Erik Niel, the executive chef for the Easy Bistro and Main Street Meats in Chattanooga, was picked as one of nine pioneering chefs last weekend at the 12th annual Charleston Wine + Food Festival.
Chefs brought their sample food for tastings, and the judges honored nine chefs from across the South.
Niel grew up on the northside of Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana and attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales in Vail, Colo. He came to Chattanooga to work as a floor manager at the now-closed Southside Grill and then as a sous-chef for two years at St. John's. In May of 2005, Niel and his wife Amanda opened Easy Bistro & Bar in downtown Chattanooga, and in 2014 the couple took over operations of Main Street Meats, a butcher shop.
"Niel is wowing diners with plates of pork belly with oyster and black trumpet mushrooms or snapper with tumeric-saffron crème fraîche. And he can suggest the perfect pairings for those since he shapes the wine list at Easy as well," said Stephanie Burt, an editor for Zagat, a 38-year restaurant rating and review survey.