Knowlton Finds Culinary Nirvana in Dixie

October 2, 2008 at 12:20 am

Originally posted at Paper Palate on September 30, 2008.

I have said many times that the culinary history of the South is America’s culinary history. Without Southern cooks it is likely that no definable American cuisine could be discerned. Recently, Bon Apétit restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton took an expedition to North Carolina and was surprised with what he found.

Many of you may recognize Knowlton from guest appearances on Iron Chef: America and Hell’s Kitchen. On these shows he has combined his exemplary palate with a touch of Northern snobbery (the irony is that he was born in Florida) to dissect the creations of Iron Chefs and wannabe TV chefs alike. Many more have read his numerous articles and blogs. In the October 2008 issue of BA you can follow along as Knowlton explores Tobacco Row in his article America’s Foodiest Small Town.

Knowlton visits with restaurateurs like Ben and Karen Barker. In 1982 the Barker’s founded the area’s most celebrated eatery Magnolia Grill which features the creations of legendary chef Bill Neal whom Karen Barker considers the East Coast’s Alice Waters. He consorts with locals at one of the dozen-sum-odd farmer’s markets that service the 120 small farms in a 50 mile radius of Chapel Hill. And, at least for a short time, considers trading his big city ways for life down on the farm.

Along the way he discovers an entire region that is as serious about food as any Manhattan columnist. Aaron Vandemark who is the chef-owner of Panciuto in Hillsborough, NC believes 95% of his summer menu is sourced in the area made up of several medium and small towns. The author closes out his visit by attending a Southern tradition, a potluck supper at the home of Maple Spring Gardens owners Ken Dawson and Libby Outlaw. In attendance are several of the areas top organic farmers all contributing examples of their handiwork. As Knowlton puts it he was, “practically eating out of the farmer’s hands.”


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Stuart Reb Donald

Stuart is a celebrity chef and award winning food writer. Donald performs live cooking demonstrations and penned the cookbook Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor."



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