How Decatur’s Restaurateurs Give Back

“When you reach the top, you should remember to send the elevator back down for the others.”– Edith Piaf

WE GOT A BIT personal with some of the local chefs that feed our community in more ways than delicious food. Here are their stories of struggle, survival and giving back.

MIKE GALLAGHER

Co-owner of Brick Store Pub
& LEON’s Full Service
Brick Store Pub – 125 E. Court Square,
Decatur, GA 30030 | brickstorepub.com
LEON’s – 131 E Ponce de Leon Ave,
Decatur, GA 30030 | leonsfullservice.com

As the co-founder of three of Decatur’s hottest venues – Brick Store Pub, LEON’s Full Service and Kimball House – as well as Good Word Brewing in Duluth, Mike Gallagher knows what it takes to make a restaurant/pub successful.

“My partners and I try to focus on the people inside our four walls and providing a caring and welcoming culture for them, so they can in turn do so for our guests. We pride ourselves on working with local farmers for the freshest and most delicious food. We apply the same principles to our drink offerings.”

It was a mutual love of good beer, food and service that led Gallagher and friends, Dave Blanchard and Tom Moore, to open Brick Store Pub in 1997. The “salt-of-the earth” hangout is beloved by locals and continuously ranks among the Top 10 Beer Bars in the world. LEON’s Full Service has been named one of Top 50 Bars in the Country by Food and Wine magazine.

You’ve accomplished so much with your thriving businesses, how do you like to give back?

My dear friend Ryan Hidinger, whom The Giving Kitchen was formed around, asked me to be part of the founding team. It’s been some of the most rewarding work to-date for me. The work that this organization has done to help those in need in the restaurant business is mind boggling, and especially during the pandemic. I am so proud and grateful to be a part of this organization.

I just can’t imagine what all of the grant recipients would’ve done if this organization was not there to provide financial assistance and timely special service assistance to help those in need in our industry – literally helping to keep food service workers alive and a roof over their heads, and over half of them have families.

What’s a day in the life of Michael Gallagher like?

It’s not always terribly exciting, but it has been rewarding: Lots of meetings with our leadership planning how to rebuild as we move through the pandemic. Time on the floor running food and drink, greeting our guests. When time allows, tasting dishes, beers, wine or cocktails that are hitting our menus seasonally – that’s the fun stuff! And I have the privilege of being a dad to an 11-year-old girl, and I have a lovely wife and cute puppy at home. Dinners at home are a highlight, and family time is sacrosanct.

Are there any upcoming events going on at your restaurants?
Our beer garden at Brick Store Pub will be a Winter Wonderland extravaganza again this year with firepits, holiday lights, showing holiday movies on the big screen and all sorts of special food and drink offerings like crepes and hot cider – plenty of special holiday beer offerings as well.

At LEON’s, we’ll be offering our famous eggnog cocktail as well as our full holiday cocktail list. Our chefs will be offering fun, seasonal favorites and new dishes from the kitchen.

MikeGallagher

CHEF KEVIN GILLESPIE

President and Chief Ideas Man of Red
Beard Restaurants
Revival – 129 Church Street,
Decatur, GA 30030 | revivaldecatur.com

Kevin “Red Beard” Gillespie wanted to be a chef ever since high school, so that’s what he did. While studying the culinary arts at The Art Institute of Atlanta, the Georgia native honed his craft working in restaurants. After a move to Oregon, Gillespie found himself homesick for his family and friends and returned to Atlanta.

In 2013, he opened his first solo restaurant, Gunshow, then Revival in 2015. Today, he has four venues under his Red Beard Restaurants company and is the author of two cookbooks.

Among his noteworthy accolades, Gillespie was a fan-favorite on Top Chef, a three-time semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef of the Year.’ And he made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.

You’ve seen a lot of success, how do you like to give back?

Giving back has always been important to me and was instilled in me by my parents. We have participated in numerous fundraisers at the restaurants and personally, I’ve had the pleasure of using my cooking skills to help others learn to cook healthier and with local products. During COVID, all those things were put on hold. That’s when my passion for ending systemic hunger was kicked into high gear, and we started our own organization to help, the Defend Southern Food Foundation.

Tell me about Defend Southern Food Foundation and why it’s important to you.

My business partner Marco Shaw and I wanted to find a way to make a difference that lasts longer than a day or week. We wanted families to be fed, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day. The COVID crisis put a spotlight on the hunger issue in their own backyard. That’s when we created the Defend Southern Food Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Since then, employees at Cold Beer have prepared meals to feed the families of students in the Maynard Jackson school cluster five nights a week.

CHEF KEVIN GILLESPIE

The 225,000 meals, so far, are nutritious and delicious, providing stress-relief for the recipients and supporting the local economy through product purchases. Funds are needed to keep the project going. By dining at Cold Beer, guests are supporting the program. Donations also can be made online. I have pledged to match the first $25,000 donated.

Do you have a motto that you live by?

I would say that my motto is, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

What would you say is the secret to your success?

The secret to my success is simply that I have never cared if I received the credit for our accomplishments, only that we continue as a team to fight for the win.

Revival serves southern fare in a building that was originally a home, so it definitely has that homey feel to it. What dish are they best known for?

Our fried chicken! And we are a place for families to get together in a comfortable setting and enjoy updated southern favorites.

Follow @RevivalDecatur on Instagram for their holiday and New Year’s Eve events.

Lberian-Pig

FRED CASTELLUCCI

President/CEO of
Castellucci Hospitality Group
Iberian Pig – 121 Sycamore St, Decatur, GA 30030 |
theiberianpigatl.com

Reopening the John’s Creek Sugo after it had gone out of business, Fred Castellucci helmed his first restaurant right after graduating from prestigious Cornell University’s Hospitality Management Program.

In 2009, he opened the original Iberian Pig Decatur location on a shoestring budget of less than $100,000. Today, the family-owned and operated Castellucci Hospitality Group has a collection of popular restaurants in the greater Atlanta area including Bar Mercado & Recess, Cooks & Soldiers Double Zero, Sugo, Mujõ and The Iberian Pig.

You have several successful restaurants under your belt now, what do you credit your success to?

My mentality is always to give my time, energy, expertise, money, whatever that is, to helping others as much as I possibly can, without the thought process of when it’s coming back. It’s funny, the world conspires to do good things for you when you take that attitude.

That’s a great way to think. Can you elaborate on how you like to give back?

Our primary way of giving back in the last year and a half is kind of all interrelated. It started with our COVID response: Right off the bat we didn’t lay off any of our employees, we never cut salaries, we paid out bonuses, we gave raises. We did all those things that no other restaurant company really did at the time.

And it was initially about: How do we support the people that support us? But also, how do we support the community by serving them in a safe manner? That kind of mentality kind of kept going with how we continued to manage through it. One of the ways in which we gave back over the last year and a half, is the Feed the Frontline Initiative, which we have done over and over again (going to the hospitals and feeding all the frontline healthcare workers).

One of the things that I get the most enjoyment from is helping others succeed as an entrepreneur. In the last year, I helped two people start their own businesses through funding and help and expertise and mentorship. I’ve been looking to identify people who are ambitious and want to be an entrepreneur but maybe never had the ability or funding or connections to do so.

What would you say your restaurants are best known for?

First and foremost, it’s about the culture and hospitality. Our mission statement is “Passionately pursuing the perfect dining experience one guest at a time.” And it’s really rooted in that individual guest connection one at a time – the way that I built the businesses in the early days – when we had one restaurant, and we were struggling to survive, and we had very few customers walk in the door.

Do you have a favorite of your restaurants?

I don’t know – they’re all so unique and different. If I were to have a favorite, it’s got to be the original Iberian Pig in Decatur just because that restaurant changed my life, that community changed my life. I had struggled my entire life before that and overnight, we were busy, and it was successful, and it was well-received. Without that business, that restaurant, the whole company doesn’t exist.

What would you say sets The Iberian Pig Decatur apart from other restaurants?

I am a big proponent of the concept of energy in a building, and it’s one of those things that every restaurant tries to create. And it’s just like this alchemy that’s not pure science, and some places get it right, and some places don’t.

Decatur just has this incredible energy that is created from the square. Also the building and the bones we have, they’re over 100 years old [with] original rafters and exterior brick from an alleyway that was closed-in many years ago behind the bar. There’s just great acoustics in the building – it’s the right size, it’s the right ceiling height – all these things come together with great hospitality and delicious food that make it magical.

Fred-Castellucci