The Five-Bedroom, Six-Figure Rootless Life

I’ve used this New York Times article as inspiration for the name of my blog. Yeah, I know, it is four and a half years old. Even so, writer Peter Kilborn completely nails how life is in Alpharetta. I can remember shortly after this came out, our minister at church made it the topic of a few sermons. And from what I understand, Kilborn has written a book on the subject (something I need to get my hands on).

The article is a little dated now. It followed the Link family, who lived in present day Johns Creek (not yet incorporated in 2005). The family of five moved from burb to burb to follow the executive career of the husband, all the while never really fitting in anywhere.

Rootless

Are the Links rootless? I’m not so sure. I think Mrs. Link is desperately trying to establish roots, knowing full well that in a few short years (or months) they will be quickly uprooted and planted elsewhere. She willingly goes along with it, accepting all the costs and consequences, in an effort to further her husband’s career. But to call this family completely rootless is a little much, and something I’ll get into in later posts.

Nevertheless, the story covers many interesting themes. It is a study in suburban sociology written by a gifted journalist. He makes some very valid points yet at the same time pokes fun at our standard of living.

So thus my blog’s theme, and thus begins a series on this specific article. It contains so much juicy blog fodder that I just can’t resist! It also gives me the opportunity to create a quasi-fictional (yet real) poster child for the rootless relo family… Mrs Link. Congratulations, ma’am. You’re now a category on my blog!

Celebrity Chefs of Atlanta

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday.

The ultimate hero worship of the food world. As food reality shows like Top Chef and Iron Chef America get more popular, so do the celebrities they create. Atlanta’s food scene continues to get nods from the producers of these shows. This was especially true in Top Chef season six, which included three Atlanta chefs.

So here is your guide to the celebrity chef scene in Atlanta. After dining at these joints, you’ll have all the snobbery necessary for a suburban foodie. You’ll be able to name drop at your next dinner party. And if you’ve got gall, you could become your own Tom Colicchio, finding the slightest fault with Kevin Gillespie’s Sonoma artisan duck breast.

Richard BlaisBlais by Godofbiscuits on Wikimedia

Blais first appeared in television during season three of Iron Chef America. He spared with Mario Batali in battle chickpea (don’t you just love the ominous names of these battles?) Later he was a contestant on season four of Top Chef, finishing in the runner up spot.

Blais’ cooking included a lot of very modern techniques, which was always fun to watch on the show. He continues to have a close relationship with the show, returning in subsequent seasons.

Currently in Atlanta, he is consulting with the restaurant Flip Burger Boutique. They feature some over-the-top burgers and milk shakes made with liquid nitrogen. Prior to Flip he bounced around between half a dozen restaurants.

Hector Santiago

The first of three Atlantans on season six of Top Chef. The Puerto Rican-born chef got booted from the show way too early in my opinion. Today he runs Pure Vida, a Latin tapas restaurant off Ponce in Atlanta.

Eli Kirshtein

Kirshtein was Richard Blais’ sous chef on Iron Chef. No surprise then that they are friends. He appeared on season six of Top Chef and went pretty far, nearly making the finals. In my opinion, he went four or five episodes farther than he should have. He didn’t come across as competent as the skilled competition in this season. But perhaps it was how the show was edited.

Kirchtein runs Eno Restaurant and Wine Bar in Midtown but has announced he is leaving this month. He will work a temporary gig in New York City and hopes to return to Atlanta afterward.

Kevin Gillespie

By far the fan favorite on season six of Top Chef. Gillespie was a big teddy bear of a chef who showcased his Georgia roots. The man is a master of pork, so much so that he’s tattooed a humongous pig on his arm. He made it to the finals before being eliminated.

Back home he runs Woodfire Grill. His menu changes frequently and features locally grown, organic and sustainable foods. And from what I’ve read, a reservation at this joint is hard to come by these days.

Kevin Rathbun

This guy, along with his brother, defeated Bobby Flay on Iron Chef. And to top it off, they beat him in battle elk, an ingredient I would expect Bobby Flay to knock out of the park.

Rathbun runs three restaurants in Atlanta… Rathbun’s features modern American cusine, Krog Bar for Spanish tapas and Rathbun Steak (which I’m dying to try).

Tom Colicchio

Top Chef host and judge extraordinaire. It is hard to not know who this guy is. Unlike most of the younger reality show contestants mentioned above, Colicchio is a serious and accomplished restaurateur. He recently opened his Atlanta location of Craft in trendy Buckhead.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten

I really don’t know this guy, other than being one of several snooty Frenchmen to guest judge on Top Chef. His vast restaurant empire includes the Asian fusion joint Spice Market in the W hotel in Midtown.

Emeril Lagasse

An Atlanta celebrity chef has-been. Atlanta holds the distinction of being the only place Emeril has ever closed a restaurant.

Too Much Hype? Snow Day in Atlanta

When I was in college, I distinctly remember a picture from a campus newspaper on a snow day. The scene was completely staged, yet still funny as hell. Two fratboys are in the bread aisle of a grocery store. The shelves are bare. One has a loaf of long french bread, presumably the only thing left in the store. He is wielding it like a sword, beating the other fratboy over the head in an epic struggle.

Okay, my explanation of the picture will never do it justice. But the satire was spot on. People in the south go absolutely nutty over the mere chance of frozen precipitation. Is it justified, or all hype?

Fast forward to today… I’m on a daily conference call with colleagues in our Michigan office.  Do you think they want to hear about our 40% chance of a dusting of snow? I’m sure the phone is on mute on their end, laughing their asses off.

So let’s go point/counterpoint on the snow day hype machine…

Hype – Stocking Up

The need to stock up on perishable kitchen items is silly. Unless there are blizzard conditions, you’re not going to starve. I can survive on out-of-date canned water chestnuts in my cupboard for at least a week.

Not Hype – Ice

Typically in the south, snow or sleet occurs when the temperature is at or near freezing. The stuff thaws, then refreezes on the roads. Up north, snow falls, sticks, and stays as powdery stuff for day/weeks.

Hype – School and Office Closings

Schools these days close at just the mention of snow. Sometimes they will close an entire school system if only part of the county has snow. The effects of kids out of school and parents having to cover for them has ripple effects in the work place.

Additionally, office closings are stupid. Here in cubicle land, most of us have the ability to work from home. Smart companies treat their employees like adults and will let them make decisions. If travel is dangerous, make the decision yourself and work from home. If your boss has a problem with that, find a new boss.

Not Hype – Snow is Fun

I blame this on being born and raised in Florida. I never saw snow until I was a teenager. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been in a significant snow fall (6 inches or more) in all my life. If we have snow, any amount of snow, I’m gonna play in it. I don’t care if I have to rake the yard to find enough snow for a snowball, I’m gonna do it. And my kids? Please! This is a rite of childhood.

Hype – Meteorologists

You can’t argue that they have a vested interest in playing this up. It is all about the ratings, and people don’t watch the Weather Channel on warm, sunny days.

Not Hype – Lack of Infrastructure

In the south we just don’t have the number of snow plows available. If we do get a deep covering, only primary roads and bridges get cleared. Secondly, utilities struggle to keep power lines clear. There are many above ground utilities which are not clear of tree limbs. In icing conditions, trees snap and folks lose power. Again, this typically only happens with ice or heavy snowfall.

So all in all, I probably lean towards the “not hype” side of my argument. Nevertheless, I enjoy watching the spectacle. Tomorrow the TV stations will send reporters as far north as possible to get a flake on your screen. If we’re lucky, we might see video of cars skidding down Peachtree Street. But that’s about it. Either way, I’ll be here with my extra bread, milk and beer.

I Can’t Drive 85

The new year marks the start of the Super Speeder Law. If you’re like me, you didn’t know anything about this until Governor Sonny Perdue appeared on the radio. In his Gomer Pyle-like voice, Perdue outlined the terms of the new law. Going 85 mph will tack on an additional $200 fine. This is on top of whatever fine the local municipality hits you with. The bill will come in the mail from the state at some point after the ticket.

The Alpharetta Autobahn

This law is of particular interest to those of us traveling on GA-400 everyday. Finding drivers going 85 mph on 400 is commonplace. This is especially true in Sandy Springs and Roswell, between exits 5 and 7. I welcome the new deterrence to driving this fast.

“He’s in Pieces”

If you need an example of why this law is needed, check out this gruesome example. A little more than a year ago, someone managed to get their Hyundai Sante Fe up to about 120 mph on GA-400. Fortunately he missed everyone else, taking only himself out of the gene pool in dramatic fashion.

Okay, I shouldn’t make fun of this fella’s misfortune. But my family travels on GA-400 everyday. The fewer drivers like this guy on the road the better.

Will the law make a difference? Hard to tell. My father used to say that only swift and certain punishment will make someone change their ways. But the threat of an extra $200 may not make a difference to someone living in an affluent burb. I suppose if it eliminates just one catastrophe on GA-400 then it’s all worth it. I just don’t expect the insane driving on this road to end anytime soon.

$184,207

No, that’s not my salary. Apparently it is for some around here. This is the median household income in the city of Alpharetta. To call Alpharetta an affluent suburb is an understatement. Here you’ll find gated country clubs too numerous to name. You’ll find the homes of Atlanta’s professional sports athletes. And in years past, you’d even catch glimpses of has-been 80’s musicians.

Alpharetta is what I call an affluent, high-tech burb. Scattered amongst the strip malls you’ll find offices for banks, medical device makers, software startups, and telecommunications firms. Inside are thousands and thousands of high paid college educated professionals slaving away in the fabric covered boxes.

Living and raising a family here gives me a different perspective. It is that perspective I hope this blog captures. The mix of money and technology make Alpharetta unique. I hope to chronicle this in the coming months and years. Hopefully my posts will be a creative mix of not just Alpharetta-specific themes, but of life in general in burbs like mine.

Many curse the suburbs. They wind up here by accident and dream of escape! We become the punchline of jokes; the poster child for chain restaurants with screaming toddlers. It is probably hard to believe, but this is where I want to be. This is where I’ve chosen to lay the roots of my young family. Hopefully that root will grow ever deeper. I invite you to follow along.

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