Chef Spotlight: Tres Jackson

October 16, 2015

Tucked along the banks of the Black Warrior River, Tuscaloosa, Alabama is home to one of the tastiest spots in the state, the Epiphany Café, under the direction of Chef Tres (pronounced Trace) Jackson. With an explicit mission of creating a menu that is farm to fork, the dishes at Epiphany are creative and unexpected – a tactic that Jackson plans to bring to the Oyster Cook-Off competition for the win.

“You get to push the most boundaries in the raw,” Jackson said, referring to his favorite category at the Cook-Off. “You have to add texture and enhance the flavor without the advantage of cooking. Your dish is at its most pristine and untouched so you try to play with other elements like acid or add something like citrus. I’m still coming up with it.”

The seafood and fruit combo is a favorite of Jackson’s as you can see in his menu items such as “Blue Crab with Sea Island Peas, Watermelon, Smoked Crepe and Black Garlic.”
Also prevalent on Jackson’s menu are southern staples like fried okra, cornbread, slow cooked pork and creamed corn but each are used in surprisingly creative ways.

“We are driven by what our farmers grow for us,” said the South Carolina native. “And, so these dishes pay homage to the food that comes from right here in our community, certainly. But we also benefit from great partnerships that bring us fresh seafood and suppliers a little farther out. Changing the plate here is really what has helped us to be more creative.”

That change has meant more vegetables and less protein at Epiphany, a way Jackson thinks is only natural. “If you go to a farm, the majority of what you see is vegetables and grains. They grow quicker and are replaced faster than animals. That’s affected what we’re doing in our kitchen – moving away from the big meat entrée part of the plate. It also requires us to really change up how we do vegetables, to really give them our attention.”

So while Jackson and his staff are concentrating on dishes like grilled beets and peaches with smoked ricotta, hot peppers and radishes or scallops crudo with buttermilk, avocado and crispy chicken skin, his customers can focus on another important part of life in Tuscaloosa besides great food – football.

Pair mouth watering bites from Chef Jackson with your favorite ballgame in our football viewing lounges on Saturday, November 7.