“I took a year off, and ended up going to culinary school at the Art Institute of Atlanta. I thought maybe I could be a food writer. But I started working at Muss & Turner’s in Smyrna, fell in love with working in kitchens, and wanted to see where that would take me.”
Later, Rothacker followed Muss & Turner’s chef David Sturgis to Athens to work at Farm 255, where she became the sous chef. Then she honed her pastry skills at Ike & Jane, an Athens bakery and cafe.
As it turned out, each of those places influenced what Heirloom Cafe would become.
“I wanted to bring together the things that I really loved about the previous places I had worked,” Rothacker said. “I was really fond of the management style, and the way Muss & Turner’s treated their people.
“I also wanted to bring in the farm-to-table side of things that I learned at Farm 255, so we do lots of local sourcing. All of our meats are sustainable and humanely raised, and the majority of our vegetables are coming from local farms. With Ike & Jane, I just loved that they were very small, but very community centered, and in a very walkable neighborhood.”
Of course, like every restaurant, Heirloom has been adapting to these pandemic times, currently offering online ordering, curbside pickup, and outdoor table service only.
“We are all wearing masks and gloves, and we’re requiring our guests to wear masks, unless they are eating or drinking,” Rothacker said. “We feel like that’s only fair to provide for the safety and security of our servers.”
Though Heirloom serves lunch and dinner, and features a full bar, brunch is what I usually go for when I’m in Athens. The likes of pulled pork hash, biscuits and gravy, or eggs and Comfort Farms sausage are always a welcome remedy on a Sunday morning, after a Saturday night in the “Classic City.”
When I asked Rothacker if she would share some brunch recipes to make at home, she offered three dishes and a cocktail that would be perfect for a summer buffet served on the porch.
Jessica Rothacker prepares a bowl of her Summer Farm Box Vegetable Hash in her Athens home. It’s a great dish for a brunch and a great way to use up extra veggies. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Credit: Chris Hunt
Credit: Chris Hunt
Her Smoked Trout Deviled Eggs is a dressed-up Heirloom catering staple. “It’s very Southern to sit on the front porch and eat deviled eggs and drink iced tea,” Rothacker said.
Summer Farm Box Vegetable Hash is a good way to use up the bounty of a CSA (community supported agriculture) box. “Everything that’s in the hash came out of the farm box I got last week, but beyond potatoes, you could use just about anything you have, and throw an egg on top,” Rothacker said.
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