5@5 - Chef John Currence
August 13th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

John Currence is the chef and owner of City Grocery Restaurant Group in Oxford, Mississippi. In 2006, he received the Southern Foodways Alliance "Guardian of Tradition" award, and in 2009, he was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as "Best Chef South." The Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association named Chef John Currence the 2010 Restaurateur of the Year.

Currence’s native New Orleans kindled his life-long devotion to Southern-influenced fare, further fueled by a stint under the tutelage of Bill Neal of Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Crook's Corner. With Neal, he pursued a potent blend of classical French technique and traditional Deep Southern American cuisine, now evidenced on his menus at City Grocery, Big Bad Breakfast, Bouré and Snackbar.

Kick back with some shrimp ‘n grits and jump on Currence’s bandwagon to bring these dishes back into regular rotation.

5 Southern Dishes That Deserve a Comeback: John Currence

1. Gumbo Z'Herbes (Green Gumbo)
"Seen from time to time, it's almost always excellent, because the guys who still make it seem to always have a visceral connection to it in their past. This tasty blend of earthy greens and ground pork sausage is frequently served with a side of potato salad rather than rice. It's a soothing dish that requires a little bit of a deft hand to master."

2. Hoe Cakes
"Cornmeal cakes (griddle-style cakes), so-called because they would be cooked on the blade of a field hoe over an open fire, make a really tasty side for any number of dishes. I fell in love with the idea of them after my first trip to Argentina about 15 years ago and remember being completely knocked over with the combination of flavors that the chimichurri’s vinegar and garlic and the juices from the grilled meats brought to these simple pancakes. In Oxford, we make them with fresh corn and red onion to punch those flavors up even more."

3. Tomato Aspic and Homemade Mayonnaise
"I hated aspic as a kid. I had a fundamental problem with anything called 'ass pick.' It simply didn't make sense to eat. As my love for fresh garden tomatoes began to grow 20 years ago, I started playing with anything that would help with the midsummer avalanche of tomatoes. Aspic was a natural for consideration and with a touch of creamy homemade mayonnaise, is one of life's truly great pleasures."

4. Smothered Chicken
"In New Orleans, lunch specials were a city-wide universal. Mondays were for red beans and rice, Tuesday was spaghetti and meatball day and Wednesday was smothered chicken and mashed potatoes. Now, I know some folks might argue that smothered doesn't necessarily carry a Southern provenance, but for the sake of my argument, I'll just say, wherever it originated doesn't matter. There just needs to be more of it."

5. Pimento Cheese
"Sure, there's a little pimento cheese floating around out there, but very little of it is thought over very hard. Linton Hopkins and John Fleer ride atop the heap, in my book (from a professional standpoint). But, this is one folks need to get back to and see what a little experimentation can do for their product. My mom has gone completely off the reservation and her version is loaded with green chilies, jalapeño pepper and chipotle-flavored Tabasco. I can eat it by the pound. It isn't patently 'Southern,' but it is freaking delicious."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

For recipes of the comeback kids, scooch right on over here.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Cheese • Cuisines • John Currence • Pimento Cheese • Southern • Think

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