This weekend marks the 12th anniversary of Taste of Atlanta, offering culinary samplings from more than 90 restaurants in the metro Atlanta area along with music, cooking demos and classes.

The food fest takes over the streets at Tech Square near 5th and Spring Streets with a block party Friday night and full days on Saturday and Sunday.

Making his debut is Duane Nutter, executive chef at One Flew South, an upscale restaurant at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s Terminal E. The Morgan City, La., native who grew up in Renton, Wash., near Seattle, will be featured on Sunday at his restaurant’s booth.

It’s hard to miss Chef Nutter with his 6’6″ mid-sized frame and his white chef coat and hat. He chuckles as he relates a story about the ad for One Flew South on the city channel running in hotel rooms.

“They don’t realize we are really in the terminal and the only way you can dine with us is if you are here to catch a plane,” said Nutter, who once set out to be a comedian.

One Flew South bills itself as “The first upscale dining experience at the world’s busiest airport.”

Where else in an airport can you get roasted pork belly, grouper, salmon bruschetta, lamb sausage, shrimp and grits, and sushi? While the fast food fare might be the choice for those on the run, the traveler with a little more time to dine, like those on international flights who have longer layovers between flights or east coast fliers on their way to the west coast, will feel right at home at the restaurant, he said.

There are regulars who come in every week, business travelers who know the menu so well they call ahead with their selections and sit in the same seat on every visit. Or they trust the chef so much they say okay make me something special, Nutter said.

It’s not uncommon the chef says for a huge Air Korea Airbus international flight with 400-plus passengers to come through the airport. In addition to the southern classic food he serves up, the restaurant is lined with Japanese marble decor.

“We operate two concepts in one place,” he says.

As executive chef, it’s his job to create the menu and handle many aspects of the restaurant. He not only makes sure the food is Southern cuisine, the spirits have to be home grown, too

“I felt it was my duty to showcase the entire Southeast,” he said. “When you land here you’ll get to taste not only Georgia food but you get the Southeast.”

Nutter says he gets the bacon from Tennessee and meats and other foods from Kentucky, Texas and the Carolinas.

Nutter came to Atlanta after seeing his idol, Chef Darryl Evans, on television. Evans was the first African-American chef in the Culinary Olympics. Once Nutter completed culinary school, he moved here and had the opportunity to work with Evans at various restaurants. That was 20 years ago and he and Evans remain friends today. In fact Nutter still communicates on facebook with his high school teacher who convinced him culinary school would be a great move for him and actually drove him to visit the school.

Also participating in the event is Morelli’s Ice Cream with their 300 flavors of ice cream owned by David Sargent and Clarissa Morelli. They have three locations, two in East Atlanta and one in Dunwoody and are considering opening a new location in the Atlanta airport. The flavors of ice cream change daily so there is an element of surprise when you visit. Diners could experience creative flavors like Krispy Kremier, Smurfette Chocolate Chip, Breakfast in Bed, Key Lime Pie (with crust in), Honey and Prunes, Black Rasberry Chip or old time favorites like Strawberry and Butter Pecan and Vanilla.

The Taste of Atlanta block party runs from 6:30-10:30 (6:30-7:30 VIP). Admission is $70 for general admission and $95 for VIP. The fest runs from 11 am. until 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 26 and 27 at $30 in advance and $40 on site for general admission. For more information on VIP tickets and a list of participating restaurants visit http://www.tasteofatlanta.com

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