In 1997, Chef Linton Hopkins was working as saucier in New Orleans when he was diagnosed with lymphoma and came to Atlanta for treatment at Emory University. The trip to Atlanta was a success in more ways than one: Hopkins beat the cancer, met his wife and culinary partner Gina, and soon after opened his first restaurant – the now shuttered Restaurant Eugene – in Buckhead.
Hopkins, a James Beard Award-winning chef, is now a fixture in Atlanta with his renowned eateries Holman & Finch, Hop’s Chicken, H&F Burger, forthcoming Eugene & Elizabeth’s, and online marketplace The Buttery ATL, but he hasn’t forgotten how his life was touched by his battle with cancer.
At the end of 2020 Hopkins served as an ambassador for The Great Bake, a virtual spin on the classic bake sale, to raise funds for The Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF). Hopkins is an avid baker, so when he was approached by LRF to be an ambassador he immediately said, “sign me up.”
Q. What’s your approach to baking?
A. I’m kind of like Willy Wonka when it comes to baking. I love to tinker and see what happens. You can eat your mistakes hot out of the oven. Just put a little butter on top. I’m an endless learner; I love the exploration of how to do something. So I play around with flours, I’ve built relationships with millers, and even took a side-trip to visit a mill in England where they make rye flower.
Q. You participated in the LRF charity fundraiser, but you have a different idea about charity. Tell us about it?
A. I think we need to end the concept of charity forever. It should be built into the business model of how we solve things. I really believe in this idea of being a maker. By doing what I love to do, I can give back. So, for example, when I buy a sandwich the charity should be part of the price and some of that money goes to the charities that fix things in our world.
Q. With many restaurants going through rough financial times due to the pandemic, what’s your advice to fellow restaurateurs?
A. The biggest lesson is to recognize that you have mobility. The pandemic has given people a taste for takeout, delivery, and pick up, and that’s not going away. Food and beverage is going to last until the zombies take us, but the structure of how food and beverage gets to guests is going to change. I’m a “no exit” kind of restauranteur; I’ll keep working and tweaking it until it works. Personally, if we have to shrink the company down to me with a cast iron skillet and Gina with bottle of wine, we’ll start from scratch again.
Q. You’re the inaugural playlist curator for INtown’s new Spotify channel. How important is music in the kitchen?
A. It’s crucial. I curate music for all our restaurants, so I’ll make a list of 100 songs that help define the space. For me, being a restaurateur is like being a producer.