Rusty Hamlin is the executive chef for Zac Brown Brand and host of the renowned pre-concert dinner party, the “Eat & Greet.” Born in Baton Rouge, Rusty grew up steeped in Louisiana’s famed culinary culture, with jambalaya and gumbo among his go-to dishes.
After graduating from the Culinary Arts Institute of Louisiana, Rusty landed his first job as a line cook at the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino. Following the ’96 Olympics, Rusty expanded his culinary horizon by moving to Atlanta. He spent time in several different restaurants before settling in at Atkins Park, where he revamped the kitchen and menu. Rusty then opened a sister location in Smyrna, GA, now over a decade old, where he is the current Executive Chef and owner. After the initial opening, over a decade ago, Rusty met Zac Brown, who was beginning to enjoy local success. As charismatic, larger-than-life southern men who appreciate music, food, and the culture that unites the two elements, the two quickly became good friends.
This is when the seeds were planted for today’s roving culinary adventure – the Zac Brown Band “Eat & Greet.” With their 50-foot mobile kitchen “Cookie” in tow, the Eat & Greet is an opportunity to serve great food to approximately 150 of the band’s biggest fans in an intimate backstage setting before each show. Eat & Greet prep – and the ticking clock – starts around 8am each morning as the tour bus rolls into a new city. While his crew configures Cookie and begins baking, Hamlin searches local farms and markets in each new city, gathering up fresh ingredients and creating a menu for that night’s event.
Through it all, Rusty is mindful that he’s not just representing Zac Brown Band; he’s also an ambassador for local farmers and a tradition of southern hospitality, encompassing the South’s traditions of sharing and camaraderie around the table, even as the cuisine at the center of it changes.