DESTINATION > NORTH CAROLINA
Vivian Howard: A Chef ’s Life The EGG has made me the grill cook that I always thought I could be.
Born in Deep Run, North Carolina to tobacco and hog farming parents, Vivian Howard learned at an early age to appreciate the ebb and flow of eating what was fresh, and eating with the seasons. Still, it took many years and a start in the advertising business to convince her that a career in food was feasible. “I was living in New York at the time,” remembers Vivian. “I moved there to be a writer, and through several different career paths I ended up working in a restaurant as a server. Their concept was southern food with an African influence – I became really interested in the stories behind the food, and gaining a ‘behind the scenes’ look at restaurant work inspired me to become a food writer. I found that I really enjoyed the camaraderie of a restaurant kitchen ... I liked making things with my hands and it turned out I was good at it. I am probably better at cooking than I ever would have been at writing about food!” In 2005, Vivian, and her now-husband Ben Knight, decided to return to Vivian’s roots and open a “farm to fork” restaurant in the small town of Kinston, North Carolina. They opened Chef & the Farmer, serving healthy, natural, local foods. “Eastern North Carolina was formerly a thriving tobacco and textile business community, and then both industries left the region, which caused a lot of hardship in the area. Our goal was to be a part of rebuilding the region, with small family farms providing produce, protein and niche products. That’s been our goal from the beginning ... we’ve always been about building the community. Now we are seeing young people coming back to the farms and growing more sustainable products – that’s the most exciting and rewarding part of it.” “Along the way I discovered the Big Green Egg, and now we use the EGG both at home and in our R&D kitchen,” says
BIG GREEN EGG
Vivian Howard approached her childhood neighbor-turnedfilmmaker, Cynthia Hill, about directing a documentary film series about Eastern North Carolina’s food traditions. In its first two seasons, “A Chef ’s Life,” which celebrates family, work and food, won a Peabody Award, a Daytime Emmy and was nominated for four James Beard Awards. Vivian. “At home we do so much on the EGG and my focus is always on the ingredients. We’ll grill something really quick like steaks, or we’ll smoke a brisket or a pork shoulder. I especially enjoy cooking with fruit and making fruit savory ... this summer we grilled lots of peaches and tossed them with fresh watermelon for a fruit salsa to go with the pork shoulder.” “At first we were a bit intimidated by the EGG because it’s such an impressive looking piece of equipment. You might think it requires a tremendous amount of skill to use, but it’s infinitely easier than our old grill. I was never the one in my family to cook on the grill and now, more often than not, I am. The temperature is so easy to control and I can get to the cooking temperature I need very quickly ... the EGG has made me the grill cook that I always thought I could be. What I love the most is that the EGG encourages you to get outside and cook – there’s nothing better than the whole family being outside ... playing in the yard, and cooking and dining together.”
Photo courtesy of Stacey Van Berkel