Portraits of the New South

Writer and photographer Wesley Verhoeve has spent over a year traveling the US to capture the creative communities of twelve cities in portrait and writing. Here are eight of his portraits from cities across the South.

Writer and photographer Wesley Verhoeve has spent over a year traveling the US to capture the creative communities of twelve cities in portrait and writing for his One of Many project. The eight portraits below offer a look at the people living and working in southern cities like Nashville, Charleston, and Savannah, where "the new South" is alive, well, and growing rapidly.

"You'd think that a town like Nashville would be well populated with bars that can make a fine cocktail, but there are only a few that truly measure up. I enjoyed Patterson House, where they made me a fine Boulevardier, and had a great time at Holland House over negronis, but it was No. 308 where I felt like home. Owner and bartender Ben Clemons seems to operate on a level that fluctuates somewhere between pleasantly insane and disarmingly charming. "No. 308 is an opinionated bar, not shy about making the statement that a waxed moustache really isn't a necessary element for a bar that makes a great cocktail. But it's not screaming from the rooftops about it; it's a quiet confidence. There are no 'mixologists' here, just bartenders. Pages from Charles Bukowski books line the bar, and patrons are encouraged to get a custom drink made to their taste. I've never seen proper cocktails made as quickly and with so little pretense as at No. 308, and I liked it that way." —Wesley Verhoeve
Phila Hach is a legendary food writer who is still, somehow, underexposed. She has written 19 cookbooks, catered for the UN, was one of the first stewardesses on American Airlines in the 1940's, and designed their first airline menu. She lives in Nashville.
Becca Barnett, taxidermy and visual artist responsible for some of the most beautiful pieces gracing restaurant interiors in Charleston, SC. “To me, the new South isn't 'new' in the dictionary sense of the word. There are a lot of old-time, age-honored traditions here that we can't seem to shake. What's exciting to me is that we're able to put a modern spin on these old ways. I'm able to create artwork that celebrates the past while exploring modern influences.”
**Caroline Cercone, potter and responsible for the gorgeous custom tableware at renowned restaurant Husk Nashville: ** “Here I am, a German woman working as a potter, who is married to an Italian-American Yankee living in Nashville with a multi-lingual daughter who also speaks Spanish. Without the resurgence of Southern heritage and seasonal Southern cooking, my cups and bowls, plates and platters would not have found their traditional place back on the tables of private homes and in restaurants across the city and state. Now that’s 'the new South'!”
"Bill Cherry is a farmer and the owner of Bear Creek Farms just outside of Nashville, where his family has been raising cattle on 1,400 acres of land for over 30 years. Bill and his wife Leeann run a sustainable, grass-fed cattle farm in a responsible, humane and natural way. This means no antibiotics, no cattle prods, no branding. Local restaurants like Rolf and Daughters and Husk are steady customers; The French Laundry has recently joined the family, too." —Wesley Verhoeve
"This 84-year-old chef and owner of beloved Charleston restaurant Martha Lou's Kitchen is the definition of a local legend. Martha Lou Gadsden has quietly cooked in the same location for the last 31 years, recently receiving praise from names like Sean Brock, Anthony Bourdain, and the New York Times. "All eight of Martha's children have at various times been employed by the restaurant, and four still help run the place, handling kitchen and hosting duties. The atmosphere at Martha Lou's is like no other: It's genuine, down home, simple, generous, and rich. The smells and hospitality set high expectations, and the food delivers. A world in which kindness is the not-so-secret ingredient means that every dish is greater than the sum of its parts." —Wesley Verhoeve
Lauren Morlock, 17-year veteran of the coffee industry and owner of Sólo Espresso Bar, on the emergence of specialty coffee in New Orleans: “New Orleans has always been a great food city, and we are ever evolving and upping our food and beverage game. I’m personally super excited about the new, but strong, specialty coffee scene here. New Orleans has deep roots with coffee, and in the past couple years has been opening its arms to specialty coffee. There have been some great shops to open up in the past couple years, and there are some new ones in the near future to look out for. It’s great to be able to bring my love and passion for craft coffee into the lives of others, and have them get just as excited about it as I do. The camaraderie between craftsmen—whether it be coffee, cocktails, food, or pastries—is pretty great here.”
**Brooks Reitz, restaurateur (St. Albans and Leon's Oyster Shop in Charleston) and the man responsible for Jack Rudy Cocktail Co and Khikhi Milk Co. ** “It’s a hard thing to inherit a term like 'the new South,' especially as it relates to food, because it is sometimes used to discount the vast, significant, historic foodways that have existed [here] for countless decades. That aside, the plainest way to think about 'the new South' is simply the young, up-and-coming folks who are injecting their spirit and soul into traditional Southern foodways to make something unique. "Often, this means working with a traditional Southern pantry but bringing in international influences: Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Lebanese, etc. Today's young talent have had more access to travel, and more exposure to a wide variety of styles."
Cheryl Day, baker and co-owner of Back In The Day Bakery in Savannah. (Cheryl and her husband Griffith were recently nominated for the James Beard Award in the category Outstanding Baker.) “I am excited to see folks talking about Southern food as the true American cuisine that it is and sharing all of the stories that make it such a colorful place to live. I love seeing folks gathering around the table again with potluck dinners and Saturday supper clubs and I believe these gatherings have become a great bridge into meaningful and honest conversations about living in the American South.”
**Adam Gatchel, the man behind award-winning custom lighting and lighting design company Southern Lights Electric is responsible for some of the most gorgeous restaurant light fixtures in Nashville and beyond. ** "Southern cuisine is built on heart and passion, and the South maybe more than any other region won't tolerate food without soul. The Southern food scene has been stereotyped for so long that I think it scared other styles of cooking away. Chefs and restaurateurs in the past few years have begun to realize that a Southerner's palate is not limited to shrimp and grits. The new South is open to all types of [food], as long it is prepared with the same love and spirit as our grandmothers put into their cooking. I'm excited to see restaurants like Rolf and Daughters and POP bring exciting new flavors to the scene with a familiar comfort that we always come back for."

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