Name: Chef Cory Bolton
Name of Restaurant: River
Restaurant Address: 1650 Jack Warner Parkway, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
Restaurant Phone Number: 205-632-3801
Where were you born and raised?
What inspired you to become a chef?
I grew up around food. Food was a big deal in my family. We did a lot of competition BBQ and stuff like that growing up, and when I got older that gave me an insight into the food world. My parents opened a BBQ restaurant when I was 19; that got me into the business, and I just worked my way up from there.
What other jobs have you had in the food service industry?
That’s really been it for me. I’ve never even served in a restaurant. I’ve always been a back of the house guy, washing dishes or cooking.
Where did you train to become a chef?
I worked at several different places, but Ocean in Birmingham is probably my biggest training ground. Biggest influence on really molding me into a chef.
Who is the most notable person that you’ve cooked for?
John Travolta came into Ocean one night when I was there, and John Travolta’s the man, right? I’ve also gotten to cook for the “common Alabama guys” like Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley, and those guys are super cool. My favorite one is probably the coach of the Alabama basketball team, Avery Johnson. I was a huge Avery Johnson fan as a kid, and for him to come to Alabama and eat at my restaurant down here in Tuscaloosa is pretty cool.
If you could cook for any celebrity or historical figure, who would it be?
Napoleon Bonaparte. I mean, he’s the grandfather of all great food and wine, right? There’s literally like a thousand different things named after Napoleon food-wise. By far the most influential non-chef in the history of food.
What are some of your professional goals as a chef?
Always becoming a better chef and a better leader. That’s obviously paramount in everything that a chef does—getting better at cooking, but also getting better at leading and teaching his guys and girls. As far as goals for me, maybe making food worthy of some awards in the future, or just people coming and really liking my restaurant and having a good time. My goal is to put great food out there and get better every day.
If you weren’t a chef, what kind of work would you pursue?
NBA player for sure. I’m 5’3″, so I don’t know if it would work, but that’s definitely what I would pursue. It’s been done before.
What is your favorite Alabama Gulf Seafood dish to serve for your family?
We do a lot of different seafood things in my house. My wife will do boiled shrimp pretty commonly. That’s probably my favorite thing, but I don’t even cook that, she cooks that. She’s amazing at cooking seafood. We’ll also do some fried fish filets, like maybe some Grouper scraps fried up in the pan.
What do you believe makes Alabama Gulf Seafood special?
Well really, you have a huge diversity of seafood, on top of an enormous quality of seafood. I think we talk a lot about the different types of fish like Grouper or Snapper that everybody loves, but there’s a lot of fish that aren’t used as much like Triggerfish and Tilefish that are really cool. You just have a lot of different types of seafood with your shrimp, and really the hit is the oysters. Alabama’s putting out some of the best oysters in the world right now.