It isn’t every day that a star chef is coerced into taking up residence in beautiful Mobile, Alabama. Not that the city doesn’t offer a lot, but the career model here seems to be young chefs working themselves up the ranks in or around our city before taking over the head spot of one of our favorite establishments. But leave it to Oakleigh’s Kitchen on George to break that mold and import someone with tons of credentials and a generous dose of celebrity.

Gillian Clark rose to power in the Washington, D.C., area with Colorado Kitchen. She describes the spot as being in a “pretty bad part of town,” sort of on the border of the Gold Coast neighborhood where some may sprint from their cars to the front door for fear of being mugged. It must have been an irresistible force.

Chef Gillian Clark

Chef Gillian Clark

After that came the now-closed General Store in Silver Spring, Maryland, a place famous for down-home food such as chili and Clark’s famous fried chicken. The chicken won Clark devoted fans and fame, with the restaurant selling up to 14,000 pieces per week.

This led to a triumphant victory in the ever-popular “Beat Bobby Flay” television series where Chef Clark showed the ever-talented, ever-gracious Flay how it’s done. And yes, you as Mobilians have been enjoying that chicken as a special for the past year or so at the corner of George and Savannah.

“The gratifying part of working at Kitchen on George is to watch new chefs grow,” Clark says. “I feel we’ve taken the food to the next level.”

You may have heard her on the radio, you may have read her work on the internet, you may have seen her on the Food Network, but the most recent dose of fame for our celebrity chef was on the Mobile episode of the Cooking Channel’s “Big Bad BBQ Brawl” where two large, friendly Yankees took on Mobile’s Meat Boss for a barbecue chicken challenge. Clark and yours truly were judges for the event and obviously stole the show. If you’ve not seen it check your local listings or watch it On Demand. You’re sure to see someone you know.

Clark is not one to rest for very long. Her latest venture is a pop-up restaurant soon to open at the Mobile Museum of Art. The new establishment, Curate, will start small as a Thursdays and Sunday brunch operation with expectations of growth. Being in MMoA, the focus will be food that evokes a sense of art and artistic plating.

The Curate menu will be modern American and served in the non-gallery spaces of the museum, with organic farm to table, locally sourced or curated (wink) cuisine in a relaxed fine-dining setting. Think traditional standards with a worldly influence mirroring the museum’s permanent collections and special exhibitions.

Winning a Nappie for “Best Chef” is not something Chef Gillian Clark takes lightly. “I think this is a big deal and I am deeply honored to win a Nappie. I can’t wait to go to the awards ceremony!”