Jarrett Stieber, Chef and Owner of Little Bear in Atlanta

His playful and creative menus have kept Atlanta residents well-fed and entertained for years, and his insight will convince you to never look at an online review site the same way again.
DISCOVER JARRETT'S LISTS IN COMPELL'D

Jarrett ran the most popular, highly sought-after popup restaurant in Atlanta for years before opening his own brick and mortar... two weeks before the COVID-19 state of emergency. His superhuman tenacity to keep Little Bear running is exhilarating, and we are rooting for him and his team as loudly as we can from afar. Get to know a bit more of his story, and wait until you see his incredible lists...

We’d love to hear a bit about your background... you’ve talked before about how you’ve cooked professionally since you were 15. Does that mean you always knew you wanted to be a chef? 

Pretty much, yea… I started cooking professionally at 15 and was also actively writing and playing music in bands from around that time on. It was always music or cooking but cooking jobs that paid me (like shit, but something at least) were always readily available and music was a total crap shoot. The deeper into my career I got cooking, the less time there was to play music so by the time Eat Me Speak Me was a few years old as a pop up restaurant, I ran out of momentum with music and turned my full 100% focus on getting Little Bear open. 

I’ve personally been a fan of yours for years. Of course your food is delicious, but there’s more to the equation--your menus are sharp and witty, you keep your customers on their toes with what you come up with--you cultivate a cerebral dining experience. Tell us a little about your creative process. 

Well in a way that relates to my background making music, I have always loved reading and writing. Most of my favorite cookbooks are the ones written in a more prose-heavy style which is an approach I like taking to my menus. So many restaurants, especially in fine dining, have moved to a trend of being extremely vague because they think it sounds cooler (i.e. ‘ingredient, ingredient, ingredient’) but I prefer to give our guests a little more of an idea of what to expect (i.e. ‘pork belly and apples drowning in sichuan chili oil with a shitload of cilantro’). We enjoy making playful food at the restaurant and want the atmosphere to be laid back and fun, not stuffy like the majority of fancy restaurants, so starting with a goofy menu seems to help get people off edge from the get-go. It also keeps the grind of daily menu edits more fun for me :-).

"We enjoy making playful food at the restaurant and want the atmosphere to be laid back and fun, not stuffy like the majority of fancy restaurants, so starting with a goofy menu seems to help get people off edge from the get-go."

It’s so fun to follow your travels from afar (of course, before this crisis). You go to some incredible bars and restaurants in the cities you explore - how do you typically discover these spots when you’re on the go?

The first thing I do is ask any cooking buddies I have in that city or people who I know eat and drink well that might live there. Then I go back over tv shows I respect that may have visited the city at some point like Bourdain’s old shows. Another good resource is each city’s Eater 38 lists but like always with Eater, there’s a lot of good stuff on those lists and a lot of garbage. You just have to use a discerning eye when looking at restaurant’s names/sizes/decor on those lists and that helps narrow down what’s probably legit and what’s probably another boring run of the mill large format crowd pleaser. Of course the absolute BEST thing you can do in another city is to sit at the bar wherever you go, not be a shitty high maintenance guest so the employees know you’re alright and then make friends! Ask them where they go. Hell, they’ll usually offer suggestions before you can ask if they say you don’t suck and you’re in from out of town. Follow the path the locals take you on. NEVER trust google search results or Yelp lists, etc, since those things rig results so the people who pay for advertising show up first whether they’re good or bad. They’re just the ones that shell out (waste) their money on BS!

"NEVER trust google search results or Yelp lists, etc, since those things rig results so the people who pay for advertising show up first whether they’re good or bad. They’re just the ones that shell out (waste) their money on BS!"

We love asking chefs what they eat - what are your favorite meals to make at home? Or, what are your go-to takeout orders? 

I almost never cook at home haha. It’s the last thing I want to do after cooking for 15 hours a day at work, especially having to do more dishes WOOF! But I do like to build fires in friends/family’s backyards and grill skirt steak and veggies gaucho style… ripping hot open flame, super fast cook, salt and some herby/garlicky condiment with lots of chili. My wife and I also love using the crock pot…. We do a lot of pot roasts in the slow cooker with sour cream mashed potatoes (game changer). Hallie is an amazing home cook and does a decent bit of the heavy lifting in that regard but we definitely always eat on our days off (a lot of buford highway and some of our other favorites like Poor Hendrix, Bread & Butterfly, Hazel Jane’s, Redbird… places where we can get veggies and lighter fare than what’s available late night after work). But the Righteous Room for hot wings, hot dogs and $6 high life pitchers hits the post shift spot, too! I also always want sushi or steak tartare - any sort of delicious cold protein dishes like that. I could eat that type of stuff literally every single meal and be happy.

You opened up Little Bear two weeks before the COVID-19 state of emergency, which is just insane. We’re rooting for you - what’s the best way for people to support you and your restaurant right now? 

The best way to support us is to spend money with us! We’re still doing to-go food and have thankfully been able to keep our entire staff employed and paid in full so please come pickup a ‘fuck me up fam’ prix fixe dinner for two any Wednesday-Sunday between 5-8 pm. Call the restaurant at (404) 500-5396 anytime to preorder and stay tuned to our instagram (@littlebearatl) for the food and drink to-go menus. We’re changing the genre every week following the path the virus took so that we can pay homage to the cuisines of the countries who have been impacted the most. [ed. note: Little Bear's menu is currently in Germany, after doing a week in China, Italy, and Spain, each!]

Another thing that would help tremendously would be to send us a donation via our venmo account, @littlebearatl, if you’re feeling stable and generous! We are also accepting payments via venmo for gift cards - just write ‘donation’ or ‘gift card’ plus your full name & email address in the transaction memo, please! We’ll follow up with an emailed gift card. Thank you for the love and helping get us some attention!

Thanks so much, Jarrett! Your list of Buford Highway restaurants is a roadmap for adventure for any ATLien.

DISCOVER JARRETT'S LISTS IN COMPELL'D
April 15, 2020

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