Rules of the Rows

Despite the crazy spring weather where warm fronts were followed by late freezes, the strawberry crop survived and pick-your-own strawberry farms are now open.“We are looking at a very good year for strawberries,” said Dexter Hill, a strawberry marketing specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. “We’re looking at very good yields.”For those headed out to pick strawberries, we sought advice from Curtis Smith, owner

Food52 Cookbook Club Picks DEEP RUN ROOTS

This month, home cooks across the country are putting up jars of pickled beets, baking sweet potato and turkey shepherd’s pies and salivating over plates of marinated turnips with orange and pumpkin seeds.That’s because Vivian’s cookbook, “Deep Run Roots,” was selected by Food52’s readers to be the second book for its inau

Ted Katsigianis Talks 30 Years at Biltmore

Ted Katsigianis is a walking encyclopedia of all things Biltmore. His extensive knowledge of the Biltmore grounds is a result of 33 years of service on the 8000-acre estate. He currently serves as Vice President of Agricultural Sciences, working to keep up George Vanderbilt’s original vision for the estate to be a self-sustaining working farm. Ted maintains that emphasis on agriculture, a daunting task that includes oversight of Bil

BEHIND-THE-SCENES: New Team Member, Andrea Weigl

Please join us in welcoming Andrea Weigl to Team ACL! Many of you may know Andrea from her years as a respected journalist. She is not one to brag, but she brings a ton of know-how to our team that spans a plethora of subjects as proven by her recent James Beard Foundation Award nomination in a new journalism category for local impact for her stories: “Southern Season’s Woes Ripple Through State”; “The True Story of a Chef’s Chef”; and “Pitmaster: Sam Jones Takes ’cue to the Next L

Between-The-Scenes: Recipes from African-American Elders

On A Chef’s Life, Vivian quite often yields to the knowledge held by community home cooks. We are proud to uphold the wisdom of African American elders in our own community like Miss Lillie Hardy and her mother, Miss Mary Vaughn, whose personal stories of the south and its food include both hardship and happiness. In celebration of Black History Month, we pay homage to the inspiration and recipes shared by African American cooks who’ve been featured on A CHEF’S LIFE over the

Traveling Back in Time at Biltmore

Back in September, Vivian and the A Chef’s Life crew were invited up for a long weekend at Biltmore and a behind-the-scenes tour of the estate’s glorious grounds. The weekend was chock full of events for which the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains made the perfect backdrop. An intimate village stroll and a shuttle tour showcased Biltmore’s endless acres of farmland and introduced Vivian to a handful of the 2000+ employees who

Between The Scenes: Best of 2016

With 10 episodes added to our growing roster of ingredients, we thought it would be fun to compile our favorite moments from this season in our first ever “Best Of” Awards. 1. Best Holiday Gift Inspired By An EpisodePigtails, Ham hocks, and fatback, oh my!  The gift of seasoning meats Vivian distributed at her New York book launch dinner was so peculiar, Ben couldn’t keep his opinion to himself, exclaiming, “I’m not gonn

Aaron Newton of Lomax Farm Talks Incubating Young Farmers

The Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm is a special place. The six-year-old, 30-acre farm in Concord, North Carolina is basically a hands-on classroom where a new generation of farmers learn the skills necessary to eventually start their own farms. One of Lomax’s former Farmers In Training, (or F.I.T.s as they’re known on the farm), is Ben Street whose produce is featured in the first episode of season 4 of A

Andrew Zimmern Seeks Bizarre Food in Kinston, NC

Andrew Zimmern is known for trotting the globe in search of the world’s most Bizarre Foods, however, his mission is much more than uncovering strange cuisine. He considers himself a food historian charged with the task of celebrating the international nooks and crannies where food traditions are well-kept. A few days before he and Vivian faced off in the “Best Personality/Host” category of the Jame

7 QUESTIONS FOR ACL Voyager, Blaire Johnson

Blaire Johnson, ACL’s lone female ‘camera dude,’ is also a pirate. When she’s not capturing amazing aerial shots of North Carolina bean fields or wielding her badass camera rig, she’s buckled down in a shanty on the NC coast doing pirate-like things. Blaire is a skilled cameraperson with many probing documentary projects under her belt. We asked her a few questions about her eclectic life on land and at sea.Q: Tell us all the interesting tidbits about yourself.

6 Questions for ACL’s Newcomer, Christine Delp

As a recent graduate of Duke University’s documentary program, Christine Delp brings a fresh perspective to the ACL Team. Christine, like many of A CHEF’S LIFE team members, has family ties to eastern North Carolina and personally identifies with the tone of the show as well as the wealth of personalities highlighted in each episode. As the youngest member of the team, Christine is what we might call, spry. We talked to her about the energy she brings to the team as well as he

OUTTAKE: Mrs. Scarlett’s Tangy Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are a classic, crowd-pleasing hors d’oeuvre diverse enough to make an appearance at church suppers, potlucks, and holiday tables. If you’re reading this right now, it's likely you have your own special way of preparing deviled eggs. Maybe it’s a no-frills recipe passed down from your grandmother, or maybe you’ve concocted your own recipe with an extra punch of flavor. Whatever it may be, it’s safe to say, the deviled egg is versatile enough to grace any

6 Questions for ACL’s Elusive Editor Extraordinaire, Tom Vickers

Wonder why you’ve never seen Tom Vickers? The answer is simple. He’s headquartered in a bat cave surrounded by screens and knobs and high-tech trinkets that allow him to organize the images you see each week on A CHEF’S LIFE into a cohesive, beautifully-crafted story. He only emerges for food and a good film, but, we lured Tom into the light long enough to ask a few questions about his unique role as editor of A CHEF’S LIFE. Read all about it here, before he disappears.<b

6 Questions for ACL’s Coordinator of Chaos, Holley Pearce

It’s very likely that you’ve seen Holley Pearce lurking in the background on any given episode of A CHEF’S LIFE. Holley, a Mississippi native and Kinston transplant, has served as Chef Vivian’s personal ‘coordinator of chaos’ since August 2015. She basically has Chef Vivian’s schedule memorized, and imposes some sense of normalcy in the roster of festivals, appearances, and food demos that are growing as a result of the show’s (and Chef Vivian’s) popularity. We forced Holley

Where's Vivian?

Keep this blog post handy...Vivian Howard is one busy chef these days! From speaking panels to fundraisers and her upcoming book tour, we want to make sure you have every possibility to see her in action. We'll update this page as we are informed of new engagements. Don't forget to follow A CHEF'S LIFE on Facebook, Twitter, _

4 Questions for ACL's Associate Producer, Shirlette Ammons

Among many things, Shirlette Ammons, (self-proclaimed) Wielder-Of-Wit, pens the first drafts of all of the ACL newsletters you receive in your inbox. We forced her to be featured in this month’s “Behind-the-Team”. After much convincing, her cover has been blown...Tell us all the interesting tidbits about yourself:I’m a native of Mount Olive, down in eastern North Carolina, just a

WE GOT SOUL Pt1: Chef Ricky Moore

When we think soul food, certain dishes automatically come to mind-- collard greens, cornbread, fried chicken-- all the foods we trace back to our grandmother’s kitchen table sprawled out and inviting us to feed our bellies and our spirit. Talking to Chef Ricky Moore about soul food is a lively experience. Fans of A CHEF’S LIFE might remember him from Chef Vivian’s romp around Durham (Ep8: Honey, I'm Home

WE GOT SOUL Pt2: Chef Scholar, Scott Barton

In a recent interview, Scott Barton, Chef Vivian's mentor, and respected soul food authority, offered in-depth, scholarly insight on the influence of African-American culture on southern food.1) First, what led you to care so deeply for the culture of southern food and the contribution of African and African-Americans to it?Shirlette, there are several reasons that I first became interested in southern food in general, the contributions of African and African-Americ

4 Questions for ACL's Associate Producer, Jenn Cromling

Full disclosure: Jenn was a reluctant participant in our “Behind-the-Team” romp. A self-described “introvert with extroverted tendencies,” Jenn is the ACL Team Ninja, stealthily completing tasks in the dark of night, constantly crossing t’s, dotting i’s... and taking names. She humbly admits, "There's a lot of talent on our team, so knowing yourself and being your own kind of awesome is important and powerful. My style is quite yet assertive and to the point. 

Between the Scenes: A look back at #ThirdHelping

According to fans and critics alike, A CHEF’S LIFE’s third season was a real appetite-quencher. Appearances on The Today Show and the penning of her upcoming cookbook revealed Chef Vivian as a celebrity-on-the-rise who, somehow, manages to wear many hats. In the course of her busy life, Chef Vivian made time to take us into the home kitchens of the folks who’ve influenced and inspired her—cooking “old timey squash and onions” with Mrs. Scarlett, plucking Falling Creek Produce

5 Questions for ACL's Cam Dude: Rex Miller

You may know Rex Miller as the taller half of A CHEF’S LIFE’s camera dudes and photographer extraordinaire behind the images in Chef Vivian’s forthcoming cookbook. Beyond his work on A CHEF’S LIFE, the NY native is the father of two lovely daughters, an avid tennis buff, and has a long, rewarding career in both photography and filmmaking, which makes you wonder how he makes time to do it all. His most recent

It's All About Me: Interview with A CHEF’S LIFE fav, Miss Lillie Hardy

Ever since her initial appearance on A Chef’s Life, Miss Lillie Hardy has emerged as a series favorite. Fans from all over the country have fallen completely in love with Miss Lillie’s “it’s all about me” charm. Her dishes, especially those buttermilk biscuits, make us all long for the invention of smell-o-vision. Miss Lillie’s generosity is exemplified in each episode where she shares the wisdom of old foodways with Chef Vivian at a kitchen table that seats 2.5 million viewers per episode.<

Handmade & Heartfelt - Interview with Sheri Castle, Author of Cookbooks & Curator of Casseroles

Nestled in North Carolina’s culturally rich, socially isolated Blue Ridge Mountains, Sheri Castle was inspired to write her first original recipe at 4 years old and mailed it to a television show. One could say this initiated a lifelong relationship with both writing and food. The writing portion of her career began as a student at UNC where she studied English and, subsequently worked as a writer in numerous industries. The food portion of her career began in the 1990s when she sw

A Real Reality - Interview with A CHEF’S LIFE creators Cynthia Hill & Vivian Howard

Both Cynthia Hill and Vivian Howard are natives of down east North Carolina. Five years ago, they came together to create what they thought would be a documentary about preserving endangered southern foodways. What resulted is the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning PBS docu-series, A CHEF’S LIFE, which, upon conclusion of its second season, boasts over 2.5 million viewers per episode. With Season 3 set to premiere in early September on PBS stations nationwide, we sat down with Chef Vivian and Cy

Jason Vincent: King of Pork & Parenthood

Jason Vincent rose from the ashes of his own semi-retirement to make a cameo appearance on the nail-biting Tom Thumb episode of A CHEF’S LIFE, which aired as a two-parter in season two. At what some called the height of his career, Jason exited his role as Executive Chef at Chicago’s renowned Nightwood Restaurant to tackle the ultimate gig of full-time father. As of late, he's been raising a toddler while tweeting and <a targe

Bottle That Word "Dream"

PART 1: Inventing the Dream  When it comes to branding and bottling a dream, not much has changed since 1868 when Edwin Mcllhenny used discarded cologne bottles to distribute his now-iconic Tabasco sauce to family and friends. Each batch of his sauce boasted the exact same flavor profile, with branding as distinguishable as its taste.   McIlhenny’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Tabasco set the standard way before the m

Ed’s A CHEF’S LIFE Vacation: Around Downeast in 2 Days

I’m from San Francisco where there is an embarrassment of culinary riches on almost every block. That doesn’t make me a likely candidate for a trip to the middle of Eastern North Carolina, yet I was inspired by a PBS TV series starring a rising chef who found her own catharsis by going back home and opening a restaurant, Chef and the Farmer. A CHEF’S LIFE makes me care about Vivian Howard’s demanding life and the local people who support her on her journey. Each week I learn something unique abou

El’s Drive-In: A Destination for Locals...and Folks From Off

What is it about the combination of shrimp, ketchup, slaw and a buttery bun that makes us slobber like newborns? Whatever the answer, there’s a family restaurant on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast where it behooves you to bring a bib.El’s Drive-In is one of those places who do it simple and get it right. The building itself is no bigger than a hut, but the flavors inside are humongous. Their shrimp burger is featured in a few fleeting bites of A CHEF’S LIFE

Brian Roberts, Head Bartender at Chef & the Farmer, and “A Chef’s Life” Family, On Moonshine

Brian Roberts, Head Bartender at Chef and the Farmer, and “A Chef’s Life” Family. On Moonshine.   I often view life through the lens of cinema. Much of what I experience in “real life” is a reference point for something from film or television. Cocktails are a prime example. I think “cocktail” and my mind – for better or worse – goes immediately to Sex in the City; to Carrie Bradshaw & Co. in all their Jimmy Choo, Prada-clad glory, convening at


There’s this myth surrounding chefs these days, building us up to be much more than just folks going to work and doing their best to create tasty food that we feel good about. Instead, the job title suggests we know every technique, every temperature, and every thought process behind every dish out there. I would like to blame the media or the celebrity-chef consciousness for these assumptions, but the fact is, we as chefs don’t do much to discourage these misconceptions.  As a

On Buttermilk, with Phoebe Lawless, Scratch Bakery

Phoebe Lawless is the pie maven behind the award-winning Scratch Bakery, a beloved neighborhood spot in Durham. Crowds flock near and far for their signature doughnut muffins and their Buttermilk Sugar Pie. The Ohio native got her start as a pastry assistant along

On Collard Greens with John T. Edge of The Southern Foodways Alliance

Every time I see John T. Edge, I am struck by his sense of sartorial flair. At last sighting (talking his newly-edited compendium, The Larder, at _

Collard Greens

I’m often asked how the series, “A Chef’s Life,” came to be. Truthfully it’s a long, drawn-out story involving about 3,000 phone conversations and lots of miles driven between Durham and Deep Run. I won’t share with you all the logistics of the near nightmare but I will share the beginnings of my desire to docume

On Sweet Potatoes, with Chefs Ben & Karen Barker, Magnolia Grill

If I have any culinary regrets, one would be moving to the Triangle too late to eat at Ben and Karen Barker’s legendary Magnolia Grill before they closed their doors forevermore. Fortunately an award-winning cookbook survived to tell the tale, along

Sweet Potatoes

When I think of sweet potatoes, I think of my Grandma Hill and of Thanksgiving. The youngest of 10 children, Grandma Hill began life as a farmer’s daughter in Duplin County, NC. Over time she would become a farmer’s wife, mother and eventually grandmother. She moved and loved like someone who’s work was never done and rarely noticed. Grandma Hill was strong, always digging in the yard under a white brimmed hat, or making work in her kitchen look ea


I’ve been dreading the writing of this blog post. I like peanuts, particularly in Snickers Bars or candied by a street vendor in New York and shoved into a little white bag, still warm. I just don’t have a whole hell of a lot to say about them. My dad didn’t grow them. I didn’t eat them boiled as a kid and I don’t

On Peanuts, with Martin Weeks, the Peanut Man

You could call Martin Weeks "the peanut man." The Mount Olive, NC native worked in textiles and industrial engineering for most of his life, but when his father passed away six years ago, he discovered an unusual new venture. Instead of enjoying leisurely rounds of golf with other retirees, he found himself cooking peanuts in his church's kitchen until late into the night. He followed in his father's footsteps and became head of the "Peanut Crew"—a 15-member group of


I’ve mentioned my mom’s life-long bout with rheumatoid arthritis before. Through two shoulder replacements and many other reconstructive surgeries, she raised four girls, taught school, and bred Doberman Pinchers for spending money. As you might imagine, meals were simple at my house. Mom didn’t fry chicken, can pickles, or roll out biscuits. Instead, when Scarlett geared up to make a soul warming meal for our family, it was almost always a pot of chicken and rice. Hands down, this is

On Rice, with Chef John Currence,

John Currence got his culinary start in the galley kitchen of a tugboat, honed his chops with Bill Neal of Crook’s Corner and in some of the best kitchens in New Orleans. Fast forward to 2013. John is the benevolent ruler of

On Muscadines, with Inez Ribustello, On the Square Restaurant & Wine

Inez Ribustello is one hell of a storyteller. When she talks I see the hammock-shaped branches of her parents’ scuppernong tree. I feel the headiness that only a humid summer in Eastern NC can produce. I taste the sweetness of the muscadines. Her approach to wine is fun, accessible, and above all, perso


Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family that loved to eat, but my most powerful childhood memories center around food. I don’t remember tearing into presents on Christmas morning. Instead, I recall shoveling down sausage biscuits and orange juice, and I smile when I think about how Uncle Bunk lost a toot


As a kid I didn’t think too much of the oyster. Far too often, my parents' love for the bivalves got between me and The Baron and The Beef, Lenoir County’s best dining experience. The name says it all: imagine a steak and baked potato shrine with an “excellent” salad bar (including the most tender meatballs in

On oysters with Matt Lee, The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen

Matt Lee is one of those lucky people who call Charleston home. He and his bespectacled brother, Ted, grew up in one of the city’s fabled homes along Rainbow Row, fishing in its waters for crabs and shrimp, and learning the names of the edible flora and fauna of their region. Food talk—especial

The Taste of Summer: Growing Heirloom Tomatoes in NC With Your Family

As summer comes to a close, so, too, does the season of fresh tomatoes. For a short few months, fresh, sun-ripened tomatoes are plentiful across the state, filling up backyards and farmers markets. That taste—so tart and sweet and fresh—is fleeting, though. It's perhaps one of the most accessible and loved seasonal vegetables around, but getting a really good tomato means eating seasonally and locally.And if you, like many of us here, subscrib

A Local Tomato

Chef and the Farmer is a seasonal restaurant. That mantra manifests itself all over the place these days, but really what it means is this: our menu reflects the natural world. When the leaves start to turn and there’s a little nip in the air—like now—I turn to things like apples, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and game birds to spell autumn. The funny thing about our world today is that I could spell autumn all year long using a food service provider and, honestly? You

On Tomatoes with Chef Kevin Gillespie, Gunshow

Kevin is a thinking man’s chef. Every which way you could think about food, he’s thought about it. And then some.  That organic intellectualism came from his Georgia mountain homeplace, where his close-knit family ate the food they grew. His family's ways of cooking, and his strong sense of identity as a Southe

On Pork with Chef Sam Jones, Skylight Inn

The preacher of pork; the porcine professor; the prince of barbecue—whatever you call him, Sam Jones makes some damn good Q: whole hog, no sauce, cooked open-pit over wood fire for hours and mixed with plenty of hand-chopped cracklin. His barbecue is one of the best history lessons you'll ever learn;

Pork Cracklins

My dad always says the person who makes the most out of the least is really doing something. Much of Southern food and the pork cracklin for sure grew out of this mantra. Don’t waste anything. You may think it’s trash, but we’re gonna make it tasty. Pork cracklins, historically, were just a by-product of rendering lard after a hog killing; a snack, meant to be eaten with a roast sweet potato at the end of a long day spent stuffing sausage, salt rubbi


As a kid I microwaved my grits. My mother would no more have slow cooked the suckers than slaughtered a chicken. So instead, I stirred my Uncle Ben’s together with Velveeta singles and crumbled sausage, plopped myself down in front of Pee Wee Herman and called it a fine Saturday morning. I knew I lived in the South of

On Grits with Chef Jay Pierce, Lucky 32

Jay Pierce gets southern food. He grew up in a suburb of New Orleans and has long been exposed to the bold and vivacious flavors of The Big Easy. Several years spent working in some of the best kitchens in New Orleans and Orlando have made him into a true Southern chef. Since planting roots with his family in Greensboro, NC, he's been a devoted advocate in the local food movement there and is passionate about making hi


If you’re reading this, you probably know I grew up in rural, rural Eastern North Carolina. Living in the country meant our water came from a well and unlike “Little House on the Prairie” and the Dear Liza song, our well was serviced by a pump. We had what I grew up calling a pump house, a little structure that mimicked the design of our home, surrounding the pump...a pump house. My mom planted a strawberry patch around it sometime shortly after I was born

On Strawberries with April McGreger, Farmer's Daughter Preserves

April McGreger is a pickling pro and her preserves are probably better than your granny's. Growing up on a sweet potato farm in Mississippi, her mother and grandmother taught her southern-style canning. In 2007, she started The Farmer's Daughter in Hillsborough, NC, making preserves, pickles, chutneys, and chow-chows, se

Sweet Corn

I’m spending the week with my family at Emerald Isle, NC. We take a week every summer, rent a beach house here and spend every hour in each other’s presence. We do not go out for dinner in small groups, and spending time with friends or inviting non-family members over is frowned upon. This week is pretty much family time, all the time. As you might imagine, I do most of the cooking and it’s actually something I enjoy. The week before our trip I treat like the lead-

On Corn with Chef Matt Kelly, Mateo Tapas

With the exception of visible tattoos, Matt Kelly is what I would call a chef's chef. By choice, he still cooks in his kitchen. His food is creative without being self-indulgent. And he relies on proper technique and an acute sensibility rather than micro/chemical pyrotechtronics to produce some of the