North Carolina September 27, 2016
The North Carolina Restaurant In The Middle Of Nowhere That’s So Worth The Journey
Located in the eastern region of the state, the small city of Kinston boasts a population of 21,677. The charm is very much alive in this small, sometimes unknown destination not far from the coast. While the city can itself be deemed a somewhat ‘sleepy, small town,’ there’s one award-winning restaurant that truly stands out from all others in the eastern region and perhaps the state.
Chef & the Farmer was opened in 2006 in a downtown building that was once a mule stable, by Vivian Howard and her husband Ben. Vivian grew up in the small town of Deep Run outside of Kinston, where her parents were farmers. After graduating from NC State, Vivian moved to New York City, after briefly working at an advertising agency, she quit and began to work at the restaurant Voyage, where the executive chef became her early mentor.
Vivian graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City in 2003 then married her Voyage co-worker, Ben Knight. Both had good lives in New York City, but decided to slow it down and venture back to Vivian's hometown to pursue their passions. Vivian's for cooking southern, regional cuisine, and Ben's for painting.
While Kinston seemed a far-off choice for a chef of such credibility, gracing her talent in combination with the area's resources proved successful. Operating as a true farm-to-table, Vivian worked with local, displaced tobacco farmers to help them transition into food farmers.
The restaurant is quite simple in concept, but the food is amazing. So much so, Vivian has been named a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast, Chef & the Farmer was given the AAA Four Diamond Award three times, and named an Open Table Top 100 restaurant in 2011. You might also recognize Vivian from the PBS show A Chef's Life.
Facebook / Chef & the Farmer
60% of the ingredients used in the dishes come from within a 90-mile radius. The dishes here focus on regional traditions with a modern twist. You'll find small plates like fried okra or Barkely's Mill Grits, large plates like catfish and fried oyster stew, eggplant croquettes, braised pork shoulder, and of course a Painted Hill bavette steak.
With amazing, fresh local food and innovative takes on classic dishes, the restaurant stays at a consistent wait. Sometimes you might even have to wait a few weeks to get a reservation...but it's totally worth it.
The mix of tradition and modernity, with a focus on local ingredients and modernizing regional classics makes Chef & the Farmer truly original, not just to the region, but to North Carolina. Vivian believes storytelling is fundamental to cooking, and that's a good thing because her first cookbook, Deep Run Roots, comes out in October.
Chef & the Farmer might be a bit of a drive for those not in the eastern region (and even some in the OBX) but it is TOTALLY worth the journey. Have you dined here before?
If you love making a journey for one of a kind restaurants,
these ten are hard to find but worth the search!