RUSTY HAMLIN is the executive chef for Zac Brown Brand and host of the renowned pre-concert dinner party, the “Eat & Greet” and most recently the Southern Ground Tailgate on 18 Wheels.
Born in Baton Rouge, Rusty grew up steeped in Louisiana’s famed culinary culture, with jambalaya and gumbo among his go-to dishes. Rusty landed his first job as a line cook at Belle of Baton Rouge and shortly thereafter was brought in to revamp the kitchen and menu at Atlanta’s Atkins Park. Rusty is now an owner and executive chef of Atkins Park in Smyrna, GA, with a menu that nods to his Cajun/Creole inspirations. His success with the restaurant’s revamp led him to start a suburban satellite location of Atkins Park, this time in Atlanta, which has now seen over a decade of success.
During this time, Rusty got to know Zac Brown, who was beginning to enjoy recognition as a local musician. As charismatic, larger-than-life southern men who appreciate music, food, and the culture that unites the two elements, the two quickly became good friends.
This is when the seeds were planted for the roving culinary adventure – the Zac Brown Band “Eat & Greet.” With their 50-foot mobile kitchen “Cookie” in tow, the “Eat & Greet” is an opportunity to serve great food to approximately 150 of the band’s biggest fans in an intimate setting before each show.
For the 2016 Black Out the Sun Tour, with the “Eat & Greet” on hiatus, Rusty’s focus turned to supporting the newly launched Z. Alexander Brown wine. Rusty hosted a wine tasting event for VIPs before each show and paired some of his culinary creations with
the Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Blend.
Also launched in 2016, Rusty led the Southern Ground Tailgate with a revamped Cookie. The tailgates were opened to over 1,000 of Zac Brown Band’s most loyal fans in Alpine Valley, WI and Hershey, PA. Billed as the largest tailgate on 18 wheels, Chef Rusty prepared his downhome, Louisiana favorites for the hordes of pre-show tailgaters and his excitement and skill at the grill made these tailgates the perfect follow-up to the previous “Eat & Greets.”
Rusty’s most recent accolade is securing a spot as a finalist on season 13 of Food Network Star. Rusty is battling against 12 other finalists to win the coveted title of “Food Network Star” and join the Food Network family. His southern influenced cuisine proves to take an edge over his competition. Rusty is eager to battle his way to the top and take home the grand prize.
Through it all, Rusty is mindful that he’s not just representing Zac Brown Band; he’s also an ambassador for local farmers and a tradition of southern hospitality, encompassing the South’s traditions of sharing and camaraderie around the table, even as the cuisine at the center of it changes.