Second helping

A row of narrow storefronts along Marietta Square, directly across from Glover ParkRestaurants and shops along Marietta Square (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

By Brian Benefield

I have unique culinary stories to tell, but first, I must say that being a server in a restaurant should be something that everyone experiences at some point. That way, for the rest of your life, while dining out, you will have some empathy for how difficult and demanding this job can be.

I was a server, bartender, cook, manager in that order for many years in my twenties, and it taught me a lot of things I would use for the rest of my life. Learning to read your guests, anticipate their needs, and be hospitable is what the business is all about. Hospitality has gotten lost in large corporate chain restaurants that churn out mediocre food and lackluster service.

I greatly admire individuals and families that own/operate their restaurant because it’s not a flashy, glamorous business as the cooking shows on TV tend to portray. A commercial kitchen is a hot, demanding, fast-paced, grueling environment and not for the faint-hearted. We are pretty fortunate in Cobb County to have a vast, diverse selection of locally owned eateries, and I will be sharing their backstories.

My wife, Cecilie, and I took a walking food tour in 2012 in San Francisco and became hooked on this concept. We knew this type of tour would do well in our hometown of Marietta, GA.

After taking several more tours, we heard through the grapevine that Food Tour Pros in Chicago was the place to gain knowledge, and so we took a leap of faith and headed to the windy city in early 2014.

The owner, Shane Kost, also owns one of the most expansive food tours in the US – Chicago Food Planet; we had people in our training class from Nashville, TN, and Taipei, Taiwan.

We launched the Marietta Square Food Tour later in 2014 and got to know many of the restaurant owners and conveyed their colorful and sometimes unbelievable stories about their passion for the foodservice industry while feeding our tour guests lots of tasty food along the way.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, I began writing more blogs on our website to help the struggling restaurant community promote their businesses and showcase how they were pivoting by offering different weekly family meals, take-out, and curbside options.

I enjoyed writing so much that I took an online course by acclaimed author Joshua Fields Milburn of The Minimalists.

We recently sold the company, having operated the food tours for seven years, to Lindsey Coleman, who owns Ghosts of Marietta tours.

I am a rare Atlanta native and Second Helping in the South refers to getting a second portion of food which I plan to feed you in the form of stories behind the cuisine: getting to know your neighbor who owns the café where you had a first date, celebrated your mom’s birthday, serves the mouthwatering dish that you crave and why they love doing what they do.

The pandemic in so many ways has decimated the restaurant industry, so next time you dine in or get take out, please remember to have some patience, tip generously and above all, be nice.

Brian Benefield is an Atlanta native, born in Dekalb County.

He has lived in Cobb since 2003.

Hobbies are mountain biking, running, gardening and trying new recipes in the kitchen

Member of Les Marmitions cooking club since 2016, where we cook 5 course meals with local Atlanta chefs.

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