Sitting in his mother’s garden at the Swan House, Alex Hitz looks right at home. Perhaps it’s because this is a homecoming of sorts. Although he’s been living between New York and Los Angeles for some time, the clothing designer, HSN personality and classically trained chef is an Atlantan at heart. He was born in Piedmont Hospital and attended Trinity School and The Westminster Schools before heading to boarding school in Connecticut, and on to the Sorbonne and Le Cordon Bleu Paris. His deep Southern roots go back in Atlanta three to four generations on both sides.
Hitz grew up in an artistic and unconventional household helmed by his beloved mother Caroline Sauls Shaw and stepfather Robert Shaw, longtime music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. His parents’ penchant for entertaining notable politicians, musicians and artists at home left a mark on Hitz that has stayed with him. “As a really young child I was surrounded by the most creative, talented, amazing people in the world. Once you’ve seen life like that, you can never go back.”
Anecdotal stories from that time and others will be revealed when he returns to Atlanta this month to debut his first cookbook, My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Classic Southern Cooking with a French Twist ($35, Alfred A. Knopf), at the Atlanta History Center for a gala dinner on Oct. 10 and a lecture on Oct. 11. He also will speak at Barnes & Noble in Buckhead on Oct. 14 and at a private event at The Piedmont Driving Club during the week. “This book is as much about Atlanta and the South as anything else. It had to be [launched] at home.”
The polished and palate-pleasing coobook is chockablock with his Southern family recipes and those from his former restaurant Patio on the River (now Canoe). “My favorite one is in the back,” he reveals. “It’s Soubise.” A kind of onion and rice casserole. “It’s so fragrant that when it cooks up, I’m 3 years old again.”
The tome is a memoir of Hitz’s life and the story of his friends told through food. Take his recipe for Nan’s Bacon Sticks, inspired by his friend Nan Kempner—the famed Manhattan socialite. “Kempner threw fabulous lunch and dinner parties,” Hitz recalls of the times spent in her glam Park Avenue duplex. “Just like Nan, the [bacon sticks] are very chic and razor-thin.”
The good news? You can really cook from this book: The recipes are bulletproof. “It’s a major departure from other cookbooks in that way,” he says with a wry smile. “Most aren’t seasoned properly or the chef leaves ingredients out. That’s the worst! It’s just mean and hateful.”
One recipe he would never leave anything out of, is what he calls the “secret” to any successful party. “Three words: Chicken. Pot. Pie.” And he advises not to try new dishes out on guests. “Save the test tubes for another event. Just keep [food] simple, and make it really good.” -
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