10 Chefs You Need To Know In Charlotte, North Carolina
New York may be a culinary mecca, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of food talent. As such, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight celebrity, notable, or otherwise up-and-coming chefs you should know about across the country. Check out the full list here.
Our favorite towns are the towns where the food scene is beginning to explode, and Charlotte, North Carolina is one of those places. When hordes of fancy politicos visited Charlotte for the
Democratic National Convention last year, most fretted about the potential lack of good food (and a dearth of barbecue) in the staid banking city — only to discover plenty of fantastic, inventive chefs, talented artisans, and a growing passion for eating. “The odd pairing of the local food movement and the roundhouse punch delivered by the financial crisis has done much for the character of a city used to playing it safe,” noted the back in August. New York Times
But after living there for a year in preparation for the convention, DNC communications director (and avowed food lover)
Kristie Grecco told the paper that her eyes were opened by the sheer amount of great restaurants. “Like mushrooms springing to life after a forest fire, it seems a serious food scene has emerged in Charlotte in the recovery from the economic crisis,” she wrote. “A lot of culinary ventures are so recent that a large number of long-term Charlotteans have not even explored the offerings.” And so, here are ten chefs behind those options. Get to know them, why dontcha?
If there were someone who could win the hearts and minds of vegan haters, it would be Alyssa Gorelick. She first gained prominence at the restaurant Fern, where she managed to transform traditional, animal product-laden foods into delicious, plant-only dishes, and the line is out the door. Take the OM burger: never has a vegan burger managed to look so flavorful, based on the ingredients alone ("white beans, tofu, and hemp seed and topped with pickled fennel, smoked tomato chowchow, and spicy jalapeño aioli,"
the Charlotte Observer observes).
Update: Gorelick is no longer affiliated with Fern.
A former chef at the Greenbrier (where Richard Rosendale is madly training for the Bocuse d'Or), Hartwick's made his home in Charlotte with his take on southern cuisine, cycling through the kitchens of many of the city's best restaurants (most notably at Bonterra for ten years). Currently, he's the executive chef of the Something Classic catering company, which can feed hordes of angry Democrats at the drop of a hat, but was still invited to the James Beard House to cook dinner with Gorelick and Jacksina. Someone get this man a kitchen, stat.
One of the cornerstones of Charlotte's cooking scene, Moffett's two restaurants, Barrington's and Good Food on Montford, exhibits a pleasantly eclectic range and mashup of cuisine (for example: Asian pear and chili and seared scallops with citrus-jalapeño Israeli couscous and pico de gallo. Whoa, there!) to the point where he was nominated as a semi-finalist for a James Beard award for Best Chef Southeast.
But did you know Bruce has a brother? Equally responsible for the success of both restaurants, Kerry is currently the executive chef of Good Food on Montford which, by the way, he guided to a semifinalist nomination for Best New Restaurant the year that it opened. (They both were named
Best Restaurateurs in Charlotte, too.)
[ Good Food on Montford]
The hyperlocavore Parsons started in the food industry as a farmer, supplying heritage pork to Charlotte restaurants. Beginning in 2009, however, she opened the first upscale food truck in the city (again, locavore with a 100-mile radius), and in 2010, she began cooking at the Harvest Moon Grill (take a wild guess what her cuisine was). In 2011,
she won the . Surprised at her quick ascent? Chalk it up to a vivd passion for her culinary philosophy.
[ Charlotte Magazine's Restaurateur of the Year award The Harvest Moon Grille]
On his Twitter feed, Jacksina declares that he likes "animal parts, radishes, turnips and other ugly things." While we'll hold off on judging his tastes in profile photos, his "farmhouse chic" locavore food is hardly ugly. In fact, as he told Charlotte Magazine, his goal is "to treat the food from a more feminine point of view." Oh, the duality inherent in this chef and his high-end restaurant!
The original locavore chef in Charlotte, Groody's contributions to the dining scene have, according to
, "literally reaped a windfall for all area restaurants." With stints working with Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Ben Barker, the pedigreed chef is currently Charlotte Creative Loafing the head chef for the Frank Scibelli restaurant group in Charlotte, where he oversees five restaurants.
In a city like Charlotte, what with its banks and money and things, one would expect Tom Condron, an experienced chef who's worked with Jean-Louis Palladin and Daniel Boulud, to keep with his well-paying gig as the executive chef at the Harper's Restaurant group where he ran all the high-end restaurants in the city. But he left to open Charlotte's first gastropub due to a shift in priorities. "To be really honest, I was tired of serving a $38 seabass on a plate just to try to make ends meet and make the food costs work and serving a $16 house wine by the glass,"
he told Digital Dads. "My perspective on what should go on in the restaurant business changed. I really wanted to do my own place and do it where it’s affordable and approachable to the guests."
[ The Liberty Gastropub]
This young chef made his name in Charlotte by bringing in the first and only pop-up concept. But while The Market Kitchen may be an old riff on an older trend, Coleman, who is also the executive chef at a brick-and-mortar restaurant, hopes that pop-ups can invigorate the Charlotte dining scene. “There has been a major change in the way people think about food,"
he told Charlotte Magazine. “It would be fantastic to see the pop-up trend explode in Charlotte, much like the food truck scene. I think there is enough of a demand in Charlotte to support it.”
[ The McNinch House and The Market Kitchen]
An Italian native, Grigolon has headed up some of Charlotte's hottest European restaurants before moving recently to the Spanish-inspired Malabar. But what few people in Charlotte know about Grigolon is that
his European background is : he's worked in Michelin-starred restaurants, did a stint with Alain Ducasse, and once won the Grand Cordon d'Or of Monaco, an award only given to 20 chefs each year. Fancy!
[ really star-studded Malabar]