2016 Pigskin Preview

The camraderie. The pagentry. The revelry. The rivalry. These are but a few of the words that help describe why we love and live for college football and why we are so vigorously devoted to our teams. Whether you watch the games in the stadium, tailgating in the parking lot or at home with friends—and no matter which team you pull for—we Southerners are drawn together by a deep, abiding love for the sport that goes far beyond simple enthusiasm.

For some, obsession is not too strong a word, nevermind that it’s only a game. We are passionate not just for our teams, but for the sport itself. We’ve endured another long, hot, arid summer, consoling ourselves with the knowledge that September will soon be here; even if it won’t be much cooler for a while, our impatience and longing for Saturdays in the fall spent watching great college football games will soon be satisfied.

Can any team outscore the nearly unstoppable juggernaut that is the Crimson Tide? Will Auburn, who failed to live up to expectations last year, fare better this year as an underdog? Nick Saban’s former assistants now run the programs at Georgia and Florida. Do Kirby Smart and Jim McElwain know the secret to stopping—or even slowing—the Crimson Tide? In the ACC, will Florida State measure up again? Can Georgia Tech finetune its team to produce more wins than losses? And can the Troy Trojans once again be a serious threat to win the Sun Belt Conference? All these questions and more will soon be answered, my fellow fans. Football season is here.

“I knew I had always been able to cook; I just never saw myself being able to do it professionally,” Russell says. But after considering the regulatory hassles pharmacy ownership would entail, he decided he wanted a different option. “I think sitting behind a computer all day will wear and tear on you. Having to deal with all the insurance and stuff,” Russell explains. “My family supported me, but it was definitely kind of a shock—me wanting to go from being a pharmacist to a chef.”

His interest in cooking wasn’t new. “Growing up, watching Food Network was always a blast to me—all the traveling possibilities, all the different cuisines. I ate a lot of steak and potatoes growing up,” he recalls. “The different cuisines I had no knowledge of is what really intrigued me—learning about new cuisines.”

While living in Atlanta, Russell worked for Aramark at Turner Field in the 755 Club. After graduating in 2011, he joined the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group. “At night, I worked under executive chef Piero Premoli from Milan, Italy, at Pricci, a modern traditional Italian restaurant, and in the mornings, I worked at the Atlanta Fish Market under executive chef Robert Holley who has worked at Le Bernardin in New York with chef Eric Ripert,” Russell says. “Chef Piero and chef Holley were two huge influences on me and helped mold me into a well-rounded, diverse chef.”

In 2015, Russell moved back to Auburn after seeing the amazing things chef David Bancroft was doing at Acre, a restaurant featuring a new take on Alabama cuisine. The offerings change daily based on what’s ready for harvest in the gardens around the restaurant. “We truly feature the best of what Alabama has to offer,” Bancroft says. “We practice time-honored techniques passed down from our heritage. We try to grow and make as much of our product as possible, and what we can’t grow, we source from our neighbors.” Russell says, “Coming from a farming community, like Enterprise, I realize how important it is to keep the local farmer in the big picture of the culinary world.”

As the Acre pastry chef, Russell bakes fantastic breads and wonderful desserts. His passion for making artisan-style bread is apparent. “Bread-making dates back thousands of years. As long as people have had beer and yeast, there has been bread,” Russell asserts. “Bread-making takes extreme amounts of patience, something I was not used to in Atlanta, where speed was a necessity.” ....  [subscribe to read full article and see more photos]