A one-on-one conversation with Cory Bolton, chef at the Avondale restaurant, Fancy’s on Fifth.
B-Metro: What is one of your first memories that involve the kitchen or cooking?
Bolton: Sitting on the counter in my grandmother’s kitchen. The morning light peeking through the windows, while she made biscuits, country ham and red-eye gravy. The smells are unforgettable. Her kitchen was the beginning for me. She’s an atomic wife and mother straight out of 1958, but she never forgot her Southern roots. She would make all these amazing casseroles, jello molds and don’t forget pears with mayo and cheese, along with Southern classics like her green-onion fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits. That, I think, laid a foundation not just for me but for all of my family. Food is a major theme at family functions and I think that trickled down into many aspects of my life.
B-Metro: Who inspired you to begin and pursue a culinary career?
Bolton: My grandmother laid the foundation, but Emeril was a huge influence on me wanting to take my love of food and become a chef. As a young teenager watching his shows, the food was always amazing but watching him in the white coat doing his thing full of life and energy that was just so cool to me. As a young adult though Anthony Bourdain’s books really pushed me into the Birmingham food scene, and kept me there after long hard days. I think he was just such a huge influence on all the chefs I know.
B-Metro: What is your favorite thing to cook and why?
Bolton: This is a tough one. I feel like I have so many different influences. I grew up cooking BBQ and wild game with my dad, he even has a crazy wild game cookbook from the ’90s. So I love that stuff but not sure it’s my favorite. My time at Ocean gave me a deep appreciation for seafood. So many fish, big and small, oysters, crabs, clams, mussels, lobster and shrimp. I love it all. The possibilities are endless. As for a singular recipe it has to be my grandmother’s secret green-onion fried chicken. It’s my favorite to cook and definitely favorite to eat.
B-Metro: What excites you most about the career you’ve chosen?
Bolton: What a time to be alive. I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed to be a chef in Birmingham, Alabama in 2020. From amazing Greek restaurateurs, a powerhouse fine dining scene, the meat and threes and and the rich BBQ culture, I get to be in a dining scene with Stitt, Reis and Hastings. Not to mention the younger guys like J.P. Holland, Brandon Cain and John Hall. So many amazing cooks and restaurants. There is so much talent in this city, I don’t take it for granted. All of Birmingham’s nooks and crannies are filled with amazing food. It’s not lost on me. Getting to do this in my home city is just amazing.
B-Metro: Tell me more about your cooking show, Chunks?
Bolton: Allrecipes gave me and my boy, Addison Porter, a chance to do a fun Youtube recipe show for all their different media platforms. I’m so fortunate to get to do this wild and funny cooking show with my best friend. It’s a ton of fun. We have an amazing producer and a great team that make us look great. It’s basically two chubby guys making wild recipes like a 15-pound eggroll stuffed with all the fixing of a game-day tailgate. Or a beef heart and mushroom sandwich topped with a whole wheel of brie for our Valentine’s Day special. You can find it on Allrecipes Youtube channel. Follow our Instagram @Chunks_eat for new releases, cool pictures and food pop-ups around Birmingham.