Where did you start your career?
I began my culinary career in my hometown of Lenoir, N.C., where my family, which can be traced back seven generations, was a constant source of inspiration for traditional Southern cooking techniques and ingredients.
While attending culinary school in Charlotte, I worked for legendary Charlotte restaurateur Frank Scibelli at Mama Ricotta’s. I also had stints at some of the world’s top restaurants, including; The French Laundry, Napa, California; Chez Pascal, in Providence, RI, under Chef Matt Gennuoso; and spent time managing Clyde’s Restaurant Group, in Washington, DC.
I have also had the opportunity to be on The Food Network’s, Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay. I am also proud to say that I was responsible for revamping North Rock Restaurant, in Bermuda, before returning to North Carolina to open my dream restaurant – Heirloom Restaurant.
With a passion for changing food culture in the United States, I spend my time as an active member of several non-profits in Charlotte. I served as a board member of Green Teacher Network (GTN), which works to advance academics, health and sustainability through school gardens and outdoor learning. GTN collaborates with over 30 area organizations in support of school gardens, composting, and growing natural environment.
I am also a founding member of the Mecklenburg Community Food Health Coalition, which brings together partners from the private and public sectors, to deal with food policy issues in the County.
In between running my restaurant and volunteering, I somehow find time to be a professor in Regional American Cuisine, Contemporary Cuisine, and Latin Cuisine at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute in Charlotte, NC.
With a primary focus on serving the best North Carolina foods and beverages, I enjoy creating original and unique dishes that reflect my travels and training. I am an avid forager and when I’m is not in the kitchen, you can find me in NC forests and fields, sourcing ingredients for Heirloom’s menu.
What’s your specialty?
I work with wild ingredients more than most chefs. Whether it is mushrooms, flowers, or greens, I feel that wild ingredients have gone untapped, but allow us to offer guests a meal that is truly unique to the region. This year I won a three year battle with the NC state legislature allowing NC restaurants to serve wild mushrooms for the first time in history
Fill in the blank: If I weren’t a chef, I’d be…
A forager/park ranger; something that allows me to work outside. After more than a decade and a half in the food service industry under florescent lights any career outside seems appealing at this point.
What’s in your fridge?
Claussen Dill Pickles, PBR, Dusty Foothills hot sauce, and a variety of other hot sauces, roast beef, A large number of takeout boxes…
At at Glance:
Favorite Mushroom: Lactarius Indigo
Your favorite dish: Duck Confit
Your most popular dish: Shrimp and Grits
Why are you participating in the Blended Burger Project™?
I feel that as a culture we have put too much importance on the protein that is on our plates, specifically the meat. By participating in the Blended Burger Project™ we have taken the first step to reducing our meat consumption and hopefully paved the way for future chefs to innovate on what we are producing. The added benefit of being able to work with some amazing mushrooms was too much for me to pass up on.
Blended Burger Recipe
1/2 head white cabbage
1 each carrot
2 each shallot
salt and pepper to taste
4 each egg yolk
1 tsp tabasco
3 cloves garlic
1 pint canola oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
6 oz ground beef
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp paprika
4oz canned tomato
1 Pint mushroom sStock
20 oz ground beef
12 oz ground maitake mushroom
4 tbsp Lusty Monk mustard
4 each burger bun
For the Slaw:
1. In a food processor chop very finely cabbage, carrot, and shallot. Season with salt and pepper in mixing bowl and reserve in refrigerator.
2. In a bar blender combine egg yolks, tabasco, garlic. Process until well combined. Slowly drizzle in canola oil to form emulsified sauce (Aioli).
3. Thoroughly mix cut cabbage mixture with apple cider vinegar, and aioli. Season with salt and pepper and reserve for later use.
For the Chili Sauce:
4. In a medium sized pot, brown 6oz of ground beef on high heat, add in cumin, coriander, paprika, and toast spices, add canned tomato and mushroom stock and simmer for 30 minutes or until 75% of the liquid is reduced.
5. With an immersion blender process chili until it is thoroughly combined and the correct “hot dog chili” consistency. At this point it your chili is too loose you can reduce more on low heat. If it is too tight you can add more mushroom stock. Season with salt and pepper and reserve hot for later use.
For the Burger Patties:
5. In a medium sized mixing bowl combine the remaining ground beef with the ground maitake mushroom, season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
6. Measure the burger patties into 4oz portions and then form burgers approximately 15% bigger than your bun diameter.
To Assemble the Burgers:
7. Toast buns on grill and reserve on a cutting board.
8. Grill blended burgers until medium well, approximately 3-4 minutes on each side.
9. Spread mustard on each side of the buns.
10. Place one patty on the bottom bun, top with chili and slaw, add second patty and repeat chili and slaw. Place top bun on and serve hot. Enjoy.