The rig has been featured on the “Today” show and in major media, but an invitation to enter the long, well-air-conditioned galley is not so easy to obtain. Once a visitor’s allowed inside, though, Hamlin seems pleased to show off the four Alto-Shaam cook-and-hold ovens, the commercial baking ovens, the 36-inch range, flat-top grill, mega-spice cupboard and a separate refrigerator for the staff, in addition to several grills and smokers set up just outside. Attach a tent to one side and Cookie can anchor a party. Even the roof is powered, so the band can perform up there.
In the four or five hours before the Eat and Greet, Hamlin and a kitchen crew of eight do the prep and cook the meats. The chef takes pride in changing up the menu daily (except for Brown’s spice-rubbed beef, pork tenderloin with Love sauce and Pocketknife Coleslaw) and for creating vegetable sides that are a cut above doctored baked beans.
“Zac likes to eat good and eat right,” Hamlin says, adding that olive oil is the fat of choice in the kitchen. “Let’s face it. Not all these dishes are good for you. But we like to give the people something they won’t forget.”
Hamlin admits he’s “married to Cookie” these days, but the ride continues to be a thrill.
“This is the perfect time of my life to be doing this,” says the chef, 34. In the meantime, the 2009 cookbook he and Brown put together, called “Southern Ground: Recipes, Images, Lifestyles, and Lore,” is for sale at the merchandise booth, along with Brown’s Southern Ground Brown Sauce and Georgia Clay Rub.
“Life is good,” the chef says, beaming, “when you’re on the road with Cookie and Zac.”
Asparagus and Mushroom Summerin Succotash
Corn Bread-Encrusted Black Grouper