Linton and Gina Hopkins: Marriage and Family is the Main Course
Generally speaking, the relationship between the front of the house of a restaurant and the kitchen isn’t always a love fest. Chefs yell at servers to pick up food, servers yell at cooks to hurry up or bring criticism from customers. But the passion that fuels these fights also spurred something different between Chef Linton and Gina Hopkins, owners of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta, Georgia. The two met at Washington’s DC Coast Restaurant. Gina is a sommelier who has built a career in her own right. Linton had started out Pre-med at Emory University with a major in anthropology but was drawn to the kitchen by his love of food and memories of being in the kitchen with his grandfather, Eugene. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and followed a culinary path through some of the most prestigious restaurants in New Orleans before ending up in Washington, DC and discovering a new dream – to own a restaurant in Atlanta with Gina. The two opened Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta and have just opened Holman and Fitch Public House.
Gina and Linton balance the business endeavors with raising their two children and being extremely active in their community. Hopkins has joined forces with 11 other parents to participate on the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Local School Wellness Council. Through his involvement, he has done everything from attending meetings and workshops to bringing locally contributed produce to schools to educate children about different types of fresh fruits and vegetables. Gina complements this work as a member of the Atlanta Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier. The organization’s Green Table Initiative is designed to inform children about how food gets from the farm to their table, a concept close to her and Hopkins’ heart, especially considering the relationships they have with local growers. “That food comes from somewhere; it comes from someone in a sustainable way, and we need to teach that to our children. That’s a big part of what we’re trying to do,” Hopkins noted.
In addition to other food-centric associations, such as the Slow Food Movement and the Southern Foodways Alliance, Hopkins devotes time to working with the March of Dimes and cancer research organizations. After surviving Hodgkin’s disease at the age of 29, Hopkins is grateful to be able to use his notoriety in the food industry to bring awareness to such a wide array of important causes. Linton told North Points Magazine, “We believe in charitable works, and as a business, you’re really able to be much more of a champion for these causes, more so than as a private citizen,” he commented. “It makes you much more effective because people will listen to you. It’s been one of those great added benefits.”
The honors are another added benefit. Restaurant Eugene won the Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” in 2005, 2006, and 2007. The list of awards for the restaurant and Hopkins is as long as your arm. Gourmet magazine called Restaurant Eugene “A Place to Eat Now” in 2005, and Hopkins was chosen as a challenger on Iron Chef and is nominated for a 2008 James Beard Award.
And the awards are justly deserved. The menu at Restaurant Eugene balances decadence of foie gras with seasonal, locally grown produce, meats, as well as fresh seafood. He offers a “Tasting of Local Vegetables” that includes: Anson Mill’s Grits, Pole Beans, Sunchokes, Swiss Chard, Fennel, Crystal Organics’ Baby Peppers, Golden Nugget Fingerlings, Arugula and Baby Greens. Restaurant Eugene also has an exceptional cheese list and offers monthly tastings called “Cheese Eugene.” Gina’s wine list is phenomenal. And the “Sunday Supper” with a choice of Fried Chicken, Benton Bacon Wrapped Trout or Osso Bucco is the place to be on Sunday night in Atlanta.
Linton and Gina Hopkins are as down to earth as the vegetables they serve, eat, and educate children about. They are striving to improve their community and the ones beyond. The best summary of who they are comes from a letter by Gina about their philosophy on www.restauranteugene.com:
Linton and I moved to Atlanta specifically to open Restaurant Eugene. When we met at DC Coast Restaurant in Washington, DC, we knew that someday we too would become restaurateurs. It is in our blood. There are so many things we love about the restaurant business it is hard to pinpoint one or even just a few things that we offer. The food is exceptional. Linton has such talent for putting the right things together: just thinking about his gnocchi with shitake mushrooms and English peas or a heirloom tomato tart with caramelized Vidalia onions makes my mouth water. I am so excited about the freshness and quality of the food we are serving. The décor is also special. We worked with Ed Seiber and his team at Seiber Design, Inc. We had a great connection with them right from the start and loved the process of designing the restaurant: layering great architecture with warm fabrics and inviting art. One thing that we really want the community and our guests to know is that we are here for the long term. We love people, and it is our foremost priority to ensure that our guests are well cared for and embraced with southern hospitality. We look forward to seeing you.