Chef Deron Little started Seasons Innovative Bar & Grille in 2013 and made it a perennial Top Chefs contender and winner. “He’s very traditional, very innovative, a purist,” says his protégé, Austin Altena. “He’s also a very good teacher.”
Altena grew up on Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. His mother, Lisa McBride, owned the 54 Diner, a 50s-themed restaurant, in Osage Beach. It was like the one in Pulp Fiction—with waitresses in poodle skirts and waiters combing their T Birds. Austin started washing dishes when he was 10, and by 12 he was making pancakes. When he was 16, they moved to Knoxville to be near family. Altena graduated from Hardin Valley Academy, butchered meat at Food City, was a food runner then kitchen manager at the Carolina Ale House, helped open a Big Kahuna Wings in West Town Mall, then cooked at Sullivan’s on Northshore Drive until the lockdown. In September 2020, Little emailed Altena from Indeed.com, interviewed him, hired him as a line cook, and started his education.
Altena loves camping with his son, Asher, 9, and watching movies. He owns some 400 DVDs—a recent favorite, naturally, was The Menu, with all its culinary references. “I watched it twice in two days,” he says.
“About a year ago, Deron gave me the white coat and let me run it,” says Altena, who has been executive chef for about a year. “I’m in it to win it.”
Appetizer: Rabbit roulade & collard greens with snow peas, sage butter sauce, carrot caviar, and micro greens, paired with Caymus-Suisun Winery’s Walking Fool Red Blend
Entrée: Pistachio & coffee encrusted venison chop with parsnip puree, mushrooms, sweet potato, beets, and tomato onion jam, paired with Caymus Vineyards’ Cabernet Sauvignon
Dessert: Chocolate chess pie served with raspberry mousse, crème anglaise, and fresh mint, paired with Red Schooner Voyage Malbec