Interview with Birmingham’s latest James Beard Awards winner — Automatic Seafood Chef Adam Evans

Adam Evans
James Beard winner of the Best Chef in the South for 2022, Automatic Seafood and Oyster’s Adam Evans. (Caleb Chauncey/Automatic Seafood)

On Monday, June 13, Chef Adam Evans of Automatic Seafood and Oysters joined Birmingham’s growing list of James Beard winners when he brought home the medal for Best Chef–South category. 

Check out our interview with the winner. 

About the James Beard Awards

Beard
(James Beard Foundation)

The annual James Beard Awards is often described as the Oscars for the culinary world. Evans joined a distinguished group of past local individual winners which include: Highlands Bar & Grill’s Frank Stitt and Dolester Miles and Hot & Hot’s Chris Hastings. Highlands Bar & Grill and Bright Star have also been honored in the restaurant category.

Interview with Chef Adam Evans

James Beard
Automatic Seafood and Oysters Adam Evans accepting the James Beard Best Chef: South Award. Screenshot from the James Beard Awards Twtter Live broadcast

The day after Evans won the Best Chef honor, he graciously gave an interview with Bham Now. We talked about the honor, his “culinary journey” and what’s next for him.

Here are some of our favorite takeaways from the 20-minute interview.

Evans’ reaction on hearing the announcement he had won Best Chef in the South category

“I was certainly taken by surprise. It could’ve been anybody out of the group. A lot of great people have been nominated before, so I heard my name and froze for a minute. I remember that moment, hugging my wife Suzanne and thinking ‘I better get up there.’”

“It was a surreal moment. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time. To even just make the list and then make the final list and actually be on stage with the metal is unbelievable.”

During the acceptance speech recognizing his wife Suzanne

Automatic
Owners Chris and Suzanne Evans at the future location of Automatic Seafood & Oysters in 2018. (Automatic Seafood & Oysters)

“That was a special moment. Somebody afterwards showed me a picture of that (the live feed showed Suzanne standing in the audience). I was really glad that was captured because she means a whole lot to me. She also means a whole lot to the restaurant because she designed it and did all the interior design. She was with me every step of the way. We are a team together. When we opened, she had never worked in the restaurant industry, but she jumped right in. She’s got a natural hospitality sense to her. She designed a beautiful restaurant and is also a great manager of people and a wonderful host to the guests that we have coming. I couldn’t have done it without her. It’s a beautiful moment for us.”

Support from Birmingham is amazing

IMG 1700 Interview with Birmingham's latest James Beard Awards winner — Automatic Seafood Chef Adam Evans
Legendary chef and restauranteur Frank Stitt sitting at “Frank’s Table” a sculpture honoring him commissioned by the National MS Society. (Pat Byington/Bham Now)

“I couldn’t do something like this without the support of the community. We very deliberately chose this community because of what was already here and what has been built here. Frank Stitt set up a great restaurant and dining culture. I tell people he’s trained that entire community and city on what good dining and hospitality looks like. In a lot of ways, you’re trying to live up to the expectation of that. I’m so happy we’re here because Birmingham has been everything. The community is amazing. The support we’ve gotten, especially during COVID, was just a beautiful thing because they still came and supported us. They got us through it.

What makes Automatic Seafood different & his favorite dish right now

Automatic
(Caleb Chancey)

“We have an evolving menu which does make it difficult at times, but it also allows us to be spontaneous with the food and I really think great things come from that. 

Right now we have a spear fisherman we’re working with directly out of Destin, and spearfishing is a whole thing for me. It’s the quality of the fish and getting it home so pristine. It’s on another level. It’s important to me to source the best fish I can because we’re a seafood restaurant. 

Evans’ Favorite Dish: “Right now we have amazing tomatoes from Bell Meadows Farms, a local farm here and a piece of spear-caught fish, that’s what I want to eat, especially when it’s hot outside.”

What’s next for Evans? 

“I’m excited about what this award means to so many people. It’s a huge platform for me to now do something better and bigger than the restaurant. So that’s what I’m excited about. It’s a great reminder to keep working hard.”

What a journey

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Automatic Seafood. Photo via Facebook

Bham Now has been following Automatic Seafood and Oysters ever since they started reclaiming the Automatic Sprinkler manufacturing site in the Birmingham Lakeview District  beginning in 2018. 

Here is a catalog of stories we’ve published about the now home to the James Beard Awards 2022 Best Chef in the South:

Congrats Chef Evans on your well deserved honor. We can’t wait to experience more of your culinary creations in the coming years here in The Magic City.

Have you dined at Automatic Seafood and Oysters? Tell us what your experience was like. Tag @bhamnow on social media with comments or pics.

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Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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