Local salon and dinner brings chefs, community together

Chef Action Network event unites local food advocates in Asheville

On Feb. 3, chefs from around the region joined forces at the Market Place restaurant in Asheville for the Chef Action Network dinner. This was in a culmination of a three-day salon in which food professionals gathered to discuss the food system, advocacy and sustainability.


Chefs worked together at The Market Place restaurant for the Chefs Action Network. Photo by Johnny Autry.

Chefs worked together at The Market Place restaurant for the Chef Action Network. Photo by Johnny Autry.

Asheville’s Mountain Xpress covered the event:

Earlier this month, Asheville chef William Dissen‘s downtown restaurant, The Market Place, played host to [Richmond, Va. Chef Travis] Milton and over 20 other chefs plus renowned writers, farmers and food justice leaders for the James Beard Foundation‘s inaugural Chefs at Work on Policy and Change Appalachian food salon. The likes of Alan Benton of Tennessee’s Benton’s Bacon, Burnsville historian and cookbook author Ronni Lundy and Kentucky seed saver Bill Best sat alongside some of the South’s best chefs during networking sessions.

Levon Wallace of Nashville’s Cochon Butcher, Anthony Lamas of Louisville’s Seviche and Ashley Christensen of Raleigh’s Poole’s Diner rubbed elbows with hometown heroes such as Katie Button and John Fleer during the salon, which was a private discussion on all things Appalachian. The aim was to allow the chefs to dig deeply into issues of sustainability, food inequality and access, and cultural heritage.

Heirloom Hospitality Group's Chef Katie Button took part in the event. Photo by Johnny Autry.

Heirloom Hospitality Group’s Chef Katie Button took part in the event. Photo by Johnny Autry.

“It was an amazing group of chefs all coming together to discuss our Appalachian values, our cuisine and those traits that tie us all together,” says Dissen. “There are some pretty amazing things happening in Appalachia that the rest of the country kind of gets but doesn’t really understand. It was about figuring out how we can use our voices collectively to let the world know that we are making some serious waves in the culinary world here.”

The salon was an extension of the James Beard Foundation’s Chef Action Network, the nonprofit organization that hosts the Chefs Bootcamp for Policy and Change, a recurring gathering that seeks to connect chefs to tools and resources for effecting positive change within their communities.

Chef action network logo

“Forever, Appalachia has been a really extractive society, where people come in and take things from us,” says Milton. “Whether it is coal or timbering, it’s been a constant stream of people benefiting from our resources. So how do we as chefs in the region create systems so that the actual communities in Appalachia can benefit?”

Click here to read the full article by Jonathan Ammons.

The menu was a collaborative effort featuring dishes from each chef.

The menu for the salon dinner featured a signature dish from each chef. Photo courtesy Katherine Miller.

The menu for the salon dinner featured an array of flavors from around the region. Photo courtesy Katherine Miller.

The meal concluded with one of Chef Katie Button’s signature desserts, made with chocolate from the local company French Broad Chocolates.

The team spirit reflected the food philosophy in Asheville, and great strides were made toward a more sustainable system for all.