A Refreshing Remix of Classic Shrimp and Grits

Chef Sam Davis adds a sweet Creole spin to a Southern favorite

Cooking isn’t like singing—you’re not born with a talent in the kitchen. That’s why so many professional chefs hit their stride in their thirties and forties, after years of training and more than a few willing taste-testers. Not Sam Davis. The former executive chef of the Garden & Gun Club was perfecting his recipes in his tweens. “I grew up in a family of eight kids, and I’m number two,” Davis says. “So I learned to cook for my family at a young age.”

Having a large kitchen garden behind his parents’ Atlanta home only helped the budding chef. Davis experimented with homegrown herbs and vegetables, and by the time he enrolled in—and eventually aced—a high school culinary program in Florida, where his family had moved, he was a confident home cook. He later returned to his native city and earned a degree in culinary arts from the Art Institute of Atlanta. Jobs in the city’s best kitchens followed—at Revival, Gunshow, Atlas, and Lazy Betty. 

At the Garden & Gun Club, he married his professional training with the creative license he enjoyed as a wunderkind home chef to deliver new twists on Southern classics. His version of shrimp and grits, for instance, substitutes coconut milk for heavy cream to brighten the time-honored dish with subtle tropical notes. The Creole sauce is also an homage to his African roots, he says. “Southern food is ever-evolving,” Davis says. “The food my generation is making is about taking our grandmas’ recipes and remixing them.”


  • Shrimp and Grits with Coconut Creole Cream Sauce (Yield: 5 servings)

  • For the coconut Creole cream sauce:

    • 1 cup diced bacon, thick cut

    • 1 cup chopped shallot

    • 1 cup chopped garlic

    • 3 tbsp. smoked paprika

    • 3 tbsp. chili powder

    • 2 tbsp. Cajun seasoning

    • 2 tbsp. sherry vinegar

    • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

    • 1 quart full fat unsweetened coconut milk

    • 1 quart chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water

    • 2 tbsp. salt, to taste

    • 1 tbsp. lemon juice

  • For the grits:

    • 1 quart water

    • 1 quart milk

    • 1 quart grits

    • ½ lb. butter

    • Salt, to taste

    • Heavy cream, to taste

  • For the shrimp:

    • 3 tbsp. canola oil

    • 25 16/20 shrimp, peeled and deveined

    • Salt, to taste


  1. For the coconut Creole cream sauce: In a Dutch oven over medium heat, render the bacon. Once bacon is golden brown, add shallot and garlic, and sweat until just translucent. Add all spices, sherry vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 1 minute. Add coconut milk and stock. Turn heat down to medium low and let reduce by half, stirring to avoid burning. Taste and add salt as needed, then add lemon juice.

  2. For the grits: In a medium pot, combine water and milk over medium high heat. Add grits to the liquid. Cook while whisking constantly for 25 minutes. Once cooked, add butter and salt. Add heavy cream.

  3. For the shrimp and grits: In a large nonstick skillet over high heat, add canola oil. Season shrimp with salt. Working in batches, place shrimp in the pan. Cook until one side is golden brown. Flip shrimp. Add enough coconut Creole cream sauce to cover shrimp. Turn heat down to medium low. Let simmer for 2 minutes. Plate grits in bowls. Top with shrimp and coconut Creole cream sauce. Serve.