Atlanta restaurateur Kevin Rathbun (third from left) and former Atlanta Falcons player Chris Draft participate in a Taste of the NFL event held in Houston in conjunction with the 2017 Super Bowl. Rathbun and Draft have been involved with the Taste of the NFL nonprofit for years, serving as the Atlanta Falcons chef representative and player representative, respectively. CONTRIBUTED BY TOM DONOHUE
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Talking with Atlanta’s MVP of chefs before Super Bowl 53

Longtime Taste of the NFL participant Kevin Rathbun brings love of steak to annual fundraiser

Taste of the NFL has been running its charitable game plan since it was founded in 1992. Atlanta chef and restaurateur Kevin Rathbun has been part of that lineup for nearly all of its 27 years.

Rathbun, whose local steak operations include Rathbun’s, Krog Bar, Kevin Rathbun Steak and KR SteakBar, plus a stake in Kaiser’s Chophouse, first worked with Taste of the NFL back when he lived in Dallas. There, he served as the chef representative for the Cowboys football organization, until moving to Atlanta in 1994. Later, Paul Albrecht, of the now-defunct Pano’s and Paul’s, handed Rathbun the reins to be the chef representative for the Falcons.

As Atlanta prepares to host Super Bowl LIII and cater to an influx of visitors, Rathbun is excited to reconnect with fellow chefs from around the country who, like him, have represented NFL teams through the years as they try to kick hunger in the pants.

“I have really good friends that came out of it,” Rathbun said of annual Super Bowl-related culinary festivities. “It’s like ‘old home’ week.”

Atlanta restaurateur Kevin Rathbun (left) with Bizarre Foods host and celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern at a Taste of the NFL event held last year in Minnesota in conjunction with the 2018 Super Bowl. Rathbun has been involved with the Taste of the NFL nonprofit for years, serving as the Atlanta Falcons chef representative. GETTY IMAGES
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

But being a chef representative is more than just cooking up his beloved cut of meat — a New York strip — and serving it atop a parsnip puree for 3,000 rowdy fans at the Taste of the NFL’s signature fundraising event, “Party With a Purpose,” taking place at Cobb Galleria Centre Feb. 2. It means a commitment to fighting hunger.

The organization’s Kick Hunger Challenge is a season-long fundraising campaign during which each chef representative raises money for their local food bank. By the end of this season, Rathbun will have raised $90,000 to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank. In November, he hosted a five-course, sit-down dinner for 100 people at Rathbun’s. Next up, he’ll cook dinner in his home for 40 people. Ticket price: $1,000 a plate.

Rathbun ticked off other charitable causes in which he participates. Project Open Hand. Taste of the Nation. No Kid Hungry.

“Anything to do with kids and hunger is what I want to get involved in,” he said.

Currently, he’s working with Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank to spearhead a food charity event this spring rallied around all of the city’s pro sports teams and that would bring together some 40 chefs from throughout the region. The name: GOAT — Greatest of All Tastings.

As Rathbun talked of his charity involvement, his left arm hung in a sling. A recent elbow injury required surgery and put him out of commission for a solid week. But Rathbun refuses to let a broken elbow stop him from cooking for a good cause at Taste of the NFL come Feb. 2.

“It’s an opportunity to give back,” Rathbun said. “It makes your soul feel better.”

Rathbun will make the tummies of Taste of the NFL ticket holders feel better, too, when he serves up samples of his NY strip. Not lucky enough to have scored tickets? Whip up this and Rathbun’s other recipes for a winning Super Bowl spread.

Sweet Corn Maque Choux with Cayenne Grilled Shrimp. CONTRIBUTED BY RATHBUN’S RESTAURANTS
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sweet Corn Maque Choux with Cayenne Grilled Shrimp

“Being from the Midwest, corn is one of my favorite things to eat,” says Atlanta restaurateur Kevin Rathbun. “Maque choux is like corn stew. It goes with anything, but shrimp and corn go really well together.”

Thai Green Curry-coconut Chicken Wings. CONTRIBUTED BY RATHBUN’S RESTAURANTS
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Thai Green Curry-coconut Chicken Wings

“Basic Buffalo chicken wings are kind of boring,” says chef Kevin Rathbun. “Asian flavor profiles lift it up. This recipe has depth.”

Chargrilled NY Strip with Truffle Parsnip Puree and Red Pepper Vinegar. CONTRIBUTED BY RATHBUN’S RESTAURANTS
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Chargrilled NY Strip with Truffle Parsnip Puree and Red Pepper Vinegar

As the Atlanta Falcons chef representative for Taste of the NFL, Kevin Rathbun will prepare this dish for the organization’s tasting event Feb. 2, held in conjunction with Super Bowl LIII. “People associate me with steak,” says Rathbun. “I’m a strip man through and through. This is a typical steak of a great steakhouse — and my go-to steak.”

EVENT PREVIEW

Taste of the NFL's "Party With a Purpose"

7 p.m. Feb. 2. $700 per person, plus ticket fee. The annual tasting event features prominent chefs from around the country, as well as NFL players, coaches, legends and more to support the fight against hunger. Cobb Galleria Centre, 2 Galleria Parkway SE, Atlanta. tasteofthenfl.com/tickets.

Read the 2018 AJC Fall Dining Guide: Dining on Buford Highway 

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