FROM THE AJC ARCHIVES: The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead welcomes new chef

Atlanta philanthropist Sally Dorsey chats with Franck Steigerwald, then the newly appointed executive chef at The Ritz Carlton, Buckhead, at a private dinner party in 2012. Photos by Ben Rose; provided to the AJC by the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead

Originally published June 1, 2012

The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead introduced its new executive chef to local patrons likely to be supping frequently on his creations at a pair of private dinner parties this week.

General Manager Erwin Schinnerl announced the appointment of Franck Steigerwald as executive chef this week, and the hotel sent invitations in the form of a mini hardback book to some of Atlanta’s most active philanthropic titans.

Guests received their invitations in the form of mini hardback books.

A native of France’s Bordeaux region, Steigerwald came to America more than 11 years ago to work at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, outside Washington D.C., as senior sous chef, and from there transferred to The Ritz-Carlton, Naples Beach Resort as chef de cuisine. He put in time at the Taj Boston (formerly The Ritz-Carlton, Boston) and the St. Regis New York before heading south.

During a quick chat, Steigerwald told us he’d originally aimed for a career in accounting but was sidetracked when a friend invited him to join a cooking class. What started as a lark became a passion.

“I fell in love,” he said. His culinary career began with a long, hot night in front of the pastry oven in his friend’s restaurant, where the goal was to create 400 pastry cups.

“I ended up making 500,” he said. “I broke the first 100!”

His restaurateur friend figured the arduous labor would cure Steigerwald’s interest in cooking for a living, but the next morning at 7 a.m., he was back for more.

“He said, well, ok!” Steigerwald said, mimicking his friend’s incredulous shrug.

He and his wife, Leigh, live in Atlanta, and he looks forward to exploring the city’s restaurants, specialty grocers and farmers markets.

The Chef’s debut dinner parties were held in what was the Dining Room. It is now used for private events.

“To fill my refrigerator at home takes a whole day in my car,” he said. “I drive to the place for the best French cheese, then go to the place for the freshest fish on the day the shipment is received, then to the finest vegetables and meats and on and on until I have it all and I’m excited to go home and cook.”

Eileen and Tom Rosencrantz, left, and Al and Su Longman, right, at the private party the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead held in 2012 to welcome new executive chef Franck Steigerwald. Photo by Ben Rose Photography, Provided to the AJC by the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead

He most enjoys preparing seafood dishes because of the challenge required.

“There’s a delicacy to it,” he said.

The delicacies he served at this week’s debut dinner parties included a warm lobster salad, potato gnocchi with saffron broth and mussels, clams and Georgia prawns, sea bass with tomato compote in a lemon verbena sauce and roasted rack of lamb with wine mushrooms in a red wine sauce. Sommelier Linda Torres Alarcon paired wines with each course.

For dessert the chef served chocolate and peppermint souffle with a wink.

“It’s made with Listerine,” he joked.

This week’s dinner parties were held on the hotel’s second floor, in what used to be the storied Dining Room restaurant.

Guests included Bill and Cindy Fowler, Harold and Alana Shepherd, Mary Portman, Sharon Umphenour, Ron and Kay Quigley, Sally Dorsey and Herb Miller and Doris and Shouky Shaheen. Also, Eileen and Tom Rosencrants, Bill and Cindy Voyles, Tom and Kim Lape, Su and Al Longman, Paula Dickey and David Dickey, Kristin and Duncan Gibbs, Melanie Boltax, Jane Dean and Heather Dean, Dottie and Jerry Smith, Kristen Wright, Cecilia Wright, Leslie McLeod and Frank and Elizabeth Martin.

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