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Gillespie and his beautiful bride, Valerie, on their wedding day.

Love Bites

Newlywed and celebrity chef Kevin Gillespie shares his fresh take on prepping the perfect menu for your reception.

Recently wed celebrity chef Kevin Gillespie’s star is quickly rising, and his first cookbook, Fire in My Belly, is due out in October. The main man of Atlanta’s Woodfire Grill, Gillespie—who is also a former Bravo Top Chef “Fan Favorite” and 2012 James Beard Award finalist—offers some tips to make your special day stand out.

The wedding planning process is still fresh for you. What tips can you share?
I think it’s important to be OK with being less traditional. It helps you be honest about what you want and what to prioritize. For instance, a friend got married on a farm and took advantage of the food truck movement. It took away the super-traditional element of the day, made the trucks part of the entertainment and gave people lots of choices about what to eat.

How did you and your wife, Valerie, put that into practice?
Well, we had to get married on a Sunday, since I wanted to host the reception at Woodfire Grill. We asked my friend, chef Kevin Clark of Home Grown, to do the cooking. I ordered a bunch of fresh product, gave him free rein in the kitchen and let him surprise us. Then we made our guests come through the kitchen as the buffet line. Our 130 guests plated their own dishes, which turned out to be a ton of fun, and the food was hot off the line. Most people hadn’t seen the inner working of a kitchen, which is a huge part of where I spend my time.

Do you think it’s realistic to do a reception at a restaurant?
I had unique access because it’s my restaurant. But I think many smaller restaurants are open to rent-outs at a reasonable price on nights that are less busy, like Sundays. And it’s great to have restaurant-quality food at a wedding.

So what did you serve?
We did some Southern things, like pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes, but I think it’s most important to know what’s in season and stick to that. Going seasonal cuts down on cost and it makes the final dish taste so much better.

Can you recommend other ways to customize?
Look to work with small purveyors. For instance, Sweetwater Brewing can do a custom beer for you (with a minimum order). We added other personal touches by shopping for antique vessels for centerpieces at Scott’s Antique Market and had a local designer create vintage band posters for invitations. Have fun, and your guests will too!