The James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour, the roving culinary fundraiser for the James Beard Foundation, rolled into the mountain town of Asheville on September 9 for a two-day stop with some of the Southeast’s top culinary talent. The tour, which includes 26 dinners across the United States, gathers James Beard award winners, nominees and exceptional chefs, to recreate the Beard House experience at venues across the United States.
The Asheville event was hosted at The Market Place Restaurant, owned by Chef William Dissen a.k.a. Chef Billy D. Formerly owned by farm-to-table visionary Mark Rosenstein, The Market Place has been an Asheville institution for 35 years. Dissen has owned it for the last five.
The two-day event began with a foraging trip for the chefs. Renowned wild foods expert and wily edu-tainer, Alan Muskat of No Taste Like Home, took the chefs into the Bent Creek Recreational Area, armed with baskets and wielding the foraging world’s version of a spork, an elementary contraption uniting knife and brush into what Muskat calls a “brife.”
We were joined by Chef Elliott Moss of the upcoming Buxton Hall Barbecue (formerly of The Admiral where he received a James Beard nomination for Best Chef Southeast), Chef Daniel Rattigan of French Broad Chocolates, Celebrity Mixologist Sara Strom fresh in from Los Angeles, Chef Dissen, and Jeff Black, Director of the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour.
Muskat helped the group identify 25 edible discoveries and countless inedible ones. Moss left with a full basket including spicebush berries, spruce pine needles and wild greens, which he used in a quail brine for his contributing course.
After a welcome from tour director Jeff Black, the eager bunch of diners sat down to an epic meal:
Chef Anthony Llamas of Seviche in Louisville, Kentucky / grilled North Carolina shrimp and a deconstructed “elote” of charred corn, smoked serrano and cotija cheese.
Chef Elliot Moss (Punk Wok, Buxton Hall Barbecue) served a nearly whole (and rather leggy) wood roasted Manchester Farms quail stuffed with a white corn meal “kush” along with bourbon barrel aged vinegar mop a la Buxton Hall and foraged greens.
Chef Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Downtown Diner in Raleigh, North Carolina / Border Springs lamb carpaccio topped with oil-cured olives, thinly shaved crispy artichoke hearts, roasted tomatoes and the yogurt vinaigrette of my dreams.
Chef William Dissen / Benton’s Bacon seared wagyu ribeye with barbecue sweetbreads, turnips and a sungold tomato puree.
Chef Daniel Rattigan of French Broad Chocolates / “ants on a log”, a celery ice cream in a soup of peanut butter milk chocolate liquid truffle and garnished with dark chocolate (bean to bar chocolate, of course) dredged raisins made from farmer’s market grapes.
For Dissen, the meal was a seminal event for the Asheville culinary scene.
“Hosting the James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour at The Market Place has helped to definitely pinpoint Asheville on America’s map of culinary destinations. We’ve been a burgeoning food city for years, and now we’re primed for our place at the top of the list. It was a collaborative dinner of epic proportions!” says Dissen.