Why He's Amazing: Because his upscale fish-shack dishes addictively combine simple yet bold flavors, often with a Southern accent.
Culinary School: Self-taught
background: JCT. Kitchen & Bar, Craftbar (/sites/default/files/tlanta); Craft (New York City); La Petite Grocery, Ralph's on the Park New Orleans)
Quintessential Dish: Frothy she-crab soup with shrimp toast
On Choosing to Work at a Fish-Focused Restaurant: "I wanted to take a break from that whole pork thing," he says, referring to America's obsession with all things pig. (However, he's not averse to using smoky bits of the meat to flavor gumbo, butter beans and other regionally inspired dishes.)
Southern Roots: In the 1960s, long before Evans was born, his hometown was an epicenter for rock and roll and blues. "I'm from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Everybody recorded there," he says. "Bob Dylan, Etta James, the Rolling Stones."
What Has Surprised Him at the Optimist: "The amount of oysters that Atlanta has eaten here has been mind boggling."