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hris Hastings knows what it’s like to wait in a tunnel before running into a stadium for a big game. But instead of crimson jerseys, Hastings and his team wore chef’s jackets. And instead of facing an SEC opponent, they were about to square off against Bobby Flay, one of the best-known celebrity chefs in the United States. Hastings, the consulting chef for the Tuscaloosa Embassy Suites’ The Side by Side restaurant, was in the national culinary spotlight in 2012 when he and his team competed on “Iron Chef America.” The Food Network TV show pits a prominent challenger like Hastings against one of the show’s stable of high-profile food stars. Hastings won that battle. He’s also won a James Beard Award. And his Birmingham restaurant, Hot and Hot Fish Club, consistently has drawn praise from food critics and everyday diners alike. That’s why the news that he would be involved with the Embassy Suites eatery had many Tuscaloosa foodies salivating. Hired by Culinaire International, a Dallasbased food and beverage management company, Hastings has been involved with all aspects of The Side by Side, he said. “They hired me to create the restaurant,” he said. “My job has been to establish all protocols, systems and best practices for our culinary team — how flavors are supposed to taste, every single detail.” He’s not kidding about the details. The week before The Side by Side’s opening day, March 3, Hastings was in the restaurant talking with

TOP: Chris Hastings is a James Beard Awardwinning Top Chef of the South. ABOVE: Coconut cake with roasted pineapple sauce.

staff members, walking briskly in and out of the kitchen, and dealing with suppliers. But when he spotted a tiny piece of paper on the floor, he stopped what he was doing to walk over and pick it up. That likely wouldn’t surprise George McMillan III, owner and executive chef of FoodBar in Vestavia Hills, who worked for Hastings from 1996 to 1998. “I learned that you have to keep focus on

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3/29/2015 7:14:35 PM

Tuscmag spring 2015  

WBC champion Deontay Wilder is featured on the cover of the 2015 Spring Issue of Tuscaloosa magazine.

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