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Best Chefs Heating Up The Culinary Scene In Atlanta

One of the great things about Atlanta is the diversity of culinary delights available wherever, whenever. But behind the impeccable front of house, there's the real talent working hard behind the scenes preparing the food born from their own inspiration. Take a minute to acknowledge and admire the talent that makes up some of the city's best restaurants.

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Kevin Rathbun
112 Krog St
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 524-8280

Fancy a bit of fame? Look no further than local TV celebrity and "Iron Chef" contender Kevin Rathbun. Kevin and brother Kent defeated Bobby Flay on the 2008 series with a secret ingredient of elk that wowed the judges, leaving them awestruck. Order the elk chop with blueberry demi, foraged mushrooms and goat cheese polenta to sample a taste of his winning talent. Kevin owns three restaurants in Atlanta; the nationally-acclaimed Rathbun's, Krog Bar and Kevin Rathbun Steak. A fourth restaurant, KR Steakbar, is scheduled to open in 2012, further cementing Kevin's success which continues to rise and evolve. With a string of accolades behind his restaurants such as "One of the Top New Restaurants in the United States" by Esquire Magazine and "Best Steakhouse in Atlanta" by Atlanta Magazine and Creative Loafing, check out Kevin's unique take on traditional steakhouse cuisine, all in carefully-crafted dishes complementary to a great dining experience.

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Terry Koval
Farm Burger
4108 W Ponce De Leon Ave
Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 378-5077

He's the official 2012 rising star, not to mention a huge advocate of the awesome farm-to-table movement. Terry Koval of Farm Burger is the height of sustainable cuisine, crafting his excellent locally-grown, grass-fed beef burgers for the growing food movement, which is gaining considerable speed in Atlanta. Officially dubbed "Best Farm-To-Table" in 2010 by Creative Loafing, Terry Koval took the ethos that first caught his attention as a young chef in San Francisco and honed it to fine precision for the benefit of food-conscious Georgians. A mere $8.25 will afford you a meal of burger, fries and a drink during lunchtime.

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Tomohiro Naito
Tomo Japanese Restaurant
3630 Peachtree Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30326
(404) 835-2708

For a chef with lofty aspirations that's making serious headway on his ambition, look no further than Tomohiro Naito (Tomo) who declares he aims to be "the greatest sushi chef in the world." With goals like this, how could he fail to be one of the up-and-coming on the culinary scene? Ecstatic diners find his food to be unlike your typical sushi, ranging from the simple to more complex rolls. Tomohiro promises the best with special ingredients flown in from Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market. This makes each plate a truly authentic experience. Now with a larger location in Buckhead, there's even more room to sample the exquisite flavors this chef brings to your palate.

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Kevin Gillespie
Woodfire Grill
1782 Cheshire Bridge Road
Atlanta, GA 30324
(404) 347-9055

He's the local boy who kept it local - Kevin Gillespie of the Woodfire Grill. He has held the position of executive chef there since 2008 and has been making his mark ever since with sustainable, organic, local ingredients. The Woodfire Grill website lists the string of accolades he has to his name. Check them out to see what the ultimate foodies are saying. However, as far as food goes, not much needs to be said besides that it's impeccable. Although the menu changes often, some standout dishes include pan-roasted North Carolina trout with roasted fennel, casteveltrano olives, chili flakes, capers and basil and wood-grilled berkshire pork loin with black-bean ragout, calabrese, mustard greens and local green beans. For a general idea of Kevin's style, splurge on a tasting menu which will provide five or seven plates of different options.

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Cynthia Wong 
Empire State South
999 Peachtree St
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 541-1105

Cynthia Wong, executive pastry chef of Empire State South, is widely acknowledged as the woman to watch on the Atlanta culinary scene. She moved to Empire from Cakes & Ale in the summer of 2011 and has not been slow to make a name for herself. Her desserts are the stuff that dreams are made of, including the mouth-watering lemon custard cake, the perfect tangy sweet for summer. But she doesn't ignore tradition at the cost of innovation: "to me there is no such thing, as long as it is tasty. Delicious is delicious, no matter how long it's been around or en vogue." And as a South Carolina native, you're sure to find desserts that appeal to your Southern roots wherever Cynthia Wong goes.

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Head to CBS Atlanta's Best Of page for more local tips on family fun, shopping, nightlife, food, culture and more!

Katy Light is an avid home cook. She loves nothing more than using home grown and harvested produce, milk from her own goats and naturally raised meat in her recipes. Her work can be found at

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