Restaurant chef/owner, cookbook author, a finalist for the 2016 James Beard Award for the Southeast, and competitor in Season 6 Top Chef show, chef Kevin Gillespie lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and travels everywhere — that explains why his culinary interpretation blend so many different flavors and textures. “Traveling is what I love, to see new things and meet new people,” he said, which explains why he and his wife have traveled all over Europe, Asia, and New Zealand. “We are game for anything,” he added.

What is most noteworthy, though, is that his cooking reflects his Catholic faith. “Interestingly enough,” he said, “I focus on the word ‘communion.’ I think of Christ communing with his followers, and I think of them being there for a meal together.” Gillespie has chosen to make food and celebrate it each day, so that the work he does is driven by his faith. “I want to feel right in the world and to fulfill my work for the Lord. That is an extension of his Gospel, attempting to bring people together.

Fortunately for Gillespie, he has loved cooking since his childhood. As he recalled, he started cooking with his family in their kitchen when he was 5 or 6 years old. “I loved watching Grandma cook. She lived next door,” he said. “It became a center point to everything in life, which always involved food and cooking. The best time in life centered around these family meals.” 

Gillespie started professional cooking when he was old enough to get a job. At 16, he worked at a casual place called The Chicken Coop in Locust Grove, Georgia. Patrons loved the food there, though it was the only restaurant in the city. But his time there convinced Gillespie that the culinary world was really his passion. “When I got serious about being a chef,” he said, “I moved into fine dining and trained in that style for many years, then French style, and then on to the West Coast for California cuisine. But my food shows culinary elements from all over the world.”

As passionate as Gillespie is about cooking, he is more so about his faith. Why? Because it calls for people to coexist in friendship, offering good deeds to others, one of the main callings of Catholicism. “When you consider your place in this world your time is finite,” he said. God asks that people do good deeds daily. And for Gillespie, that means fostering people who work for him to carry themselves professional and with dignity and respect for others. “My business partner is also Catholic,” he said, “and we believe our people are our family.” 

Of course, running five full-service restaurants, a catering business, and a restaurant design firm has been somewhat challenging. “Each restaurant is very different,” he said, “from traditional Southern to one called Gunshow, named after a tribute to my dad.” The menu there changes daily with 17 new modern American dishes each day. 

Gillespie has his own favorites, from the fresh foods of Southeast Asia to classic German and European dishes, the influences of each showing up in his restaurants’ fare. But at home, he adores barbecue. “My family were all about barbecue,” he said. “My dad, grandfather, and uncle were always in charge of the annual big barbecue festival serving more than 1,000 people a day… I used to watch them cook a whole hog…it is still my favorite, and that is what I would eat for the rest of my life.”

Note: His restaurants include the following: Gunshow, Revival, Communion, Gamechanger, Ole Reliable, Terminus City, and Cold Beer. His cookbooks are the James Beard award-winning Fire in my Belly, and Pure Pork Awesomeness.