Atlanta native Suzanne Vizethann was locally known for her catering and cafe, the Hungry Peach, and nationally known as a 2011 winner on the Food Network’s “Chopped” series.
But as she reveals in her new cookbook, “Welcome to Buttermilk Kitchen” (Gibbs Smith, $30), starting a restaurant from scratch was much more difficult than she ever could have imagined.
Of course, Buttermilk Kitchen, a comfy breakfast and lunch spot on Roswell Road, quickly became a beloved destination — with crowds circling the parking lot and standing in line for a taste of Vizethann’s homey Southern scratch cooking and baking.
As she writes in the introduction, one goal of the book is to encourage home cooks to reconsider the opportunities morning meals present. And to that end, Vizethann offers recipes for the dishes that put Buttermilk Kitchen on the map.
Like every other chef and restaurant owner in the world, Vizethann has been coping with the pandemic in her own way, which meant switching to a takeout-only system.
“Luckily for us, we’ve been doing OK,” she said in a recent phone call. “Nothing like we were doing before saleswise. But to-go service has been steady enough that we’ve been able to retain half of our employees and keep all of my managers on the payroll.
“The silver lining out of all of this is that we launched the cookbook and an online e-commerce store. So all that happening kind of gave us an excuse to pivot and get that up and running, and it has been going really, really well. We really just had to reinvent ourselves and switch the services we were offering.”
Working on the cookbook was a four-year project, starting with the idea and the proposal, then developing the recipes, and finally seeing it published in April.
“I think it’s important when you’re writing recipes to think about the whole layout of the book and the chapters,” Vizethann said. “Also, a lot of our recipes build on each other. I get asked a lot, ‘What’s the secret with your biscuits?’ Or, ‘How do you get the pancakes so fluffy?’ People think we’re doing some sort of rocket science in the kitchen.
“But the simple, straightforward answer is that it’s just good ingredients, we treat them really well, and we just take a lot of pride in the food that we produce. So I thought it was very important to first walk you through our pantry and the ingredients, and then the utensils that we use, and the pans. I put a lot of thought into all that, and then obviously a lot of thought into scaling the recipes down, and making them relatable for the home cook.”
As far as what keeps Vizethann going day to day at the restaurant, she said it’s the guests.
“Every time I get real tired, or I have a long week, there always seems to be an email, or a review, or some way we’ve touched a guest,” she said. “A few weeks ago, I was real down after all of the COVID-19 stuff, and this lady emailed me and said, ‘I want you to know that the last meal that I had before I went into labor and had my son was your pancakes. That will forever be a part of our memories, and we just can’t wait for you to reopen again so we can have those pancakes with our newborn.’ Wow. That’s going to keep me going for six more months.”
These recipes with introductions from chef Suzanne Vizethann include some of the breakfast and brunch staples that put her beloved Atlanta restaurant Buttermilk Kitchen on the map.
O.G. Buttermilk Pancakes
“People love our pancakes and always ask us how we get them so fluffy,” Vizethann says. “We make our batter fresh each morning and use great ingredients. It’s important to separate the wet ingredients from the dry ones when making this batter. You want to fully incorporate the ingredients, but not over mix the batter.”
“Reggae is kitchen slang for ‘regular’ or ‘plain.’ Plain grits are good all of the time — breakfast, lunch, or dinner,” Vizethann says. “To me, there is nothing better than plain stone-ground grits cooked to perfection and topped with a healthy dose of freshly made butter and sea salt. Do yourself a favor and make the Mason Jar Butter to serve with the recipe. It is worth the effort — I promise.”
Mason Jar Butter
“It’s still fun to make butter, and this recipe is a great one to add to your repertoire,” Vizethann says. “Save that Mason jar and add to your drinking glass collection — it’s the Southern thing to do.”
“I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like,” Vizethann says. “I first fell in love with potatoes watching my German nanny make pommes lyonnaise (potatoes fried with onions). Similar to an egg, the potato is a very versatile ingredient. These fritters are labor intensive, but you can store the potato balls in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before frying.”
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