Chef Kevin Gillespie has a giant boar's-head tattoo on his forearm that's almost as famous as his red beard (which has a Facebook fan page of its own). But the pork proselytizer and Top Chef Season 6 finalist showed his vegetable prowess on the show by cooking a winning meal for vegan actress Natalie Portman.
"I tried being a full-on vegetarian myself for a while," he says. He gave that up, but to keep his weight in check, he goes meatless during Lent and a few times a week for the rest of the year. "In the South, we put meat in everything, but it's a bit of a misconception that we eat a lot of it," he says. "My granny probably ate pork every day, but it was generally a thinly pounded piece of meat served with lots of vegetables."
Gillespie's next project is undoubtedly meat-centric: He's opening a barbecue joint in Atlanta this fall. But he offers a stellar vegetarian tasting menu at Woodfire Grill, and he often finds that he loves the dishes so much, he includes them on his regular tasting menu.
Still, Portman has yet to try Gillespie's food in Atlanta. "Please pass along my open invitation for her to dine in my restaurant anytime," he says.