Aside from perhaps Daniel Boulud, no chef has had as positive an impact on his mentees than Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, many of whom have appeared on this list; Vivian Howard is yet another example of his leadership. Born and raised in North Carolina, Vivian is the daughter of farmers, and their approach to cooking can be seen in her creations even today.
After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education in 2003, Vivian worked at Wylie Dufresne’s wd-50 and trained with Vongerichten at his Spice Market restaurant. Vivian’s star had risen to the point that she was receiving offers from investors to open her own space in New York, but true to her roots, Vivian and Ben decided to take her parents up on their offer to buy a restaurant near her hometown, in Kinston, North Carolina.
The result was Chef & the Farmer, opened in 2006. Since then, Vivian has been a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for “Best Chef: Southeast” 5 times (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015) and a James Beard Foundation award winner for “Outstanding Personality/Host” in 2016. Her restaurant has received a AAA “Four Diamond” award in 2010, 2011 and 2012, a Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” in 2009, and a place on OpenTable’s “Top 100 Restaurants in America” list in 2011. Vivian opened her second space, Boiler Room, in 2013, across the street from Chef & the Farmer.
Specialties & Resources
Chef & the Farmer is located in a downtown building that once served as a mule stable, and continuing the farming thread seen throughout her work, more than 60% of the ingredients used in her creations come from within a 90-mile radius. At Chef & the Farmer, Vivian’s creations serve as modern takes on traditional regional dishes, and Vivian has made a point of soliciting recipe ideas from local community members.
Offerings at Chef & the Farmer include flash-fried collard greens with sea salt; yellowfin tuna tartare with crème fraiche, amara, spicy tomato and potato chips; fried okra with buttermilk ranch ice cream; grits with pimento cheese, squash salsa and pork rinds; beef carpaccio with butter bean conserve, crispy butter beans and shaved parmesan; sausage & grape skewers with mustard glaze, radishes & chervil; muscadines & kale with mustard vinaigrette, crispy country ham and smoked parmesan; apple squash and citrus with crispy farro, blue cheese and apple vinaigrette; flounder & fried oyster stew with potatoes, shaved fennel and turnips with shiitake mushrooms; pan-roasted chicken breast with butternut squash, kale, sorghum grain and glazed and preserved figs; and seared snapper with sweet potato tostones, citrus jalapeno aioli, and kale & apple herb salad.