A Day with Vivian Howard

A day with chef and TV personality Vivian Howard

by Catherine Currin

photographs by Jaclyn Morgan

Walter readers from across the state flocked to Kinston Dec 2. for an exclusive day of food, fellowship, and art with award-winning chef and bona fide Southerner Vivian Howard. The Deep Run, North Carolina native has earned fame nationwide for her PBS series, A Chef’s Life, documenting her roles as a chef, business owner, and mother of twins in Eastern North Carolina.

74 guests brought their appetite to Howard’s test kitchen in Kinston Saturday morning. Miss Lillie, Vivian’s no-frills sometimes sous chef who is beloved from her appearances in A Chef’s Life, stole the show as she led the biscuit-making demonstration. As they mixed flour and used volunteers to pull together dough, it was evident that Howard and Lillie’s on-camera banter is not just for television. A sampling of biscuits, homemade preserves, and salty country ham held
the group over for the walk to lunch. Howard’s test kitchen is only a few blocks from the restaurants she owns with husband Ben Knight: fine dining locavore restaurant Chef & the Farmer as well as burger and oyster bar The Boiler Room.

The four-course lunch at Chef & the Farmer was an elevated down-home feast. Mimosas and wine accompanied Howard’s party magnet cheese ball to start. A seasonal salad with apples and pecans was followed by a creamy collard green soup and then braised pork, greens, and potatoes. To top it off, guests enjoyed Howard’s signature apple hand pie with fresh whipped cream, appropriately named the AppleJack.

To walk off the meal, the group explored Kinston with a tour and tasting at Mother Earth Brewery and a guided art walk through town. The day concluded at Art 105, a collaborative studio and gallery space for many Kinston artists. There, a local band, snacks from Howard’s kitchen, and signature cocktails featuring Kinston-made Social House vodka set the tone for a lively gallery meet-and-greet with artists. Among the work on display was a gallery of Ben Knight’s paintings. Before too long, the Vivian Howard food truck swung by to serve fish stew, a hearty soup with potatoes and white fish served with a “good ol’ piece of white bread,” Howard said, to soak up every bite. Guests mingled with each other and with Howard, who signed copies of her award-winning cookbook, Deep Run Roots.

Everyone went home with a copy of the cookbook, among other swag bag goodies, and a full belly; many stayed the night in Kinston. The day was made possible by the presenting sponsorship of Great Outdoor Provision Company and supporting sponsors Causey Aviation and Bailey’s Fine Jewelry.