Erik Niel was raised in Mandeville, Louisiana, a community on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain and an hour away from the Gulf, where he spent afternoons fishing and duck hunting with his dad and brother. Using techniques passed down and experimenting on his own, Niel learned to cook from his catch and mastered the process of preparing food from beginning to end, something that influences his cooking today.

Niel attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales in Vail, Colorado, afterwards packing his bags for Chattanooga. He worked as a Floor Manager at the now-closed Southside Grill and then as a sous chef for two years at mainstay St. John’s.

In May of 2005, Erik and his wife Amanda opened Easy Bistro & Bar in downtown Chattanooga, where he serves at Executive Chef & Owner. Seafood has always been a main focus for the restaurant, drawing on his Louisiana roots and love for quality catch. In October 2014, Niel and his wife Amanda assumed operations of Main Street Meats, a neighborhood butcher shop that works closely with Chattanooga’s surrounding farmland. As Chef/Operator, Niel uses craft butcher techniques to offer quality products and a strong charcuterie program, all exploring the distinctive flavors of the region.

In 2016, Niel was named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast and was awarded Chef of the Year: Independent Property by the Tennessee Tourism & Hospitality Association.