25 Local Food Innovators You Should Know

Meet the culinary leaders who are changing the way we think about food.

There’s an undeniable swagger about town these days, a growing confidence about our coordinates on the culinary map. From the produce we buy, to the seafood we champion, to the way we think about our place in food history, the past decade represents a remarkable transformation for the food and drink scene on both sides of the Bay.

Simply drive down Dauphin Street. According to the Downtown Mobile Alliance, 23 downtown buildings have been renovated for restaurant use over the past 10 years, and almost all of them were previously vacant. Over that same time period, the number of downtown’s non-franchise restaurants and breweries has grown from roughly 34 to 53.

And the excitement isn’t confined to Lower Alabama; just last month, The New York Times included Southern National on its 2021 Restaurant List, recognizing the Dauphin Street establishment as one of “the 50 places in America we’re most excited about right now.”

There are often many faces to a movement. Here, pull up a seat to the table, and meet the visionaries who have defined, and continue to shape, our culinary identity.

- Sponsors -
Karl Brantley // Photo by Matthew Coughlin

Local Appetite Growers

This Silverhill farm is putting the spotlight back on locally grown produce.

Karl Brantley usually arrives at the three-and-a-half-acre farm in Silverhill around 6:30 a.m. He begins his morning walkthrough, first checking the pH and temperature of the water that continually flows past the roots of his various lettuce varieties. Brantley and co-owner Will Mastin have grown about 12 different types of lettuces, including green and red butter, green and red oak, and summer crisp. “The available selection on any given day depends on the time of year,” Brantley explains. 

It’s clear that the pair have mastered the art of growing hydroponic lettuces. Though they employ three greenhouses for the leafy greens, Brantley and Mastin have made sure that the size of their operation is still small enough for them to guarantee the quality of each individual plant. On a walk through the greenhouses, Brantley explains the process; lettuces in various stages of maturity are grown in rows pitched at a slight angle, allowing water to flow into a reservoir, then back through the system. “So that’s pretty efficient for us,” he says.

Brantley and Mastin formed Local Appetite Growers in 2013 after the Baldwin County residents and longtime friends bemoaned the inaccessibly of local produce, particularly lettuces. Both came equipped with a background in landscaping, but the journey has been one of learning and discovery. For example, the pair found that no-till garden beds (in which plants are grown in compost and mulch on top of untilled soil) were the most efficient option for growing their endless list of garden vegetables.

“It seems easier,” Brantley explains of the no-till method. “Weeds are less prevalent, the plants are healthier and the produce coming out of these beds is wonderful.”

The farm produces a vast selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables (such as tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplants, radishes, carrots, turnips, kale, onions, garlic, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, figs, herbs), all of which is sold within 50 miles of the farm. Aside from supplying markets and some of your favorite restaurants, Local Appetite Growers offers a subscription-based produce delivery service, which became a hot ticket item during the pandemic.

“As Baldwin and Mobile counties continue to grow,” the pair explains, “Local Appetite Growers will be there, too, growing to provide the finest lettuces and produce available in south Alabama.”

RECIPE FROM LOCAL APPETITE GROWERS: Honey Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Reza, left, and Mehran Hejazi // Photo by Matthew Coughlin

Food Pak International

Over the past 30 years, the international market on Old Shell Road has quietly become one of the city’s most beloved — and wonderfully fragrant — food marts.

It’s hard to believe that Reza Hejazi opened his market in 1991 as a typical convenience store. These days, as customers pass through the doors of Food Pak International in Spring Hill, the word “typical” vanishes into the air, replaced by the lingering scent of housemade hummus and hand-rolled grape leaves.

“Over the years, we gradually found our identity and became who we are today,” says Mehran Hejazi, Reza’s 37-year-old son. “There’s a lot to look at. Usually, it kind of takes customers around the world, and they see things that they might not be familiar with.” Mehran began dusting and stocking the shelves of the family store at the age of 7. Now, he helps run the store with his father, who immigrated to America from Iran. The two, both graduates of the University of South Alabama, take a lot of pride in the vast selection of products they carry, which includes 80 alphabetized spices and herbs. “You name a country, and we have some sort of product from that place,” Mehran says. “It’s a revolving door of goods.”

The in-house deli is where the pair truly shines; Reza’s muffaletta features his made-from-scratch olive salad, and Mehran makes stuffed grape leaves every Friday. Homemade feta dip, couscous salad, hummus, tabouli salad and eggplant salad all threaten to steal the show.

“Every day is something new and different,” Mehran says. In other words, far, far, from typical.

William Peebles

One spark, in the form of a local 1878 cookbook, was all it took to ignite William Peebles’ passion for the foods of a bygone Mobile. 

Even William Peebles isn’t sure what to call his love for 140-year-old dog-eared cookbooks and antiquated Mobile recipes. “You never want to call it a hobby that’s turned into an obsession, because then you sort of sound less than stable,” he jokes. “And you don’t want to call it ‘research’ or anything because then you sound like a fraud.”

Suffice it to say that the perfect Saturday for Peebles would be to track down a recipe that your great-grandmother might’ve served to dinner guests during Mardi Gras in 1938 — then he’d cook the dish for himself and deliver the leftovers to friends’ doorsteps.

Peebles, who works as a sales and leasing associate for CRE Mobile, credits one cookbook in particular for igniting his passion for the food of old. 

“‘The Gulf City Cook Book’ from St. Francis Street Methodist Church in Mobile was the first old cookbook I flipped through and found things that I was very interested in,” he says. A recipe for “Jam Bolaya” in the 1878 publication really grabbed his attention; the Library of Congress recognizes this entry as the first jambalaya recipe ever recorded in America.

“Researching Mobile’s connection to jambalaya is one of those things that’s essentially bottomless, and you get as much as you put into it,” Peebles says. “That’s kind of the motivating factor for a lot of those types of projects — especially this one, because it’s explicitly about the part of the world where we’re from.”

As Peebles followed his interests down a series of culinary rabbit holes, he began sharing his food creations and discoveries on his Instagram account, The Crichton Review

“The strangest thing to me was when people started responding to it,” he says. “I started doing this for me, but then I began getting messages saying, ‘I want to buy that,’ or, ‘Tell me more.’ And it’s offered me some interesting opportunities to actually go and cook for people.”

The opportunities continue; Peebles is currently at work helping a friend create a menu for a new downtown Mobile restaurant concept, and he’s been tapped to co-curate an exhibit at the Mobile Carnival Museum on the food of Mardi Gras. And the rabbit holes multiply.


Julianna Crenshaw // Photo by Richard Dollison

Julianna Crenshaw

Although Julianna Crenshaw, bar manager of The Merry Widow, was raised in Mobile, her passion for cocktailing can actually be traced to South Korea. “When I started teaching English over there, I went to some bars where I could meet other English speakers and ended up picking up bar-backing shifts,” she says. Extra work at a green tea farm and Soju distilleries “just kind of threw me into that world, and I’ve never looked back.”

Now, Crenshaw is crafting thoughtful drink menus that take inspiration from classic cocktails, the arts and local storytelling. For example, the Crybaby Bridge cocktail (Cajun rum, hibiscus-thyme, lemon pineapple, egg white and Hellfire Bitters) is a nod to a little-known piece of Saraland lore.

“I like being creative. There’s nothing like mindfully crafting a cocktail and then seeing someone enjoy it and make it their own.”

RECIPE FROM JULIANNA: Neptune’s Daughter Cocktail

Matt LeMond // Photo by Matthew Coughlin

Matt LeMond

His fingerprints are all over the Dauphin Street bar scene. Now, he wants to feed you at The Insider food hall. 

Since O’Daly’s Irish Pub slid its first Guinness across the bar in 2010, owner Matt LeMond has noticed a kind of rhythm to his entrepreneurial tendencies.

“I haven’t done it on purpose, but I seem to have developed this system where I open one business, run it for a year, then start the development of something else,” he explains. “I’m not really forcing these new ideas, but when I have the opportunity, I just want to take advantage of it.”

With the help of his ever-present orange composition notebook, where his infant ideas reach adulthood, LeMond has been the wizard behind the curtain for a handful of Dauphin Street watering holes over the past decade. The New Orleans native and Spring Hill College alum has since added Dauphin Street Blues Company, Draft Picks Tap Room, POST Crafted Cocktails & Wine Bar and Cedar Street Social Club to his resume. The last two establishments on that list were brought to life in partnership with Jake Peavy, who shares LeMond’s vibrant vision for downtown Mobile.

“Jake’s a dreamer, and it’s awesome,” LeMond says.

The dream continues, as the pair is working to develop The Insider food hall in an old furniture store on Dauphin Street. LeMond hopes that the hall, which will feature six vendors, will serve as an incubator for aspiring restaurateurs.

“The goal is to work with them to get established in downtown Mobile, so they can eventually have their own brick-and-mortar locations and fill in some of these vacant buildings we have.” If you want to raise a drink to that, we know a guy.

RECIPE FROM MATT: Gimme S’more Cocktail

Emily Blejwas // Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

Emily Blejwas

It’s something of a coincidence that Emily Blejwas, food writer and director of the Alabama Folklife Association, found her way to Mobile. Though her grandparents met at an ice cream parlor on Dauphin Street 80 years ago, Blejwas was raised in Minnesota — although nobody told her stomach. Unlike many of her peers, who ate traditional Swedish dishes, Blejwas was raised in a household that ate fried chicken and ribs, often in the company of a grandfather who was known to carry a bottle of Tabasco in his shirt pocket. 

“He thought all the food he encountered up there was so bland,” she remembers with amusement.

So when Blejwas and her husband followed their careers to Alabama, it was a homecoming of sorts for the long-distance daughter of the South. After earning her master’s degree in rural sociology from Auburn, Blejwas published “The Story of Alabama in Fourteen Foods,” a stomach-rumbling journey “using food as a kind of lens” through which to examine the state’s history. As a contributing writer for The Encyclopedia of Alabama, Alabama Heritage Magazine and, of course, Mobile Bay, Blejwas uses food to tell true stories of hardship, injustice and resilience. 

“I like to find and write stories that are a little surprising,” Blejwas says. “I like having those moments in my own life when my world expands, and I like bringing that to the page also.”

Keep it cool with some our favorite frozen treats…

Ice Ice Baby

When college student Harper Wise was forced home to Fairhope during the pandemic, she turned proverbial lemons into Sno-Balls, shaved ice drenched in flavored syrups and served from the coolest food truck on the Bay. Pick from a near-endless selection of flavors on the corner of S. Mobile and Pier streets in Fairhope.

Ice Box

Pandemic restrictions in 2020 forced co-owners Taylor Atchison and Stoney Boatman to flex their creative muscles, and the resulting half-gallon frozen cocktails to-go became the must-drink of the summer. Now, the Monroe Street watering hole, located in the freezer room of the historic Crystal Ice Factory, has added the frozen cocktails to its full-time menu.

RECIPE FROM ICE BOX: Caramel Apple Martini

David J. Cooper Sr. // Photo by Chad Riley

David J. Cooper Sr.

No one, perhaps, has had a greater influence on the way Mobilians have eaten over the past two decades than David J. Cooper Sr. 

“Hospitality is my passion,” he says, noting that it’s a passion that was recognized by Ruth Fertel of Ruth’s Chris Steak House 24 years ago. When Cooper traveled to New Orleans to convince Fertel not to close her struggling steak house franchise in Mobile, she suggested he buy the Ruth’s Chris location, Cooper’s favorite restaurant.

“I said, ‘I don’t know anything about the restaurant business!’ And she said, ‘Well, you know hospitality. I’ve known you long enough, and you know hospitality.’”

Fertel sure was right. Upon purchasing the steak house and establishing Cooper Restaurants alongside his brother Angus R. Cooper II, David Cooper set out to make the restaurant distinctive to Mobile.

“We have embraced Ruth’s culinary vision here in Mobile, with the addition of a few Mobile favorites, such as West Indies salad, crab claws and of course, the Chrissie,” he says, referring to the restaurant’s classic signature cocktail.

Cooper Restaurants has since added two Causeway mainstays to its resume, Felix’s Fish Camp and The Bluegill Restaurant. “Our attention to detail and being customer-driven rather than chef-driven has made Felix’s one of the most popular seafood restaurants in Alabama,” Cooper says. “Now the relaxed, uninhibited atmosphere of The Bluegill gives our loyal Cooper Restaurant followers a third choice of experiencing what we like to call Mobile restaurant magic.” 

Mobilians know their food, Cooper says, and he loves being the one to provide it for them. “I love people, and I love to make people happy. I can’t think of a better way to do that than to offer them the culinary experience that they want.”


Spotlighting some of the area’s natural resources…

Fairhope Fish House

Proprietors Jake Pose and Dustin Bedgood set out with a three-pronged mission: supply area restaurants with local seafood, show people how good fresh-caught swordfish can be and teach fishermen the best ways to handle and process fish. For individual buyers, Pose and Bedgood usually deliver fresh fish to customers’ doorsteps on the day it was caught, (or the next morning, depending on the time of day they return to the dock). The duo uses the Japanese-inspired method Ikejime to ensure a high-quality product.

Kittrell’s Daydream Apiary

“We keep the bees, and the bees keep us,” is the motto of beekeepers Jon Kittrell and wife Cheryl. The south Baldwin County bee farm is located near Weeks Bay amidst a variety of pollen and nectar sources. The couple uses mindful, organic standards when harvesting honey and beeswax to make their award-winning soap, candle and honey products, which are available for purchase at the Fairhope Farmers Market, Greer’s St. Louis Market and the Fairhope Piggly Wiggly.  

Reggie Washington // Photo by Matthew Coughlin

Reggie Washington

Upon meeting the gracious and ever-smiling Reggie Washington, general manager of Mobile’s celebrated restaurant, Southern National, you’d have a hard time believing that his career began with an act of rebellion. At least, that’s what he calls his decision to break away from his family’s fourth-generation horticulture business, Shore Acres Plant Farm, in Theodore. 

But perhaps he didn’t break away entirely. “Reg the Veg,” as he was known in culinary school, maintains a vegetable garden behind the Dauphin Street restaurant. The garden, and its seasonal produce, is just one example of Southern National’s meticulous attention to the details of dining — and the details all fall to Washington.  

In 2017, Washington returned to his hometown to open Southern National with chef Duane Nutter after the success of the pair’s One Flew South restaurant in the Atlanta Airport. Washington, who directs the daily operations from personnel to the music playing overhead, thrives in the minutia. “As Chef Nutter always says, ‘We’re not just selling food, we’re selling to our customers a lifestyle,’” he quotes. “And that lifestyle consists of things like proper service, proper glassware, proper ice — just the full dining experience.” 

In October, Southern National was one of just 50 restaurants on the New York Times’ 2021 Restaurant List. More locally, Washington says he undoubtedly sees the ripple effects that Southern National has had on the Mobile dining scene, from interior aesthetics to the dishes being served.

“It’s a form of flattery,” he says. “So I’d say that, quietly, we have moved the city’s dining scene.”

Family traditions, new and old…

Bayou Cora Farms

Bayou Cora Farms’ heirloom corn products, including grits, corn flour and cornmeal, are a direct tribute to James Phillip Lipscomb, the man who brought the crop to Baldwin County six generations ago. Today, his family is still growing their past to harvest their future. 

Forland Family Market

At the helm is Aliscia Forland, passionate about bringing seasonal fruits and vegetables, yard eggs and locally made sustainable products to Bay-area families at affordable prices. She, along with daughter Michelle, a fourth-generation farmer, work the fields and then offer their bounty at the farmers market in Loxley.

The Hope Farm

Owner Bentley Evans created a culinary playground at his Fairhope restaurant, cofounded with dad Robert Evans. Thanks to hydroponic urban farming, chefs can harvest mushrooms and produce grown on-site, whether “in season” or not. With a controlled environment, Bentley can grow whatever, whenever. 

Bob Baumhower // Photo by Matthew Coughlin

Bob Baumhower

The Crimson Tide standout and Miami Dolphin has found a home and a calling among the people and food producers of Lower Alabama. 

Anyone who’s ever met Bob Baumhower has realized two things. One: For a former football star, he sure has hands like baseball mitts. And two: He’s a natural-born storyteller. Luckily for those who spend a lot of time around him, the restaurateur has plenty of good stories to tell. 

There’s the story of his first encounter with a chicken wing in 1980, when his Miami Dolphins teammate Steve Towle dragged him to a Buffalo wings restaurant in South Florida. Though it’s hard to believe now, restaurants devoted to chicken wings were extremely rare at the time, and the nose tackle with a big appetite wasn’t sure this small part of the bird was up to the challenge. Skepticism turned to awe, however, when Baumhower saw the line of people out the door and tasted the offerings for himself.

“I fell in love with the concept and opened a restaurant in Tuscaloosa called Wings and Whiskers in 1981,” he says. It was the first restaurant in the state to serve Buffalo chicken wings.

From the very start, Baumhower placed an emphasis on supporting local farmers and producers, before “farm-to-table” was a term. Observant drivers in 1980s-Tuscaloosa would have seen the NFL star driving his truck across the campus of his alma mater, toting chicken he picked up from nearby poultry farmers. As his culinary resume (which today includes Dauphin’s, Las Floriditas, two Wingfingers locations and 9 Baumhower’s Victory Grille restaurants) expanded beyond his dreams, his reliance on local producers has only grown.

“We use as much local product as we can,” he says, listing off the virtues of Alabama Gulf seafood, local honey and Baldwin County grains. Whether its local finfish at Dauphin’s, Ceviche Havana made with Gulf shrimp at Las Floriditas or a Conecuh biscuit at Wingfingers, a Baumhower restaurant is one rooted in authenticity and place. The Virginia native moved to Lower Alabama in 1998 and has firmly established himself as a pillar of the hospitality industry, though the “head fry cook” maintains there’s always room for improvement.

“I’m still trying to figure out the business,” he says, with genuine modestly. “I guess you could say I’m a student of the game.” 


A global sampling close to home…

Happy Olive

The Mediterranean is a whole lot closer to Fairhope, thanks to Happy Olive owner Sue Rusyniak. Inside the culinary emporium are Veronica Foods Ultra Premium olive oils, as well as balsamic vinegars from Italy and small batches of hand-crafted mustards — Happy Olive is but one of a handful of sommelier-rated mustard makers in the nation.  

Alec Naman

When Alec Naman’s family emigrated from Lebanon, in 1899, they brought with them old family recipes, many of which a young Alec learned to cook. The name “Naman” soon became synonymous with food, whether it was markets or gourmet shops bearing the moniker. For nearly 30 years, Alec has carried on his family’s flair for hospitality and cooking through his business, Naman’s Catering. 

Maritza & Nader Salibi

With the collision of Lebanese and Ecuadorean cultures came the resulting Sage Lebanese Cuisine & Cafe and the adjacent La Martina Tapas Lounge. Owners Maritza and Nader Salibi held no bars when creating Sage’s delectable Mediterranean menu (many items inspired by Nader’s grandmother) and La Martina’s Latin-inspired bites. 

Nonie Taul // Photo by Matthew Coughlin

Nonie Taul

When it comes to Nonie Taul, the term “high-energy” doesn’t do the Fairhope mother of two justice. Whether leading early-morning high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on the Fairhope Pier or cardio dance at her Naturally Strong Studio, Taul is a tornado of motion and enthusiasm. The nutrition advisor and fitness instructor will be the first to tell you that hers is an active lifestyle only made possible by the right fuel — and she can help you with that, too.

Taul created Naturally Strong with Nonie Meal Plans + Classes in 2014. Since then, the two-part business (half meal planning, half fitness training) has attracted hundreds of clients looking to crack the code of healthy living. For those who sign up for meal plans, Taul provides a weekly shopping list and recipes suited for a busy lifestyle.

“I try to make things as easy as possible,” she says. “We’ve all come across recipes that require a quarter teaspoon of oregano, a half teaspoon of this … I’m like, you don’t need all that. That’s just going to make you frustrated. If you’ve got a baby screaming and pulling at your leg, you don’t have time to be measuring a quarter teaspoon of something. Just toss a tablespoon of Italian seasoning in there.”

Don’t think for a second, however, that Taul sacrifices flavor on the altar of simplicity. This week, she explains, subscribers are whipping up spicy pork balls with chili paste and soy sauce, served atop cauliflower rice. For clients who opt out of the meal plan, Taul directs them to “Naturally Strong-approved” meals at local shops and food trucks. 

“The idea is to give people options to make healthy eating as convenient as possible for them, and it’s a win-win-win for me, my subscribers and these wonderful local businesses. And that’s been an awesome development — to be able to help so many great restaurants — because everybody needs a little help.”

Central Presbyterian Food Pantry

Every Tuesday, distribution day, the cars begin lining up at 7 a.m, two hours before the first box of food will be dispensed. By noon, about 800 local families will have passed through the parking lot behind the Alabama School of Math and Science, each taking home roughly 50 pounds of provisions. As mind-boggling as those numbers are, it’s just another Tuesday for Mobile County’s largest food pantry.

The story of the Central Presbyterian Food Pantry in midtown Mobile is a story of continually answering the call. After starting as a small church pantry, with nothing more than a few shelves of staple goods kept in a closet, church leaders recognized there existed a far greater need than anticipated. Money was raised, volunteers were recruited and the pantry was able to support about 100 families per week, in-person, at the church. Then, COVID-19 arrived.

“At the start of the pandemic, we decided that we would meet that challenge by switching to a drive-thru operation,” says Connie Guggenbiller, food pantry director. “What we found once we started the drive-thru was that we were really just at the tip of the iceberg for people in need.”

Shutdowns and layoffs related to the pandemic added to the financial burden of countless local families and, once again, the food pantry was ready to answer the call. It takes about 80 volunteers to make the pantry run smoothly every week, some stocking shelves and others packing up the food boxes, which include everything from pasta and bread to cheese, frozen meats, nonperishables and fresh vegetables. 

Food partners such as Feeding the Gulf Coast, Publix and community gardens help make the food pantry possible, as do fundraisers and private donations. Click here to learn how you can contribute.

John Edward McGee, left, and Demetrius James at Guncles Gluten-Free Bakery // Photo by Matthew Coughlin

Guncles Gluten-Free Bakery

When John Edward McGee was diagnosed with a rare condition known as Wheat Dependent Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis, he and partner Demetrius James were forced to begin a new gluten-free lifestyle. Living in San Francisco at the time, they came across a gluten-free cupcake and thought it’d be fun to give it a try.

“It was the most God-awful thing,” James says with a laugh. “That’s when we were like, ‘We’ve got to figure out how to make this taste great.’”

The Mobile natives moved back to the Port City, and Guncles Gluten-Free Bakery was born. McGee and James explain that their mission isn’t simply to make desserts that are as good as their glutenous counterparts; they want desserts that taste better. It helps that the two are perfectionists.

“I can’t even tell, with some of these cakes, how long it took for us to get them to the point where we were happy with them,” James says. McGee adds, “A customer will come here and say, ‘I have not eaten a cinnamon roll in 10 years,’ and then they take a bite and tear up because it brings back such wonderful memories … that makes standing on our feet all day long and washing dishes all worth it.”

Lucy Greer Cheriogotis

At the new Greer’s St. Louis Street Market, Lucy Greer Cheriogotis can’t help but smile when she sees customers buying a scoop of Old Dutch Ice Cream, sitting down to enjoy a local craft beer or grabbing a meal made to order.

“We’ve created a specialty grocery store that’s kind of a new concept for Greer’s and for Downtown,” says Cheriogotis, who serves as corporate spokesperson and VP of deli and bakery operations. “Our goal was to create a store that gives residents, workers and visitors to the area a place where they can have their full shopping experience.”

The market, just five blocks to the west of her great-great-grandfather’s first store, is a sleek one-stop grocery, complete with a coffee shop, bakery, salad bar, meals to go, butcher and rooftop patio. 

“It certainly makes me proud,” Cheriogotis says. “This is a challenging business, but I think what’s made us successful over the years is changing with the times. Each generation has its challenges and adapts the best it can. But just having that attitude of ‘We can do it’ is something that runs in the family.” 

RECIPE FROM LUCY GREER CHERIOGOTIS: Roasted Vegetable and Pumpkin Risotto

Kristin Alpine // Photo by Chad Edwards

Kristin Alpine

When Kristin Alpine of Wildflowers & Fresh Food finishes teaching a cooking class, she sends her pupils to a big farm table to eat their dinner creations and enjoy one another’s company.

“I don’t join them for that part, although they often invite me to,” Alpine says. “People have said, ‘You’re kind of like Mary Poppins. You bring us together, you show us the way and then you pop back out.’ And I like that. That’s exactly what I want to do.”

A nurse by day, Alpine sees food as a way to continue her mission “to help people feel better and to live longer.” Wildflowers & Fresh Food evolved when the Fairhope mother of three was encouraged by her children to share her fresh and colorful food creations on Instagram. The positive reception has allowed Alpine to become an influential advocate for local businesses and for a deeper connection to the food we eat. “The best compliment I can receive after a lesson is, ‘I’m so full, but I feel great,’” she says.

Aside from her two-hour classes, Alpine shares her recipes for free on her website.

RECIPE FROM KRISTIN ALPINE: Roasted Sweet Potato and Asparagus Salad

Photo by Fernando Decillis

Local Oyster Farms

In recent years, the local oyster industry has been transformed by a slew of innovative farmers who are harvesting the tried-and-true local staple with a modern approach. Farming oysters in baskets off-bottom protects them from predators, while periodic tumbling shapes the shells to create that ideal cup, perfect for holding a one-bite oyster and plenty of salty brine. These days, Alabama oysters are on menus all down the Gulf Coast and across the country. Ask for them by name. Crackers optional.

Bama Bay Oyster Farm (Coden)
The nutrient-rich waters of Mobile Bay, just south of Fowl River, provide an ideal environment for oysters with a clean shell and an amazing taste.

Double D Oyster Farm (Theodore)
This Mobile Bay farm harvests two delicious (and beautiful) oysters: Grande Batture Selects and Sandy Bay Selects. They supply premium oyster seed, also.

Massacre Island Oyster Ranch (Dauphin Island)
Growing in the briny waters of the Mississippi Sound, these oysters feature a sturdy shell with plump, pearly meat and a sweet finish (much like shrimp).

Mobile Oyster Company (Dauphin Island)
The salty, rich waters of Dauphin Island’s west end produce the popular Isle Dauphine Oysters. In fact, these oysters are only harvested to order.

Murder Point Oyster Company (Bayou La Batre)
Perhaps the most popular boutique oyster farmed in Alabama, these “oysters worth killing for” feature a uniquely creamy, even buttery taste.

Navy Cove Oyster Company (Fort Morgan)
With a plump profile, a sweet flavor and moderate saltiness, these oysters are a treat. They even feature a signature “racing stripe” across the shell.

New Reef Oyster Company (Mobile)
This “truly organic oyster farm” started with just half a dozen cages. Almost eight years later, they’re still serving up high-quality Gulf oysters.

Point aux Pins Oyster (Grand Bay)
The first Alabama oyster farm to employ the off-bottom method has been harvesting premium Gulf oysters for a decade now. 

Portersville Bay Oyster Company (Coden)
This company harvests wild Alabama reef oysters as well, but their farm-raised “Turtleback” oysters are also outstanding. And they’re available by the sackful.

Get the best of Mobile delivered to your inbox

Be the first to know about local events, home tours, restaurant reviews and more!