Moving to his wife Mary's hometown of Athens, Georgia, Acheson opened his first restaurant, Five and Ten, in 2000. His French-influenced take on local food garnered him a 2002 nomination as one of America's best new chefs by the influential magazine Food and Wine. This attracted the producers of "Top Chef," which tried repeatedly to get Acheson to join as a contestant. He turned tehe invitation down repeatedly until he was asked to join the spinoff "Top Chef Masters," which focused on more established chefs who participated for charity. Although Acheson was eliminated from the competition in the first episode, he was invited back when a fellow chef had to withdraw from the series. Acheson's sardonic one-liners and distinctive look quickly made him a fan favorite, and following the end of his season, he was invited back regularly as a guest judge and as a blogger on Bravo's "Top Chef" website. For the 2013 season of "Top Chef Masters," Acheson hosted an online-only adjunct show, "Battle of the Sous Chefs." While continuing to work at his three restaurants (now including The National in Athens and Empire State South in Atlanta), Acheson published his first cookbook, A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented For Your Kitchen, in 2011.