The Bama Boys: Southern Grace Dinner

The Bama Boys: Southern Grace Dinner
Words by Jennifer Kornegay

We Southerners love our food, and in recent years, we’ve begun elevating the chefs who prepare it to revered celebrity status. If you’ve ever wanted to mix and mingle with one of these culinary luminaries, you can. In fact, you can dine on dishes and hear bits of each bite’s backstory from five lauded chefs with a trip down to Orange Beach, Alabama, and a ticket to the August 11 Southern Grace Dinner, one in a series of special guest-chef events hosted by Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina and its executive chef Bill Briand each summer. 

The August 11 event is a reunion of the “Bama boys,” a Southern Grace dinner that features Alabama chefs Adam Evans (Automatic Seafood and Oysters, Birmingham), David Bancroft (ACRE and Bow & Arrow, Auburn), Rob McDaniel (Helen, Birmingham) and Josh Quick (Odette, Florence) joining Briand in Fisher’s kitchen. 

Evans was just named Best Chef South by the James Beard Foundation, and Briand, McDaniel and Bancroft have all been semi-finalists for the same honor multiple times in years past, so putting these culinary heavyweights together is a big win for lucky ticket holders. Diners enjoy a multi-course meal, paired with beer from lauded Blackberry Farms Brewery, in the coastal chic Fisher’s Upstairs, where a gleaming wooden bar and contemporary décor are washed in soft sea colors, creating a sophisticated atmosphere that’s still laidback.

Briand’s goal with Southern Grace is to bring some of his Southern chef friends to his home to show off the area and the amazing seafood consistently pulled from its waters, but he also aims to give guests the unique opportunity to discover and hang out with some true titans of taste. Before sitting down to eat, guests enjoy cocktails and chatting with the guest chefs. 

Once dinner begins, each course comes to the communal tables family-style, fostering conversation among the guests. As diners dig in, chefs pop out front and share the inspiration and process that led to their contribution to the evening’s meal, which usually incorporates an abundance of fresh Alabama seafood and other locally sourced products. 

A previous Bama boys dinner featured delights like warm pickled shrimp enlivened with smoked tomato and cornbread vinaigrette, seared tuna spiced with chili and scooped onto rice crackers, crispy pork belly embellished with tangy goat cheese and sweet peaches, the brine of crispy fried oysters calmed with charred corn aioli, and poached pumpkin swordfish swimming with chantarelle mushrooms and Yukon gold potatoes. 

There’s little doubt that this year’s menu will lean heavily on fresh Gulf bounty too, but these chefs will also be serving a heaping helping of good times. The Alabama chefs aren’t just peers; they’re friends, and their camaraderie is something guests get in on, as they interact with the chefs alongside good eats. “Southern Grace dinners are always fun,” says Briand. “The visiting chefs are great to work with, and it’s no different with the Alabama boys. They all have a love for food, and that’s what the SG dinners are, a celebration of food and friendship!”