“In our initial attempt to find investors for Gunshow, we contacted 50 people and got 50 nos for an answer,” says award-winning Atlanta chef, restaurateur, speaker, and cookbook author Kevin Gillespie. He continues, “It’s amazing that Gunshow is now celebrating its 10th anniversary with the signing of a second 10-year lease.”
It’s not just a lease that Gillespie is renewing; he’s also refreshing his commitment to making positive change in the hospitality industry in the city he calls home. “We’re living out an experiment. From the beginning, I wanted Gunshow to be a disruptor, to show the world a different approach.”
Gillespie and co-owner Marco Shaw, who joined Red Beard Restaurants and Gunshow as a co-owner in 2015, have defied the odds with their bold, collaborative take on the traditional dining experience. Even under the worst of circumstances, most notably the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food and beverage industry, Gunshow is a survivor. The pioneering restaurant was designed to have minimal separation between guests and the kitchen. Gillespie felt this would increase the quality of the experience and give people a real taste of what is going on. Freshly prepared dishes are presented to guests at their tables by the chefs that prepared them. Cocktails are prepared tableside on a rolling cart. The menu varies from day to day with a single dish staying on the menu for about three weeks before changing. It was an outlier mentality from the start.
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With his unusual approach to food and service, the critics and naysayers were dubious, but Gillespie was not discouraged. “We are a singular staff, there is no front-of-the-house, back-of-the-house mentality. The person prepping the fruit for the bar is likely to be cooking and serving tonight,” he continues. “The goal is a better experience for everyone, both cooks and guests.”
From the beginning, Gillespie wasn’t looking for a particular kind of cook with a specific kind of experience, which was unusual at this level of dining establishment, especially one headed by a notable chef. Often, an executive chef controls every aspect of the food, sometimes down to the milligrams of salt. Instead, Gillespie shares, “The goal is to foster an environment where the creative minds within control the direction of the food. Gunshow is staffed by elite-level cooks with talent and a willingness to learn. I want to foster an environment that recognizes that each person has individual talents.”
Gillespie, a noted University of Georgia football fan, likens his role as owner and executive chef to that of a coach. “Gunshow was designed to grow beyond Kevin Gillespie. The cooks need to think like me but can express it differently. I consider myself a coach and mentor. Gunshow is a platform constant for evolution, change, and challenge.” He continues, “We are empirically proving that American cuisine can be representative of the people cooking it and that represents diversity in a real way, not a nod to it.”
Due to necessary labor adjustments because of the pandemic, Gillespie and Shaw adjusted to a four-day week and have now instituted it as a policy for the restaurant. With work-life balance in mind, it allows them and the cooks to spend more time away from work. Another change? The cooks are part of the gratuity pool. These labor modifications are not typical hospitality philosophies, they are more disruptors.
Gillespie is a five-year cancer survivor and attributes the life-changing scare to his desire to “let ego go” and become more selfless. “Cancer shredded any form of a self-centered ego and made me realize that I want to be a part of something bigger. I want to refine and redefine what represents the best in hospitality.”
By enabling a superior guest experience, allowing their cooks to shine bright, eliminating defined roles and celebrating a milestone anniversary, Gillespie and Shaw perceptively changed the face of Atlanta dining. Reflecting on the future, Gillespie says, “Young artists doing their best work are what will allow this restaurant to reach our 20th. We now have 10 more years to serve guests and show that the work being done at Gunshow is valuable.”
Gunshow is a dinner and a show all in one. Gunshow is located at 924 Garrett Street. The restaurant is open for dinner Thursday through Saturday from 6-9 p.m. Reservations are encouraged but not required. Guests may park in the Glenwood Park parking lot and on the street. For more information, visit gunshowatl.com or call 404-380-1886.
About Red Beard Restaurants
Red Beard Restaurants is the parent company that oversees Atlanta chef, restaurateur, speaker and cookbook author Kevin Gillespie’s food and beverage ventures, including his restaurant Gunshow and all of his merchandise. The management company allows Gillespie to set comprehensive standards to ensure smart expansion, offer more internal growth opportunities for his team members and provide consulting services to other food and beverage start-ups. With the 2015 establishment of Red Beard Restaurants, Gillespie can continue his day-to-day interactions with diners while also pursuing his creative visions and impacting the culinary landscape of the South. The company’s offices are located in Atlanta. For more information, visit redbeardrestaurants.com.