The 2013 Carolinas Rising Stars: Why They Shine

The 2013 Carolinas Rising Stars: Why They Shine

By Sean Kenniff and Antoinette Bruno

Antoinette Bruno

The Carolinas are full of surprises. We’ve searched every nook and cranny from the North and South coasts to the Blue Ridge Mountains and found some of the best, most imaginative food in the country coming out of the most unlikely places. We visited backyard mills that give way to hand-built in-house bread ovens, a virtual ghost town where Low Country food turns haute, a one-stop-light town with avant garde food, pristine plates in the middle of nowhere, and a studio space down by the French Broad River out of which comes perfectly roasted coffee. The unifying elements for these chefs and artisans are Carolina pride and their crusade to create a distinctive, imaginative, modern identity for regional Carolina cuisine.

Chefs from Charleston to Asheville are raising the bar for creativity, and brewers, bakers, and chocolate makers are setting new standards for beer, bread, and bean to bar operations. These high water marks aren’t being set by lone riders blazing individual paths, there’s a sense throughout the region that a rising tide lifts all ships. Collaborations are flourishing and the number of excellent establishments isn’t finite. The community and camaraderie have clustered many Carolina restaurants and shops together at the top of the culinary charts.

Whether it’s lack of financing, adequate equipment, or space, this 2013 Class of Carolinas Rising Stars will not be held back or discouraged. Industrial or residential spaces are converted to meet needs, equipment is built and installed by hand, and funds are raised by any means necessary—friends, family, crowdfunding, farmers markets, and, again, collaborations.

We went to 17 cities and small towns in North and South Carolina. We tasted with charcutiers, bakers, brewers, mixologists, roasters, sommeliers, pastry chefs, and chefs. But more than their trade titles let on, we found leaders and risk takers with deep community ties who care deeply about keeping their craft and their region cutting age.

We’d like to introduce our ambitious, imaginative, self-reliant, and community minded Rising Stars who together are forging Carolina cuisine and leading the country by example. Here’s why they shine.

Nathan Allen

Chef: Nathan Allen, Knife and Fork

Nathan Allen sleeps in his kitchen—and it shows. A perfect storm of devotion, obsession, natural curiosity, and dare we say it … love, rains creativity down on his dining room for daily lunch and dinner services. Concocted by Allen’s nimble mind, dishes like trout “marrow,” Free-form Nasturtium Panna Cotta and Sumac Water parade from the pass of his restaurant, Knife and Fork in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. In this mountain town, necessity isn’t the mother of invention. It’s imagination, instead. And when a chef turns himself over to a few dream-filled hours in the kitchen each night, visions of Buttered Popcorn, Hakari Turnips, and House Pancetta dance in his head.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Two Textures Trout Marrow, Salt, Lemon, Chili Sauce, and Toast Points
  • Free-form Nasturtium Panna Cotta: Sumac Water, Flowers, Pesto, and Salted Seed Pods
Justin Burdett

Chef: Justin Burdett, Ruka's Table

Walking through the doors of Ruka’s Table in Highlands, North Carolina, is like stumbling into an alternate universe, where everything is slightly off but better than you remembered or ever imagined. Chef Justin Burdett uses technique and one deliciously warped mind to channel his rebellious spirit onto every plate. He bends red-eye gravy to his will in a consommé that’s a lighting bolt to the brain, and, naturally, he slides hog brain ravioli into that brazen broth. It’s not the high altitude or the Appalachian isolation that drives Burdett to such creative heights—that comes from within. But the seclusion gives him room to incubate and execute his bold ideas and provocative flavors

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Black Steak and Vegetables: NY Strip, Yukon Gold Potato, Fermented Onion Purée, Lardo, Bone Marrow-Anchovy Vinaigrette, Maldon, and Chives (all stained with squid ink)
  • NC Sheepshead: Buttermilk Fried Cheeks, Brain Ravioli, Red-eye Gravy Consommé, and Gremolata
Brian Canipelli

Chef: Brian Canipelli, Cucina 24

Brian Canipelli’s food is decadent and deliciously dirty, like the rock n’ roll music that inspires him. (His Beef Carpaccio, Bone Marrow Béarnaise and Puffed Beef Shin Tendon was instigated by Led Zeppelin’s, “Achilles Last Stand.”) Canipelli’s gastronomic groove is drop-dead center between luxury and humility and his equilibrium of elegance and innovative edge characterizes the cuisine at Cucina 24 in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s the only place in the world where you can get potato skin brodo, a technique that Canipelli invented that transforms the normally trashed peel into a singular treasure—especially when poured over a bowl of Vietnamese pho or springy gnocchi. Canipelli’s preternatural ability to marry the sublime with the scrappy, escorts your taste buds up the savory stairway to heaven.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Beef Carpaccio, Bone Marrow Béarnaise, and Puffed Beef Shin Tendon
  • Potato Gnocchi in Baked Potato Brodo with Chives and Olive Oil
Matt Dawes

Chef: Matt Dawes, Bull and Beggar

Chef Matt Dawes’s food has heart, delicacy, and assertiveness. His seemingly off-the-cuff cuisine is characterized by a jazz-like sensibility. At Asheville, North Carolina's Bull and Beggar he writes nightly menus quickly, in one sitting: Duck Carpaccio with Pickled Black Mustard Seeds; Trout Roulade with Crab and Mangalitsa Ham and Slow-roasted Sunchokes; Pheasant Braised with Chicken Feet and Pig Tails. Dawes has a sixth sense for deliciousness, and his spontaneous decisions—based on years of experiential and book learning—enliven all the senses. His open mind and improvisational style allow him to make less obvious choices, in the moment, that leave a lasting impression—like a soulful song you can’t stop singing.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Mediterranean Octopus, Romesco, Gigante Lima Beans, and Salsa Verde
  • Blue Crab and Mangalitsa Stuffed Trout, Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes, and Old Bay Mayonnaise Sauce
William Dissen

Chef: William Dissen, The Market Place

Chef William Dissen is from farm-country—Charleston, West Virginia—and his deeply engrained farm-to-table childhood shines through in his cooking at The Market Place in Asheville, North Carolina. Dissen’s menu is steeped in his southern sensibility and enriched by in-depth knowledge of classical cuisine. He travels outside Asheville often, attending events and festivals, collaborating with chefs, and always pushing himself to learn. A natural leader with community spirit, Dissen returns eager to push the Asheville scene forward. A spoonful of his foraged mushroom gratin makes you feel as though you need to seclude yourself to devour it in private, breathlessly wiping your mouth on your sleeve. Despite Dissen’s cultured technique, he posseses a fun, childlike spirit—enter barbecued sweetbreads—and constantly strives to balance comfort and creativity, remaining at the fore of the industry.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Wood-grilled Cervena Venison Tenderloin, Preserved Strawberry Relish, Natural Jus, Foraged Mushroom Gratin, Chioggia Beets, and Cured Foie Gras
  • Crispy Sweetbreads, Western Carolina BBQ Sauce, Turnips, Celery Salad, and Blue Cheese Dressing
Bill Greene

Chef: Bill Greene, Artisanal

Helicopters swoop in and land on the sprawling grounds of Artisanal in picturesque Banner Elk, North Carolina. Wrapped in the Smoky Mountains, the stunning restaurant calls to mind something between a barn and a grand cathedral. The draw is Chef Bill Greene’s food, which lives up to the beautiful surroundings and lush, ethereal interiors. Greene, who’s from Banner Elk but trained abroad, is bringing his diligent, delicate aesthetics and sophisticated technique home. He’s steeped in local food-ways and invested in area farmers. This trust between the land, the locals, and Greene, illuminates why certain guests fly to Artisanal for a seat at Greene’s elegant, neo-Southern table. During the off-season from his seasonal enclave, Greene explores the cooking world outside rural Carolina and returns to wow guests with cuisine that competes with any world class city.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Bergamot Encrusted Veal, Curry Squash Purée, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, and Chestnuts
  • Scallop and Pork Belly with Killed Greens, Braised Baby Watermelon Radish, and Nasturtium Flower Sauce
Travis Grimes

Chef: Travis Grimes, Husk

Travis Grimes takes no prisoners. He’s the kind of chef who sets out to master a skill—making charcuterie or churning butter—and doesn’t stop exploring, working, or researching until he’s achieved a superlative product. As chef de cuisine of Sean Brock’s Husk, Grimes focuses his energies on improving every dish, every service, every day—preserving and reinvigorating Southern foodways while he’s at it. Grimes is a behind-the-scenes chef, who in another life would have toiled as a scientist. Lucky for us and gastronomy, he found the kitchen and a life in food that satisfies his drive to discover and innovate. And lucky for the South, it has a champion who knows how to present real, down-home deliciousness in a restaurant that all the world is watching.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Rudderfish Crudo, Citrus-marinated Cabbage, Shitake, Radish, Radish Flower, and Nasturtium
  • Soft-Shell Crab, Asparagus, Fava, Sweet Onions, and Ricotta
Vivian Howard

Chef: Vivian Howard, Chef & the Farmer

In 2006, Vivian Howard moved from New York City back home to tiny, rural Kinston, North Carolina, where she has worked tirelessly to revitalize its farm community, reinvent the downtown, and reinvigorate local appetites with her deeply delicious take on traditional Carolina staples. Howard is dedicated to serving the farm community in which she lives and also ushering local produce and traditional dishes into a modern context—including her once provocative (and always irresistible) Pimp My Grits. At Chef & the Farmer Howard serves some of the most exciting food in the country, and she has proven that you can always go back home as a chef—no matter where that home is—and make it a richer, more exciting place to eat.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • "Pimp My Grits:" Grits, Pimento Cheese, Cherry Tomato Salsa, Jalapeño Cornbread
  • Heirloom Tomato Pie Topped with Fontina-Parmesan Aioli with Charred Okra and Fermented Corn Salad
Josh Keeler

Chef: Josh Keeler, Two Boroughs Larder

It’s all close quarters and communal seating at Josh Keeler’s Two Boroughs Larder, where the familial warmth both conceals and reveals Keeler’s relentless pursuit of perfection. Keeler’s food manages to capture a true sense of Charleston, South Carolina, all the while expressing a deep admiration for Mediterranean traditions. One look at his progressive menu lets you know that Keeler is inviting the world into his culinary imagination and restaurant—from scrapple and shishitos to sofrito and sousbise. Keeler is forging a reputation and a larder for not just Two Boroughs, but for an entire region.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Duck Breast, Buttermilk-poached Spring Vegetables, and Cornbread Purée
  • Fried Sweetbreads, Heirloom Lettuce, Shaved Lardo, Caesar Dressing, and Pullet Egg
Jason Stanhope

Chef: Jason Stanhope, FIG

Chef Jason Stanhope has won the trust of an entire South Carolina city—world famous for its gastronomic history and food culture. And he’s done it as Mike Lata’s right-hand man at FIG—where the food is, indeed, good. But this responsibility isn’t a burden for Stanhope. It’s why he finds cooking such a romantic profession, especially bringing together a kitchen crew in pursuit of a common goal: taking an ingredient and making something memorable. With careful craftsmanship and modern aesthetics, Stanhope transforms products like soft shell crabs, spaghetti, and even dandelion greens into something that’s nourishing and lasting—just the kind of food that cements the loyalty of a city like Charleston and the future of a Rising Star chef.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • House-made Spaghetti with North Carolina Ramps
  • Brown Butter Soft-Shell Crab, Asparagus, Green Garlic, and Benton's Bacon Vinaigrette
Juan Contreras

Chef: Stuart Tracy, Butcher and Bee

A great sandwich can change the course of your day. A great sandwich shop can change your life. Changing lives is exactly what sandwich scientist Stuart Tracy is doing on a daily basis (until the wee hours of the morning) in an off-the-beaten-path corner of Charleston, South Carolina. His sandwich-centric restaurant Butcher and Bee has become the type of place that locals can't imagine life without—a sentiment that developed seemingly instantaneously upon its opening in late 2011. The culinary community congregates there after shifts and culinary colleagues come from up and down the coast to collaborate with Tracy for pop-ups, making Butcher and Bee a gastronomic-ideas incubator. From porchetta to Buttermilk Chicken Banh Mi, chefs and ordinary patrons keep turning up to see what's between the pita, brioche, and ciabatta in Charleston.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Porchetta, Marinated Squash, Mustard Greens, and Pickles on Ciabatta
  • Buttermilk Chicken Banh Mi
Katie Button and Felix Meana

Katie Button and Felix Meana

Sustainability: Katie Button and Felix Meana, Cúrate

Like superheroes with a tavern strapped to their backs, Katie Button and Felix Meana have transported the spirit of Catalonia to Asheville, North Carolina, in the form of sleek, seductive, and boisterous Cúrate. Their tar-heel tapas bar is traditional to Meana’s Spain, but with an imperative beyond the authenticity of their Sherry. Cúrate is a 3-Star Certified Green Restaurant, with LED lighting and an all-encompassing composting and recycling program. Button emphasizes sustainable foods in their kitchen and works with companies who employ sustainable practices and support sustainable wages, such as Sea2Table. In addition to serving produce and proteins from area farms, Cúrate is a Living Wage certified restaurant. Superstars of sustainability, Button and Meana prove that a humane, holistic approach isn’t at odds with remarkable food and a successful business.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Grilled Secreto Ibérico, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Yogurt-Celery Root Espuma, and Winter Vegetables
  • Fried Eggplant with Rosemary and Honey
Colin Bedford

Hotel Chef: Colin Bedford, Fearrington House

Colin Bedford is the heart-and-soul center of Fearrington Village in Pittsboro, North Carolina. At Fearrington House (and in all aspects of hotel catering, room service, and the property’s three other food and drink establishments), he honors the legacy of the land, as well as his own British roots at what has become—under Bedford’s reign—a destination restaurant. With balance and dexterity, he flips back and forth between the traditional and technique-driven, and the robust and restrained. He drops hunks of Carolina Moon cheese into perfectly spreading risotto and finishes it in a flourish, vigorously shaving a flurry of frozen foie gras from above. It’s food that makes you sit up and pay attention, then collapse back in your seat and savor—all from an unpretentious, tireless chef making waves from within an idealic country village.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Squab with Winblo Peach, Raspberry Vinegar Gel, Sweet Onion, Bacon, Kale, and Mustard
  • Chanterelle Risotto, Carolina Moon Cheese, Foie Gras Snow, Golden Raisins, Zucchini, and Chives
Katie Meddis

Pastry Chef: Katie Meddis, Rose's Meat Market and Sweet Shop

Some people drive for hours. For others, Rose’s is just round the corner. Co-proprietor of  Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop, Katie Meddis has founded a business with her charcutier husband that’s more than just the sum of its seemingly disparate parts. In a quiet corner of downtown Durham, North Carolina, Meddis is serving sweets that in a moment create smiles, then a sensation, and ultimately an institution. Her talents and sensibility are a testament to the power of simple pastry expertly made. Enter Meddis's Chocolate Meringues, Ginger Snaps, and Vanilla-Fennel Caramels (made with lard instead of butter) that give life meaning. Get in your car and drive (or hop on a plane and fly, if you have to).

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Chocolate Meringues
  • Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta with Strawberry and Candied Kumquat Jam
David Bauer

Artisan: David Bauer, Farm and Sparrow

David Bauer’s passion for grains and the breads and pastries that rise from them have altered the way he lives. Bauer built his own bakeshop, Farm and Sparrow, in remote Candler, North Carolina, in his ranch-style house—effectively converting it into a homestead. The shop and mill outback have equipment either shipped from Europe or built by Bauer himself, including a wood-fire brick oven out of which Bauer pulls 45,000 loaves a year. Because he selects, mills, and bakes his own grains, Bauer’s bread and pastry taste like no others. He leaves the grain’s germ intact, making distinctive, fragrant, moist breads with moderate gluten content and a tender crumb. Bauer is enabling patrons of an entire region to flip the bird to blank, flavorless, difficult to digest industrial grains—forever altering the way they live.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Seeded Batard
  • Root Vegetable and Fermented Turnip Paste Pastry
Danielle Centeno and Hallot Parson

Artisans: Danielle Centeno and Hallot Parson, Escazú Artisan Chocolates

Hallot Parson and Danielle Centeno are bringing humanity back to chocolate making. Parson is inspired by the people and beans he encounters on trips to cacao farms in Central and South America. Centeno, a trained chef originally from Venezuela, drips chocolate from her pores. They've worked hard to convert old coffee roasting equipment for chocolate making and are reclaiming the craft from industry, altering the course of chocolate history (Escazú’s 1631 chocolate recipe is based on the oldest chocolate recipe on record). The duo are honoring the craft and their identities by staying small, just like their dynamic chocolates—making Raleigh the capital of cacao.

Chocolates that Clinched It:

  • Tamarind Habanero Chocolate
  • Spain 1631 Chocolate Bar
Justin Meddis

Artisan: Justin Meddis, Rose's Meat Market and Sweet Shop

Charcutier Justin Meddis’s singular and extensive charcuterie program, including Carolina Red Hots, NC Potato Sausage, Bardiccio, Sallamelli, and Spam is the salty, addictive equivalent to his wife and co-proprietor’s pastry program at Durham, North Carolina’s one-of-a-kind Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop. When Meddis’s meat-fabricating mind peers into Rose’s walk-in cooler, he doesn’t just see whole hogs and hanging steer, he sees endless possibilities. Through his butcher case and daily take-away dinners, Meddis has introduced an entire population to certain cuts of meat and cold cuts—not to mention grass-fed flavor. He’s already earned a loyal carnivorous following throughout the region, making Rose’s a meat market Mecca.

Charcuterie that Clinched It:

  • House-made Spam
  • Carolina Red Hots
David Schnell

Artisan: David Schnell, Brown's Court Bakery

Bouchon in Yountville, California, taught David Schnell how to bake, but it was Schnell’s father who taught him to work his ass off. That combination goes together as splendidly and successfully as sriracha and laminated dough at Schnell’s Brown’s Court Bakery in Charleston. Schnell’s croissants, baguettes, and seeded breads are like crack for crust-heads, and his pastry program satisfies the sweet, salivating beast growling in all of us. From baked-goods Happy Hours, wholesale peddling, and candy delivery by bicycle, Schnell’s floury hand is singularly changing the gluten-ful landscape of Charleston—from schnecken to kouign amman, he’s bringing the world of pastry to South Carolina.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Sriracha Croissant
  • Peanut Butter-Banana Roll with Peanut Butter Glaze
Aaron Siegel

Concept Chef: Aaron Siegel, Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ

Pick one thing. Do it right. Do it better than anyone else. Chef Aaron Siegel has followed these simple rules to become Pit-Master-and-Chief of Charleston, South Carolina. (And if we were to add two rules: make sure that people love it and you can replicate it.) Siegel’s Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ is a mash-up of Mississippi juke joint and Southern barbecue shack, serving chef-driven ‘cue, alongside PBR and adult slushies. Breaking unspoken barbecue taboos, Siegel serves Memphis, Texan, and Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue—pleasing crowds and never compromising on quality. With two Home Team BBQs smoking the competition, Siegel opened Home Team Kitchen to help meet demand and spread his “feel good food” to more of Charleston. Home Team hits it outta the park; crowd licks fingers.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Dry-rubbed and Smoked Chicken Wings with Alabama White Sauce
  • Smoked and Braised Brisket with Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes and Jus
Mike Moore

Community Chef: Mike Moore, Seven Sows Bourbon and Larder

Mike Moore left a creatively restrictive job at a country club to unleash his creative zeal on Asheville. In 2010, he started the influential Blind Pig supper club in the spirit of making friends and fostering collaboration over competition. In the process, he birthed an institution that has become intrinsic to the progressive reputation of Asheville and its thriving chef community. All profits from Blind Pig dinners are donated to local charities, and Moore’s model inspired clubs across the region. The success of Blind Pig and the incredible culinary camaraderie it engendered, led Moore to launch brick-and-mortar Seven Sows, from which he can feed more of his Asheville community and support the farmers who make his bold, animal-centric cuisine possible.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Pâté, Terrine, and Pickle Board: Chicken Liver Pâté, Pistachio Pesto, Rabbit Mortadella-Pig Snout-Quail Terrine Wrapped in Collards, and Quail Egg Aioli
  • Pig-head Meatloaf: Rutabaga Puree, House BBQ, Crostini, Crispy Shallots, and Pickled Mustard
Dean James

Mixologist: Dean James, Peccadillo

Dean James, head barman at Peccadillo in Carrboro, North Carolina, is obssessed with making the perfect cocktail. Keeping a laser-focus on the drinks, he employs no signage or branding, and most patrons refer to his off-the-beaten-path den as “Secret Bar.” James bases his menu there on three iconic drinks: the Martini, Manhattan, and Negroni. Instead of covering the breadth of the cocktail world, he goes deep, obsessively so, with this holiest of trinities—allowing him to fixate on the freshness of his Noilly Prat and find the ideal gin for a Martini (Plymouth). Ultimately, James is in it for the long game, serving guests their first-ever (and certainly finest) Negroni and building a cocktail culture in a market where there is none.

Cocktails that Clinched It:

  • The Long Goodbye: Los Nahuales Blanco Mezcal, Lime Juice, and Mint Syrup
  • Tequila Negroni: Don Julio Anejo, Cinzano Rosso, Campari
Joe Raya

Mixologist: Joe Raya, Gin Joint

Joe Raya is the secret elixir of the Charleston cocktail scene, and he’s changing the way the city drinks one house-made extract, tincture, bitter, cordial, and shrub at a time. Raya serves pre-Prohibition drinks and executes a brilliant bartender’s choice program (do you want that tart, vegetal, smoky, refreshing?) in the welcoming atmosphere of the Gin Joint—absent any of the snooty exclusivity often found in big city cocktail bars. It’s drinking, after all, and Raya wants you to do it well. And in the process of building a successful business and a bar full of regulars, he’s become a bartending beacon beyond South Carolina, signaling to the country the full potential of Southern libations.

Cocktails that Clinched It:

  • Gin and Basil Smash: Basil, Simple Syrup, Boodles Gin, and Lemon Juice
  • Traveler Tonic: Angostura Bitters, Lime Juice, Elixir Calisaya, Gomme Syrup, and Soda Water
Brad Ball

Sommelier: Brad Ball, Social Restaurant + Wine Bar

Born into a Charleston restaurant family, Sommelier Brad Ball is making a name for himself on the national scene. At Social Restaurant + Wine Bar, Ball works with Chef Jesse Sutton to pair dishes with the wines on his list—not the other way around. This wine-comes-first approach ensures that Ball’s small-production, esoteric-leaning list (98 percent of which he’d keep in his own cellar) gets all the love it deserves. It also helps Ball (the businessman) move lesser-known bottles and keeps South Carolina drinkers coming back for new gems. Ball extends his personal approach and entrepreneurial spirit to Wine Awesomeness, an online wine retailer he launched in 2012. Delivering curated bottles to wine subscribers across the country, Wine Awesomeness is democratizing good wine—and bringing Ball’s vision to a wider audience.

Pairings that Clinched It:

  • Swordfish Gravlox, Bibb Lettuce Purée, Arugula, and Verjus with Gruner Veltliner, Brut, Szigeti, Austria, NV
  • Seared Sea Scallops, Peach-Jicama Slaw, Peach Emulsion, and Toasted Marcona Almonds with Riesling, A.J. Adam, Feinherb, Mosel, Germany, 2011
Maximilian Kast

Sommelier: Maximilian Kast, Fearrington House

Sommelier Maximilian Kast is a purveyor of elegance. At Fearrington House in Pittsboro, North Carolina, he guides guests through white tablecloth meals, pairing mostly Old World wines with Chef Colin Bedford’s just-kissed-by-modernity dishes. As the restaurant’s debonair-in-residence, Kast is the foil to Bedford’s laidback charm, and he knows when to embrace unbridled luxury. He pours Oloroso Sherry to match the weight and richness of a chanterelle and foie-enhanced risotto. It’s not just suave and style that set Kast apart. It’s vino substance. He manages the beverage program for Fearrington Village’s four restaurants, and he’s a certified Advanced Sommelier, on track for his masters. In a world where fine-dining is becoming less relevant by the day, Kast reminds us that excellence in elegant dining transcends all.

Pairings that Clinched It:

  • Carolina Moon Cheese and Chanterelle Risotto with Foie Gras Snow, Golden Raisins, Zuchini, and Chives with Bodegas Cesar Florido, Cruz del Mar Oloroso Seco Sherry, Chipiona, Andalucia, Spain NV
  • King Troll Salmon, Cucamelons, Lemon Oil, Pickled Beach Mushrooms, Celery Grass, Cured Roe, Tapioca Cracker, Mexican Mint, and Fennel Frond with Vins d'Alsace, Paul & Philippe Zinck, Grand Cru Riesling, Pfersigberg, France, 2009
Luke (not pictured) and Walt Dickinson

Brewers: Luke and Walt Dickson, Wicked Weed Brewing

No operation better captures the creative spirit and beer devotion of Asheville, than Wicked Weed Brewing. Brothers and Brewers Luke and Walt Dickinson opened the massive brewery-bar-restaurant in 2012 in the beer paradise that is Appalachian North Carolina. To set themselves apart in the suds-filled market, they make West Coast-style hop monsters, Belgian ales, and beers inspired by local chefs and bartenders. Also setting them apart is their natural exuberance and slightly twisted minds out of which spring brews like Coconut Curry Wit, Tamarind Saison, and Appalachian Saison (grits, sweet potato, honey). Barely keeping up with the demand, the duo is on target to produce 2,800 barrels this year. They’ve spread the magic of Asheville brewing to a market near you with a larger scale New Belgium collaboration—along with their undeniably lovable, undeniably Asheville “kiss my grits” philosophy.

Brews that Clinched It:

  • Dark Age: Rum Barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout
  • Coconut Curry Wit: Thai Green Curry and Coconut Witbier
Marshall Hance

Roaster: Marshall Hance, Mountain Air Roasting

Marshall Hance built his first roaster out of a hot-air gun, a vacuum cleaner motor, and a deep-seated desire for a better cup of coffee. As roaster and proprietor of Mountain Air Roasting, he’s working on roasting, selling, and sharing “really fucking badass coffee.” At the heart of Hance’s philosophy is venerating the farmer and the bean, and then applying precise light roasts (working with a much-improved hand-built roaster) to preserve and accentuate the beans’ flavors. After the beans leave his shop, Hance further ensures that they’ll be brewed properly before signing off on wholesale accounts. His uncompromising pursuit of perfection drives the growth of Mountain Air Roasting as it takes over the delightful morning (afternoon and evening) caffeination of North Carolina.

Cups that Clinched It:

  • Finca Kilamangaro
  • Gaturiri AB