For most of us, Champagne is a way to celebrate life's special moments. But chef Todd Richards chooses to take a preemptive approach. During a recent event, the executive chef of White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails in Downtown Atlanta let it slip that he kicks off his mornings with a glass of bubbly.
Pairing breakfast with a wee bit of booze certainly hasn't inhibited the acclaimed chef's career. Richards's accomplishments include recognition as a James Beard Award Best Chef Semifinalist, being named one of the Four New Chefs to Watch by Esquire in 2012 and working for big companies like the Ritz-Carlton hotels. Despite his current role at White Oak, he refuses to rest on his laurels and is planning to open Richards' Southern Fried, a quick-service fried chicken spot in Atlanta this year.
We reached out to the chef to try to get to the bottom of his glass of morning bubbly (not literally) and figure out just how much Champagne is the secret to his success.
So word on the street is that, instead of coffee, you start your day with a glass of Champagne. Is this true?
"Champagne is a classic beverage that is always focused on celebration. I can't find any way to be more celebratory of life and all things restaurant than to start my day with Champagne."
We'll take that as a very subtle "yes." What started this celebratory morning routine?
"I don't know precisely what day this started. I do know the time frame. The time frame was more about finding self-direction than about being a lush or an abuser. You can look at conflict as a destructive mechanism, or you can develop reasonable ways to act as is. Plus, it is a very delicious way to start your day."
What are the benefits of having a glass of Champagne to kick off the day as opposed to the more traditional choices of coffee or tea?
"I believe Champagne is an enlivening beverage. Caffeine-based drinks are more about stamina and awakening. I prefer caffeine in the afternoon right before dinner service."
Why Champagne? Why not, say, a can of beer or a shot of rum?
"Champagne is in the spirit of awakening and challenging of the status quo. It's about harnessing flavor under pressure, waiting to release its glory to all, with a sound that turns heads instantaneously. That is what chefs do every day. I'm not sure what other beverages do that in earnest."
You make it sound like poetry! Is there any particular type of bubbly you prefer?
"I prefer different Champagne throughout the season. In the winter, sparkling rosé is in order. In the summer, blanc de blanc or cava."
You're a successful guy with an impressive résumé. How has drinking Champagne helped your career?
"I don't know if Champagne has a direct contribution to my résumé. I do think that it sets a precedence of excellence."
Would you recommend other people get into your Champagne routine, or does it require a certain constitution?
"I would recommend that people find their muse and love for life. People may consider Champagne as just alcohol, but we can equally say caffeine is just a drug. Both wrongly used or abused will most certainly be a bad recipe in the soup of life. All things in moderation."
Where do you see Champagne leading you in the future?
"Champagne is leading me into new celebrations of love, family and friends, as well as new business ventures. Richards' Southern Fried will be opening in April 2016, followed by, and more importantly, wedding bells and family gatherings. What's better than love, fried chicken and Champagne? Everything else is secondary."