“I always missed the kitchen,” Hitz said.
Born at Piedmont Hospital and raised in Buckhead in the ‘70s, Hitz grew up in an “artistic” household with parents who loved to host leisurely southern lunches to all kinds of people.
His stepfather, Robert Shaw was a famous symphonic choral conductor, and his mother, Caroline Hitz Shaw, was a phenomenal self-taught cook, he said, and was sometimes called “Miss Tastebud.”
“My mother was a Southern girl educated in Europe,” he said. “We had a house in France where we spent all this time when I was a child.”
Now a split resident of Los Angeles and New York, Hitz published his first cookbook, “My Beverly Hills Kitchen” with cuisine described as “classic Southern cooking with a French twist.”
“It’s about the world I grew up in,” he said. “It is, for better or for worse, my life story told through 175 really delicious, serious recipes. There are stories about every one of those dishes.”
Returning to his roots, he will be at the Atlanta History Center Oct. 11 for a “food conversation” with Southern food stylist Angie Mosier and a short lecture about his book.
He is also hosting a ticketed dinner dance and presentation Oct. 10.
“We had to launch this at home. This story is about Buckhead, Atlanta just as much as it is about any of these other places,” Hitz said. “It all started there.”
In particular, a dish passed down from his mother, “Caroline’s Soubise,” a “fantastic braised rice and onion dish,” makes Hitz feels like he is 3 years old again, he said.
He describes his food as “simple classic food that has been renovated to meet foodie standards of today in terms of flavor, quality and taste.”
Hitz’ cooking career began after high school in 1987, in the restau-rant kitchen of The Patio by the River, now Canoe, in Buckhead.
In the early ‘90s he co-owned the restaurant with Mary Boyle Hataway, a self-taught chef whom he said he learned the most from, for four years.
Then, he traveled to Paris to study culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu.
“He has never lost touch with his Buckhead, Atlanta Southern roots,” said Hataway, who now owns Soiree Catering in Buckhead. “When he became international in lifestyle, he kept his values and ideals from the South as part of his life.”
Hitz carries out his parents’ tradition in his California home by bringing together diverse groups of people, some famous and some not, to share simple, yet tasty Southern food like fried chicken, cole slaw, corn pudding, ham biscuits and pimiento cheese.
“I’ve been to his parties in L.A.,” Hataway said. “And as I sat there looking at Betsey Bloomingdale and Nancy Reagan and all the esteemed guests, young and old, I asked one of the younger guests, John Goldwyn, whose father was film producer Samuel Goldwyn of MGM, why Alex’s parties were special, and he said, ‘There’s nowhere else in L.A. where you can relax and visit, you’re not cutting a deal, you’re just being yourself. There’s nowhere else in this city where this kind of warmth takes place, plus the beautiful atmosphere and incredible food.’”
If you go:
o What: Dinner dance and “My Beverly Hills Kitchen” by Alex Hitz’ lecture and conversation
o When: Oct. 10 for dinner and Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. for lecture
o Where: The Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead
o Tickets: $225 for dinner and $10 for lecture
o Information: For dinner, call (404) 814-4102. For lecture, visit www.atlantahistorycenter.com