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


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

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-


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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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, _

Eastern North Carolina Style Shrimp and Fennel Stew with Poached Eggs, Potatoes and Bacon

The Dutch oven is the workhorse of my kitchen. It is the one I reach for when boiling water or making any soup or stew, like this fish stew, thick with onions, potatoes, poached eggs, and a rich tomato-y, bacon-laced broth. This dish defines both my childhood and my region —  eastern North Carolina. For me, it’s the eggs that make the stew special and distinct from all the other seafood stews of the world. But I’ll admit that as a kid, the white bread used for sopping up the leftover bro

Fried Green Tomatoes with Apple Mustard and an Apple, Aged Cheddar and Arugula Salad

Apple butter and fried green tomatoes are Southern staples, but not necessarily things you think of eating together. Apple butter on toast? Yes. On a fried green tomato? No. Pimento cheese and bacon on green tomatoes? Yes. With arugula, apple and cheddar? No. But from my perspective apples and green tomatoes are both early fall ingredients. And because I believe what grows together goes together, apples and green tomatoes are a match made in the seasonal, preservation-minded kitche

Skillet-Fried Pizza

My husband Ben is a pizza junkie. He grew up in Chicago where he delivered pizzas for Lou Malnati’s and eventually moved to New York where he made it his mission to try and critique every famed pizza joint the city and its boroughs had to offer. Then Ben settled in eastern North Carolina where the pinnacle of the pizza scene is Papa John's and Little Caesars. Bless his heart. The lack of quality pizza was difficult for Ben to accept, so I went to work on making pizza with a chew

Strawberry Cornbread Coffee Cake with Almond Streusel

Cornbread is close to my heart; it is savory, chewy, crisp on the outside and dense within. This is not that but it is a cross between coffee cake and the sweet fluffy cornbread outside the South and which I call corncake. Corncake is light, airy and sugary all the way through. I hate to admit this but it tastes good. This Strawberry Cornbread Coffee Cake is my stab at a corncake with substance — one that no one is going to mistaken for cornbread.This baked deliciousness can work for

Vivian Howard's Sweet Potato and Turkey Shepherd's Pie

Vivian Howard will admit to being one of those moms who made all of her kids’ baby food. It was one way for her work as a chef to be meaningful to them. She used the baby food aisle as a guide, mimicking the textures and combinations that coincided with their increasing age. Vivian started with this combination of sweet potato, ground turkey and spinach when her twins were eight or nine months old, and she just developed the same healthful ingredients over time into something we al

Vivian Howard’s Szechuan Ground Turkey and Cabbage Recipe

For her new cookbook, Vivian developed a twist on Szechuan Green Beans and Pork using sliced cabbage and ground turkey instead. 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided½ head green cabbage, medium1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil2 tablespoons minced ginger root1 pound Farm to Family by Butterball ground turkey (the kind with fat)¼ teaspoo

Vivian's Sausage Balls

Sausage balls rank up there with cheese balls as our country’s most cliched and beloved party foods. The difference between the two is that most sausage balls are made with a little cheese and a little sausage bound by a whole lot of Bisquick. They taste like dry, porky balls of flour, and every time I take a bite of one I’m disappointed. These sausage balls are more like meatballs bound by a little starch and punctuated by cheddar. To me that’s what something called