Frank Stitt III
The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 2009.
Frank Stitt III, is a renowned chef, accomplished cookbook writer, and highly successful restaurateur. During the past two decades, he has set national standards for culinary excellence and put Birmingham on the map as home to world-class dining.
Stitt grew up in Cullman, the son of a surgeon and a mother who loved cooking. After high school, he first attended Tufts University in Boston and then the University of California at Berkeley. Though the young philosophy student did not set out to be a chef, he became inspired by the writings of Richard Olney and Elizabeth David and soon began honing his kitchen skills in various Bay Area restaurants. He eventually made his way to Alice Waters’ now legendary Chez Panisse. Waters introduced him to Olney, who at the time was working on the Good Cook series for Time-Life books and needed an assistant. The post opened exciting, new opportunities for Stitt. He was able to work with Jeremiah Tower, Stephen Spurrier, and Simca Beck. He traveled the French countryside, worked in the vineyards of Provence and Burgandy, and then decided it was time to return home to Alabama.
In 1982, Stitt opened Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, blending French techniques with Deep South ingredients. Highlands was an immediate success. He opened three more restaurants in Birmingham – Bottega in 1988, Café Bottega in 1990, and Chez Fonfon in 2000. A praiseworthy New York Times article about Birmingham summed it up this way: “There are two eras of restaurants in Birmingham, before Frank and after Frank; it’s like B.C. and A.D.”
In 2004, Stitt released his first cookbook, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill, which was named “Best Cookbook of 2005" by the Southern Booksellers Association. His second cookbook, Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef’s Love Affair with Italian Food, was released nationally in January 2009.
Committed to the ideals of sustainable agriculture and humane animal husbandry, Stitt has promoted the development of an entirely new sub-industry in Alabama, producing high-quality, locally grown foods for restaurants and other consumers. “I feel a real spiritual connection to the food and to the land because of my southern agrarian upbringing,” says Stitt.
He is the recipient of numerous culinary awards, among them the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast and the Southern Food Alliance Hall of Fame’s Lifetime Achievement Award. His flagship restaurant, Highlands Bar and Grill, was awarded the coveted DiRoNa Award (Distinguished Restaurants of North America) and was nominated by the James Beard Foundation for the 2009 Most Outstanding Restaurant award. His restaurants have been featured in The New York Times, Gourmet, Food Arts, Southern Living, and Newsweek. He has appeared on the “Martha Stewart Show,” Food Network’s “Best of…” series, the Discovery Channel’s “Great Chefs, Great Cities,” and PBS’s “Chefs A’Field.” He is regularly featured in TurnerSouth’s series, “Off the Menu.”
Stitt lives in Birmingham with his wife and business partner, Pardis. He is the father of two children – Marie and Weston.