The restaurant team behind 5Church Atlanta, the third location of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based modern American restaurant, has hired James Beard Award winner RJ Cooper as the restaurant’s executive chef. Slated to open this spring at the corner of 14th and Peachtree Streets in Midtown, 5Church will serve a technique-driven menu led by Cooper under the culinary direction of partner Jamie Lynch, who also oversees the menus of the Charlotte and Charleston, South Carolina, locations.
Cooper, who began his career working under famed chefs Guenter Seeger at The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, and Gilbert Le Coze at Brasserie Le Coze in Atlanta, is collaborating with Lynch to design an eclectic menu that represents both the well-rounded nature of 5Church’s owners—Lynch, Patrick Whalen, Ayman Kamel, and Alejandro Torio—and the city of Atlanta.
“RJ and I both have a penchant for exciting the palate,” says Lynch of the similarities in their cooking styles. “I think Atlanta diners will appreciate us pushing the envelope with our dishes.”
Like Lynch, Cooper began his career working under culinary heavyweights and earning an impressive pedigree while developing a passion for modern cuisine. Both approach food with a progressive style that is grounded in French cooking fundamentals and showcases local ingredients.
“RJ’s cooking philosophy aligns very closely with our management style—we all seek to challenge the culinary status quo,” adds managing partner Kamel, who lives in Atlanta and will operate the restaurant locally. “He knows his way around the culinary landscape of Atlanta, and his pioneering skills will serve the city’s discerning diners well.”
A Detroit native who attended the Culinary School at Kendall College in Chicago, Cooper has an impressive list of accomplishments under his belt. After his time in Atlanta, he went on to work under Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin in New York City and Brasserie Le Coze in Miami, Florida, before returning The Crow’s Nest Restaurant at Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, Alaska, to its original four-star, five-diamond rating.
He went on to generate accolades in Washington, D.C., as the executive chef at New Heights Restaurant and then at Vidalia, where he worked for seven years with esteemed chef and owner Jeffrey Buben. While at Vidalia, Cooper was instrumental in the creation of tasting table “24,” received a 2006 Star Chefs Rising Star Award and the 2007 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.
In 2011, he moved on to open his first restaurant, Rogue 24, in Washington D.C. An innovative cooking lair that featured a 24-course menu, Rogue 24 was the city’s first of its kind and earned a three-star review from The Washington Post. Cooper’s second restaurant, Gypsy Soul, opened in Fairfax, Virginia, in 2014, featuring a progressive menu with Mid-Atlantic and Southern influences. Now, he looks forward to furthering his Southern-inspired fare in Atlanta.
5Church is located at 1197 Peachtree Street NE in Midtown's Colony Square. The restaurant will serve dinner nightly, with lunch and weekend brunch service to follow at a later date.