Savannah is at the intersection of traditional and refined Southern cuisine. Often referred to as Low Country cuisine, menus feature a mix of Southern favorites like fried chicken and barbecue, but also a healthy serving of locally-sourced oysters, shrimp and other seafood given it’s costal location. 350,000 people live and eat here and the champion of Savannah is chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and TV personality Paula Deen who has helped raise Savannah’s profile, and its culinary wages.
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Known as a city within a park, Macon, with a population of about 100,000, is small, but with a healthy appetite for good food. When it comes to eating in Macon, you will find plenty of options no matter what type of food you crave, though inexpensive eats reign here. Farm to table food is big here, as is seafood, burgers and barbeque from locally owned places, and fast food chains. Yes, salaries are less in Macon, compared with other Georgia cities.
200,000 people live and eat in the Augusta region, yet it’s not yet considered a culinary hotspot - yet. Though typical Southern fare is served here, the food truck scene is growing, slowly but steadily. You have institutions like Hildebrandt’s, which opened in 1879 and newer places cashing in on the locavore movement. The BLS suggests that first line food supervisors in the restaurant industry in Augusta can earn an average wage nearing $26,000 and with a 7% increase through 2024. Head cooks and chefs can pocket nearly $42,000, with a 7% growth rate.
With just 200,000 people in the Columbus metro region and over 500 restaurants, Columbus, even though it’s merely an hour and half drive south from Atlanta, is still not on everyone’s radar, but the food scene is picking up steam in part due to more opportunities than Atlanta offers, while still have a close proximity to it. The BLS suggests that bakers can earn an average wage nearing $26,000 and with a 7% increase in overall growth through 2024.
Atlanta is the food capital of Georgia, if not the entire American South, and its influence is extending. This is evidenced by Atlanta's surging culinary job market, which is pretty impressive for a city of half a million people. The Georgia Labor Market Explorer (GLME) projects above-average employment growth for a number of different food professionals, which is good news for students attending cooking and culinary schools in Georgia. Both the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and GLME project long-term employment growth.
Georgia stands on its own two feet against any southern food, and its current culinary awareness promotes an understanding of food that detours from well-established southern traditions. Sure, shrimp and grits is a classic Georgia dish but barbeque is equally as famous as well as Spanish tapas and nouvelle French food, soul food like collard greens and black-eyed peas and cornbread and biscuits. But to limit Georgia to these typical foods is to limit your own understanding of this state.