Location: Birmingham, AL
Why He's Amazing: Because he's revamped the menu at a Birmingham mainstay with the kind of dishes you'd find at an amazing Southern dinner party—like fried pickles with garlic remoulade, and shrimp and grits made with local beer.
Culinary School: University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast (Long Beach, MS)
Background: Commander's Palace, Lüke (New Orleans); The Little Nell (Aspen, CO)
Quintessential Dish: Chicken and dumplings (potato gnocchi, actually) with baby turnips, roasted cauliflower, leeks and brussels sprouts
Born and Reared: Waveland, Mississippi, about 45 minutes from New Orleans. "I will always have a New Orleans influence in me. That's what I grew up on."
Southern Flavors, Modern Methods: "A while back we served a bone-in pork chop that I used the sous vide technique on. So I would butcher it, season it and pour bacon fat into a bag, and then it would poach in that bag."
Full Circle: Hansell met his wife, Amy, when he first worked at Veranda from 2006 to 2009. "My wife and I joke about it now," he says, "but when I was the sous-chef here, we used to always talk about what we would do if this were our restaurant." Amy is now the restaurant's general manager, and the couple completely redesigned the interior together. "We [wanted] to liven up the place," he says, "make it younger and more approachable."
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.