ASHEVILLE – Local chefs have taken on the challenge of preparing locally sourced ingredients with creative approaches in an unpredictable setting.
Cochon555’s Heritage Fire Tour makes its first stop in WNC. The chefs will demonstrate various cooking techniques with an emphasis on open flame cooking. On July 17th, Heritage Fire-Asheville will debut at Franny’s Farm, 22 Franny’s Farm Road in Leicester.
Terri Terrell from the pop-up series Ladies Who Brunch is one of the chefs who will be taking part in the ultimate open-air live fire tasting event, the Heritage Fire.
“When you’re working with live fire, you don’t have as much control. You don’t necessarily have to have a thermometer on the fire,” Terrell said. “The rewarding thing is that success comes from igniting the desired fire that goes with the dish you’re preparing. Getting the timing right for the fire and bringing it out the way you want it…that’s the trick, and that’s where the reward lies.
Guests will be privy to live entertainment and unlimited food tastings, in addition to wine, cocktails and craft beer, as well as curated beverages and dishes to match.
The venue creates an organic flow and scenic views of a working farm and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“It’s this huge open space surrounded by goats and sheep and cows and everything,” Terrell said. “And the setting, I don’t think you can ask for anything better.”
The cooking arena is also designed to visually stimulate guests, said Brett Friedman, CEO of Agency 21, the events production and management company behind Heritage Fire.
“It creates this pleasant view for people to walk in and see these 20+ different chefs cooking on this open fire – each with their own individual open fire creation,” Friedman said. “With the look of a traditional barbecue, you have to switch almost immediately.”
who cooks what
Each cook is assigned a protein or vegetable that they “shine” with their choice of open-air cooking methods, such as a live fire pit, open-fire grill or smoker, said Lauren Melamed, director of integrated marketing. Cast iron skillets, grills or cinder block pits are also among the options.
Owen McGlynn is Executive Chef and owner of Asheville Proper, a restaurant based on live fire cooking. The chef, however, dispensed with the amenities of a traditional restaurant kitchen.
“It’s pretty primitive. Basically some grates and some cinder blocks and they’ll have wood for us and we’ll do our cooking,” McGlynn said. “It’s supposed to be fun. I will enjoy it. I think it’s going to be a good time.”
Live fire cooking creates a taste experience unlike food cooked on a stove.
“You get a nice char from it over the coals – smokiness,” said McGlynn. “It sure gives it different flavors.”
McGlynn plans to make in-house dry-aged New York strips with chimichurri made from locally heirloom tomatoes, a Vidalia onion salad, and tallo ash aioli. Locally sourced ingredients include tomatoes from Perez Farms.
Terrell, a Mississippi native, will be making “Oyster Natchez,” described as a grilled, fire-roasted oyster with tomato aspic, Hickory Nut Gap Farm Bacon, Delta Aioli, Urfa Chili Flakes, okra dust from the Utopian Seed Project, and microgreens from Asheville Microgreens. Local tomatoes and Spicewalla spices are incorporated.
“It’s a small variant of a BLT on an oyster,” Terrell said.
Chef Michelle Baily cooks “all day, every day” with living fires at Smoky Park Supper Club.
“It’s not really a flavor that can be reproduced any other way and there are so many different uses of live fire cooking, from slow smoking at 225 degrees for 15 hours to running our grill at 750 degrees for service So we can cook char pork chops and steaks and burgers to order.”
At Heritage Fire, Bailey creates a “classic bite” of light, seasonal fare. The menu features ‘Broke Down Gumbo’ made from homemade andouille, served with fire roasted shrimp and topped with pickled tomatoes and trinity salad with fresh herbs and thinly sliced vegetables. Crispy okra is sprinkled on top. It’s finished with a smoked duke’s dark roux with charred rice dust for garnish.
Bert Sheffield, executive chef at White Labs Brewing Co., is making the transition from pizza to his original South Louisiana roots. He plans to make a Cajun-style grilled boudin sandwich, which will be served with a slice of bread and topped with grilled vegetables, tartar sauce and an okra and celery salad.
“Something nice and fresh to break up all that rich, juicy meat,” Sheffield said.
White Labs offers beers on tap, including Hoppy Lager, which is made with German lager yeast.
“At these beer and food festivals, it’s definitely the combination that counts, but it’s more about the quality,” said Erik Fowler, Head of Education and Hospitality. “You introduce someone to good beer and good food and show them a good time — that’s really what’s most impactful.”
New to WNC
A celebration of the proteins and heirlooms of traditional breeds, the Heritage Fire Tour promotes sustainable agriculture and consumer nutrition. There’s an upward trend of more people becoming interested in what they’re consuming, Friedman said.
In 2010, the Food and Wine Festival series was launched in California’s Napa Valley. It continues to show pasture diversity and family farms in various regions across the United States
This year, the Heritage Fire Tour will feature nine cities including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami and Nashville.
“We’re always looking for new, innovative cities, and Asheville just nailed it on the head with where we want to be on this tour,” Friedman said.
“We bring 20 of the top chefs to every city we visit to shed light on all the incredible food offerings supported by local farms in a more fun and innovative way for consumers,” said Melamed. “Asheville has such an incredible food community and such incredible chefs that when we decided which tour stops we would be going to this year it was a no brainer.”
Although the mission and overall format is the same from city to city, the experience is unique to each destination. Local chefs, winemakers, brewers and the focus on local and regional ingredients and agriculture give the festival an incomparable flair.
“The great thing about this event is that you won’t see the same style of cooking every year. You will see different chefs involved,” said Melamed. “We are very excited to be bringing this to Asheville for many years to come and making it an annual event here.”
It’s also a time for chefs to connect with the community and each other.
“It’s going to be fun bringing together these different chefs from Asheville and also from the area,” said McGlynn. “Just meeting new people…seeing what everyone brings to the table. I think it will be fun. Everyone does something different. I look forward to getting together with everyone, having fun and getting outside.”
Heritage Fire cooking lineup
Eric Morris, Culture
Owen McGlynn, actual Asheville
Glenn Osterberg, Rhubarb
Michael Achberger, table
Brian Crow, Chestnut
Graham House, Chop Shop
Matt Weinstein, Oak Steakhouse Highlands
Nick Hane, Zambra
Ophus Hethington, Triangular Traded Spices
Steven Goff, Tastee Diner
Michelle Bailey, Smoky Park Supper Club
Kelley Crandall, Umami Mami
Chef Terri Terrell
Bert Sheffield, White Labs Brewing Co.
Luis Martinez, Tequio Foods
Daniel Wheeler, Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute
Lynn Wells, Thyme Well laid out personal chef service
Michael Lewis, Ukiah Japanese Smokehouse
Luke Owens, Julep Contemporary Kitchen
Heritage Fire Tour Asheville
Where: Franny Farms, 22 Franny Farms Road, Leicester
When: 17th July
Hours: Standing 5:45-8:00 p.m.; Early VIP access at 5pm
Costs: $99 general, $150 VIP Early Access
The information: Buy tickets online at heritagefiretour.com/asheville/.
Tiana Kennell is the food and dining reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Please support this kind of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.