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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.<

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. 

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

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

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

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

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 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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

#ACLHiFive Day Party Kicks Off Season Five Festivities in Durham!

Vivian and the A CHEF’S LIFE crew are gearing up for the big party in downtown Durham on Sunday Sept. 10! We’ve already told you about the screening of “Two-Mato,” the first episode of season five at Carolina Theatre, but below is a list of the (FREE!) events we have planned to make our season five shindig fun for all!We are throwing a day party...And it’s free to all!What: #ACLHiFive Day PartyWhen:<

Talkin' Pig Pickin' with Sam Jones

You might remember Sam Jones from season four’s “Stand By Your Cabbage” episode. Sam and his family are legends in the world of whole hog barbecue: his father and uncle own the Skylight Inn BBQ in Ayden, N.C. and Sam owns Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, near Greenville, N.C. As autumn and pig

Holy Loch Neuse Dragon, Kinston Gets a New Playground!

In June 2017, nearly 100 volunteers descended on Kinston to build a playground in about six hours. As daunting as the task sounds, Wash., D.C.-based non-profit KaBOOM! has built 3,000 playgrounds around the country in a day’s time by gathering hundreds of volunteers to assemble slides, swings, and ultimately, make thousands of kids super happy. In partnership with Blue Cross an

The South’s First Family of Commercial Fishing

Sunburst Trout Farms, tucked away in the picturesque landscape of the North Carolina mountains, began in 1948 as the South’s first commercial trout farm. With help from state agencies like North Carolina Department of Agriculture and its Got to Be NC Seafood entity, the family-owned farm has become a vital part of North Carolina’s diverse seafood industry.Today, North Carolina is ranked

How Vivian Balances Healthy and Hectic Every Day

In case you haven’t noticed, Vivian Howard is busy. Season five of her James Beard- and Emmy Award-winning PBS series “A Chef’s Life” recently wrapped. In March, she was able to squeeze in a 40th birthday celebration after several days of filming and cooking in Charleston, S.C.. She then scurried back to Kinston to host a retirement party for a friend at her farm-to-table restaurant, Chef & the Farmer. Then it was off to Hawaii for a week of appearances and book signings before landing b

Vivian Answers the Question “Why NC?”

Last month, Vivian Howard was a featured speaker at Leadership North Carolina’s annual forum, held in downtown Raleigh. Vivian took the stage with Raleigh restaurateur Van Nolintha to speak about “Why North Carolina? A Rural and Urban Perspective on Hospitality.” Vivian and Van shared their stories about how they came to call North Carolina home — and now both run successful restaurants in different parts of the state.

Vivian Shares Sweet Potato Wisdom

North Carolina ranks No. 1 in sweet potato production. Most of the state’s sweet spuds are grown on farms in the swath of land known as eastern North Carolina (“ENC”). Vivian Howard, a native of ENC, calls the sweet potato “a cornerstone of our cuisine.” If you open her 2016 cookbook, “Deep Run Roots,” to its center, you’ll find what amounts to a manifesto entitled “Sweet Potato

Vivian Howard Picks Her Favorite Tomatoes

So, you’re about to make Vivian Howard’s delicious stewed tomatoes (check out the recipe on BlueCrossNC.com/Nutrition)? Before you do that, you have to choose your tomatoes, which might be the hardest part of the recipe! Most tomato connoisseurs have their favorite heirloom tomato variety and Vivian is no different. In a memorable episode of “<a t

What Chefs Bring To Friendsgiving

Friendsgiving has become...a thing. Like its name implies, it merges the best parts of the holiday season —  companionship and generosity. If you’re invited to a Friendsgiving dinner this year, don’t show up empty-handed. And if you’re hosting a Friendsgiving gathering, be sure to offer guests suggestions of what to bring. We’ve asked a few of our chef friends to share side dishes they would bring to a Friendsgiving dinner. Take notes. Their choices are guaranteed to be