Celebrating North Carolina’s Culinary History
Chef Vivian Howard worked in New York City at Wylie Dufresne’s WD-50 and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market before packing up and heading home to Kinston with her husband to open Chef & the Farmer. Like many residents of Eastern North Carolina, chef Howard has an ingrained pride for her rural roots and the food traditions of the region. At the 10-year-old restaurant, 70 percent of the foodstuffs used are sourced from within 60 miles, much of it from small family farms. This dedication to supporting local producers means the menu is directly influenced by the seasons, often serving dishes with hyper-seasonal ingredients like “run ups,” or turnip greens, that can only be found three weeks out of the year.
One of my favorite dishes was Howard’s version of Tom Thumb, a ground pork sausage stuffed into a hog’s intestine that’s cured, boiled, crisped to order, and served with peas and watermelon rind relish. A terrine of pig snouts, ears and face scraps, Howard’s vinegar souse served with pickles and cucumber jelly is also a must order dish. Other creative takes on Southern classics include pan-roasted chicken with sorghum grain salad and buttermilk sauce, clam and shrimp stew with grouper collars and succotash, and sweet corn creamed grains with charred okra. It’s food you won’t find anywhere else, a destination restaurant worthy of the road trip.
If you can’t make it to Chef & the Famer, check out Howard’s award-winning PBS series A Chef’s Life. It’s a superb show that captures her passion and curiosity for North Carolina’s often overlooked coastal plain and its rich food history.
120 West Gordon Street
Kinston, NC 28501
Photographs courtesy of Travel Channel.