“The idea of ‘authentic’ Southern food has become muddled,” says Chef Nicolas Peek, of Waynesville’s Birchwood Hall Southern Kitchen. He’s aiming to correct those misconceptions.
When Birchwood Hall Southern Kitchen opened in April of 2017 in downtown Waynesville, Executive Chef Nicolas Peek already had a clear vision for his farm-to-table restaurant: To bring a collaboration between the chef and the farmer and create a menu that celebrated the best of Appalachian and Southern cuisine, utilizing the highest quality possible local and regional ingredients. Now, in 2018, having recently passed their first major milestone of being open for a full first year, Birchwood Hall—the name is an homage to a historic Civil War-era home that had also been on Waynesville’s Main Street—is steadily amassing a regional reputation for both its true (as in “non-stereotypical”) Southern authenticity and its consistent support for local farmers and food suppliers
On that first point, explains Peek, “The greatest hurdle that we have overcome is the thought of Southern cuisine in our area. We knew that we would be battling the preconceived pretentiousness of our chef-driven concept, but we faced more adversity in the way that the population was under the impression that Southern foods are those greasy, diner, deep fried dishes that we all enjoy from time to time. The idea of ‘authentic’ Southern food has become muddled.”
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Ed. Note: At presstime we learned that Birchwood is participating in this summer’s James Beard Blended Burger Project, a competition put on by the James Beard Foundation. The idea is to create the tastiest and healthiest burger, and Chef Peek’s submission, which already has notched over 700 votes, consists of Hickory Nut Gap Farms beef with oyster mushrooms, Smoked Gouda pimento cheese fritter, house cured bacon, duck ham and Tasso, rhubarb aioli, pickled tomatoes and apples on brioche.
The competition utilizes the following equally weighted judging criteria: (1) most creative use of mushrooms, (2) best flavor profile and (3) presentation. A panel of food experts selected by the James Beard Foundation will determine five winners from the top 20 entries with the most online votes. Experts will determine the top five winners based on those criteria. Upon conclusion, the five winning chefs will win a trip to NYC to cook their blended burger dish at the historic James Beard House. The competition ends on July 31.
You can see a photo of the Birchwood burger and register your votes at the Blended Burger Project “vote” page.
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