A Chef’s Life is a Peabody and Emmy award-winning docu-series that plunges audiences into the kitchen of a high-end restaurant located in the low country of eastern North Carolina. It follows the trials and travails of Chef Vivian Howard and her husband, Ben Knight, and their farm-to-table restaurant, Chef & the Farmer, exploring both traditional and modern applications of quintessential Southern ingredients. Vivian’s skill in the kitchen is an equal match for the charismatic personality, radiating behind her crystal grey eyes. Much more dynamic than a typical cooking show, A Chef’s Life is a character-driven documentary and cooking series that premiered nationally on PBS stations in September 2013. A Chef’s Life is currently in its fourth season, which features 10 half-hour episodes.
A little history… Vivian was one of the opening staff members with Jean-Georges at Spice Market and simultaneously opened her own gourmet delivery service Vim’s Kitchen, serving the likes of Liv Tyler, Helena Christiansen and the fusionists of Gucci. Trendsetter, Underground Eats, called her their all-time favorite chef.
With such great momentum came investment offers. But an offer from Vivian’s father, a big-time hog farmer, called out the loudest. He offered to help her open her own restaurant South of Houston Street (Soho) – way south! The Deep South to be exact: Kinston, North Carolina, an area known for its history in tobacco cultivation and BBQ joints. Vivian and her husband Ben (a Chicago-raised professional artist) found the offer too good to resist and packed up their NYC life for a new opportunity. The girl who said she’d never go back was heading home.
She soon realized the cooking techniques she learned in NYC could be applied to her “grandmother’s ingredients,” the bounty grown and raised by local farmers. In true farm-to-table fashion, audiences follow Vivian into the fields as she travels from cornfields to strawberry patches to hog farms to hunt down the ingredients that drive her seasonal menus.
Fifteen years in, Vivian and her restaurant have won numerous accolades, including the prestigious Peabody Award, an Emmy, and James Beard Award for A Chef's Life. As the series opens, Vivian and her husband Ben are juggling the restaurant with raising twins, and a fire destroys the restaurant's kitchen. What happens next is a true testament to what local cooking and eating really mean.
A Chef's Life, is now entering its fourth season with a growing roster of delicious ingredients. In past episodes, Vivian has explored everything from oysters to pecans to the peculiar Tom Thumb with help from everyday folks like Miss Lillie “It’s All About Me” Hardy and Warren Brothers, our favorite barefoot farmer. These eastern North Carolina personalities have become some of the most endearing to grace television screens in a long time, reviving old foodways and sharing stories that conjure pleasant memories of family, food, and fellowship. Check your local PBS listing and join over 3 million viewers as A CHEF’S LIFE continues to serve up a healthy dose of homegrown laughter and inspired ingredients featuring Vivian Howard and a hearty cast of farmers, chefs, home cooks, and friends.
A Chef's Life is produced by Markay Media in association with South Carolina ETV.
The series is directed and produced by Cynthia Hill with Vivian Howard as a producer and writer. Amy Shumaker is Executive-in-Charge for SCETV Presents. The program won a Peabody Award in 2014 and Daytime Emmy Award in 2015. It has also been nominated for several James Beard Awards. The series is a project of the Southern Documentary Fund
. The show's theme song is written and performed by North Carolina's own Avett Brothers
Featuring: Vivian Howard & Ben Knight
Also featuring: Staff of Chef & the Farmer, The Howard Family
Producer/Writer: Vivian Howard
Producer/Director: Cynthia Hill
Directors of Photography: Rex Miller, Josh Woll
Editor: Tom Vickers
Cinematography: Blaire Johnson
Original Score: Chuck Johnson
Graphic Designer: Margaret McNealy
CO-Producers: Jenn Cromling, Shirlette Ammons, Selena Lauterer, Malinda Maynor Lowery, Rex Miller, Ben Knight
Associate Producer: Christine Delp
Location Producer: Holley Pearce
Executive in Producer for SCETV: Amy Shumaker
Additional Camera: Curtis Gaston, Lucas Longacre
Aerial Cinematography: Blaire Johnson
Production Assistants: Jason Hill, Sarah Law, Mel Blankenship, Sheila Judge, Rebecca Hill Jones
Development: Trish Tolbert
Hair & Makeup: Jamie Williams
Post Production Services provided by Trailblazer Studios
Web Design/Development: Margaret McNealy, David Street
Legal: Karen Shatzkin
Accounting: Sharon Anderson
Will You Return Written and Performed by the Avett Brothers. Recording courtesy of Ramseur Records
Additional Music Provided By Shark Quest Courtesy of Merge Records Provided by Bank Robber Music
Fiscal Sponsor: Southern Documentary Fund
Produced with the support of ETV Endowment of South Carolina, Inc., UNCTV
Produced by Markay Media for PBS