Celebrity chef Kevin Gillespie is known for a lot of things.
The award-winning executive chef of Gunshow in Atlanta was named a 2013 James Beard Award finalist for his debut cookbook, "Fire in My Belly," and in 2012, he was named a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation's "Rising Star Chef of the Year" award and "Best Local Chef" by Georgia Voice.
He was included in Atlanta Homes & Lifestyle's list of "10 under 40" for 2013, and most recently, Gunshow was one of 12 restaurants on Esquire magazine's list of the best new restaurants in America.
He appeared in Bravo's top-rated reality television show "Top Chef" for season six and was voted Fan Favorite.
But despite all his accolades and awards, it seems Gillespie may be best known for his iconic red beard.
Kevin Gillespie's Beard even has its own Facebook fan page, which according to Gillespie, has "thousands of fans."
"I shave my beard at least once a year," he says. "I think it's fun to start over, but I get into trouble when I do.
"I shaved my beard one time and I was supposed to do something for Food Network, and they spotted me in a picture at an event two weeks before my scheduled appearance. They called my publicist and said, 'Either he has the beard or we aren't doing it.'
"Thankfully I have strong beard genes, and it only takes about a week to get back to full beard."
Gillespie - and his beard - will be in town for the Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner benefiting the James Beard Foundation at 6 p.m. Nov. 12 at The Mansion on Forsyth Park. The dinner is part of the Savannah Food and Wine Festival from Nov. 10-16.
Gillespie, along with other celebrity chefs, will prepare a multi-course meal paired with wines for this popular dinner series.
Diners also get the rare chance to interact with these chefs and hear the stories behind their creations during the meal.
Aside from the beard, Gillespie is also known for his love of bacon - he even has a pig tattoo.
"I love pork in general," he says.
Last year, he started a pig farm with several members of his wife's family in Missouri. She hails from a multi-generational farming family.
"I learn something new every day ... That's one of the things I love about pork. I still find new ways to prepare it. I don't see that with other meats and seafood."
And what better way for this Southern chef to prepare pork than with barbecue, which is the concept behind his new restaurant Terminus City, set to open next year.
If you're a fan of "The Walking Dead," don't let the name freak you out. Terminus was the original name of Atlanta, so the name is his tribute to his hometown.
The concept behind the new gig is more than just barbecue.
"It represents what is missing in our food ways," Gillespie says. "We are losing old recipes and I feel the need to preserve them. It's a blending of country cooking and the 'meat and three.' It's quite an undertaking."
But the location of Terminus City is still super-secret.
"I know where it is, but I'm keeping my mouth shut."
Gillespie is also working on another cookbook, "Pure Pork Awesomeness," to be released March 31.
"It's about pork from all over the world, not just Southern recipes."
He's also working on a concept for a another new spot.
"Cold Beer opens next year. It's an American beer garden."
And when he's not busy writing cookbooks, appearing on television or creating new concepts for Atlanta-based restaurants, you can find Gillespie at his popular Gunshow.
"It's the hardest restaurant concept to describe," he says.
"It's a little wacky.
"The idea is to get the cooks into the dining room, telling you about the food.
"You don't order. Food comes out as it's ready and the chef tells you about the dish. If you are interested, you take it, if not you pass. We usually do about 16-20 dishes each day."
The cuisine is wheeled around on carts, like at a dim sum restaurant, and he adds diners are always shocked to see Gillespie cooking in the back.
"I wish I could be there every day ... They stop me mid-sentence and say, 'I can't believe it's you.'
"I'm not so big time that I don't have to work," he says with a laugh.
Gillespie says he knew he wanted to be a chef when he was 7 years old, growing up in a small town outside of Atlanta.
"I don't even know where I got that word, 'chef,'" he says. "That word is not in the normal vernacular in the country where I grew up."
He says his parents always encouraged him to pursue his passion.
"We went up to see my grandparents in New York and they took me to The Culinary Institute, and it was awesome to see that I could actually have a career as a chef."
Gillespie enrolled in the culinary program at the Art Institute of Atlanta.
He continued to grow as a chef, working at several award-winning restaurants and spending some time on the West Coast before earning the position of executive chef at Atlanta's Woodfire Grill.
During his time at Woodfire Grill, the restaurant gained national attention and was featured as a dining destination for visitors to Atlanta.
The attention earned him a spot on "Top Chef," and the rest of the country was introduced to Gillespie.
He didn't win the show, but fans loved him.
He says it's always been important for him to remain calm in stressful situations which is probably why fans liked his personality.
"I'm an extremely composed person. It's not to say I'm not emotional, but I'm even-keeled in stressful situations."
But his emotions did show when he recently returned for "Top Chef Duels," and was told he would not win.
"I'm very competitive," he says. "... But the funny thing about it is I have a very finite line where I choose what to be competitive about.
"For example, I really like golf, but I'm terrible at it, so I don't feel the need to compete at all ... It doesn't permeate to every aspect of my life."
Another television gig that has become a completely non-competitive gig for Gillespie is as a voice actor on Adult Swim's "Squidbillies."
He also lent his voice for the FX series "Archer."
"I have an interesting mix of friends," he says. "Dave Willis (voice actor, writer and producer at Adult Swim) was just like, 'Man, would you do this voice for this show?'
"I did it, and he said, 'You're a natural,' and they invited me back."
Gillespie jokes about finding spare time in his life for more projects.
"I don't sleep a lot. I get up at 4 a.m. and go hunting or fishing, then I go into work around 7:30 or 8 a.m. and then work all day and come home.
"I burn the candle at both ends probably more than I should, but I have a zeal for life."