cakes and as well as new items developed specifically for the lounge including zaatar grilled chicken with green tomato chimichurri and black-eyed pea biryani, which she likens to Hoppin John with an Indian influence.

Dishes will start rotating out about every three weeks, with new items introduced based on the seasonality and availability of ingredients. VanTrece plans to source as much of her produce and protein locally as possible, including working with growers and producers like Springer Mountain for her chicken and greens from Baker Family Farms.

Despite her full plate, VanTrece said she plans to be hands-on at the lounge, while working with the chefs hired to execute her vision.

“I’m going to be very much involved with how things are going,” she said. “There’s nothing that will be put out that I don’t have a say in, but so far we’re all on the same page.”

Read more about the lounge here, and see photos here.


Michelin-starred restaurant Lazy Betty closed in Inman Park this week in anticipation of its move to the former Empire State South space in Midtown at 999 Peachtree St.

Chefs Ron Hsu and Aaron Phillips, who opened Lazy Betty in 2019 at 1530 DeKalb Ave. NE, will offer the same tasting menu concept at the new location, in addition to a small a la carte drink and food menu served in the bar.


Atlanta-based Brash Coffee Roasters will open a new location at Eastside Beltline-facing office building Junction Krog District from real estate developer Portman. Opening in May, Brash will offer its coffee drinks during the day, and its first curated cocktail program in the evenings.

The Beltline Brash, which will open in a shipping container-like kiosk on Junction Krog District’s 7,000-square-foot public porch, will be the fifth for the business.

Junction Krog District will also be home to previously announced food and beverage concepts Yuji and Yeppa & Co.


A third Atlanta location of Florida-based doughnut shop the Salty will open Feb. 23 at 1050 Howell Mill Road in west Midtown. Opening weekend festivities Feb. 23-25 include a collaboration kolache with Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q and giveaways.

The store will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays.


An unnamed Korean fried chicken restaurant will take over the space recently vacated by Farm Burger at 275 Memorial Drive in Grant Park, according to real estate leasing company Schumacher Group.


After several months of delays, Ancestral Bottle Shop is set to open on Feb. 23 in the Westside Paper development at 950 W. Marietta St. in west Midtown. The shop, from Roxana Aguirre of Grant Park Mexican restaurant Patria Cocina, will showcase a curated selection of micro-batch Mexican spirits that are family-owned and produced in a single village.

Ancestral will join several other food and beverage concepts at Westside Paper including Pancake Social, Bar Diver, El Santo Gallo, Boxcar Betty’s, Elsewhere Greenhouse and King of Pops.


Also in the Westside Paper development, catering company Proof of the Pudding is set to open a 13,000-square-foot event venue this summer. The space will feature expansive glass and steel windows.

Proof of the Pudding, which has operation in Atlanta for more than 45 years, recently acquired Southern Crust Catering Company.


Blue Ribbon Grill is closing at 4006 Lavista Road in Tucker after 39 years, with plans to relocate to a new location in metro Atlanta. The restaurant serves a diner-style menu of dishes including country fried steak, patty melts, chili and burgers.


Castellucci Restaurant Group restaurant Recess has moved to a new location within Krog Street Market across from Suzy Siu’s, Varuni Napoli and Ticonderoga Club. The health-focused eatery opened in 2018, with a second location following in Buckhead in 2022. Castellucci concept Bar Mercado closed in Krog Street Market in 2023.


Dunwoody Italian restaurant Novo Cucina is set to open a second location at 3070 Briarcliff Road in the new Lumen Briarcliff, Tomorrow’s News Today reports. The restaurant, from chef Ricardo Ullio, who also owns Sotto Sotto and Fritti in Inman Park, opened its original location in 2015.

More restaurant news

Koz opens for Turkish food inside Casa Almenara in Midtown

Minhwa Spirits to open tasting room in Doraville

Xi Hotpot to open in Duluth

Nando’s entering Atlanta market with locations in Dunwoody, Peachtree Corners

Indian street food restaurant Eggholic opens in Suwanee

DBA Barbecue closing its original Virginia-Highland location after 15 years

Kaleidoscope Bistro & Pub closing in Brookhaven after 14 years

Belen de la Cruz opening inside Beltline Kroger

Chef Winnie’s makes a comeback with a new location in Clarkston

Culinary Dropout about to make its debut in Dunwoody

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