Craig Richards


Years of Participation

2020, 2023

Executive Chef Craig Richards came to Atlanta in 2005 after five years of training under the renowned first lady of Italian cuisine, Lidia Bastianich. Bastianich, an acclaimed restaurateur and cookbook author with her own PBS cooking series, provided him with invaluable knowledge of the Italian kitchen. Richards began his culinary career in 1998 at Pachamama’s Restaurant in Lawrence, Kansas which featured a fusion of world cuisines. After a trip to Spain, he returned to the Midwest and decided to study the classic cuisine of Italy. From there, he took his new culinary ambition to Lidia’s Kansas City working his way up from lunch line cook to sous chef within a year and a half. In 2001, Richards moved to Pittsburgh to open Lidia's in Pittsburgh as the restaurant's Executive Sous Chef. He successfully opened this high-profile restaurant, helping build a team, menu, recipes and kitchen to the standards set out by Lidia and Joe Bastianich. In 2005, he accepted a job in Atlanta at La Tavola in the Virginia-Highlands neighborhood as he saw an opportunity to start cooking and developing his own style of Italian food. Over the next six years, Richards established La Tavola as a significant restaurant in the Atlanta market and one that provided simple, yet progressive regional Italian food. He continued his craft at Ecco expanding into Spanish, French and North African food. In 2014, Richards took on the challenge of opening celebrity chef and restaurateur Ford Fry’s newest restaurant venture, St. Cecilia. After six months, Richards took over as Executive Chef and displayed the Italian trademarks that have always stood the test of time, but with versatile and local Southern ingredients. His simplicity met with sophistication catapulted the position of St. Cecilia in Atlanta’s dining scene and the restaurant was lauded by FOOD & WINE, Zagat, Southern Living, Forbes, Atlanta Magazine, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as well as named one of the top restaurants in Atlanta by The Atlantan. In April of 2017, Fry promoted Richards to Vice President of Culinary for Ford Fry Restaurants, while still serving as Executive Chef at St. Cecilia. In the fall of 2018, Richards announced plans to partner with restaurateur Bill Streck (Hampton + Hudson; Nina & Rafi) to open his first restaurant, Lyla Lila, in the Lilli Midtown building. Opened in December 2019, Lyla Lila is an expression of Southern European culinary traditions with an emphasis on Italian cuisine, natural wines and curated cocktails. The restaurant has received numerous accolades including being featured in The New York Time 2021 Restaurant List and being named a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation Awards in two categories, Best Chef Southeast and Outstanding Wine Program.