Vivian Howard, chef-owner of Chef & the Farmer in North Carolina, was a locavore way before it was cool. As a daughter of tobacco- and hog-farming parents, she ate with the ebb and flow of seasons in her hometown, Deep Run, North Carolina. But as an aspiring journalist, her dreams felt too big for butter beans and biscuits: she was plotting an escape to New York. “I just wanted night to sound like car horns and people instead of frogs and crickets,” she writes in her James Beard Award-nominated cookbook, Deep Run Roots.
After college, Howard got a job in advertising, but when she found herself hiding on a vacant floor to take naps during her lunch break, she quit and finally gave in to her passion for food. From a server at Greenwich Village’s Voyage, she worked her way up to being a member of the opening team at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market.
But eventually, Howard's roots called her back home, where she opened Chef & the Farmer to preserve, stew and transform the foods of her childhood into her own cuisine. The intimate relationship between chef, ingredients, and hometown became the subject of “A Chef’s Life,” the Peabody and Daytime Emmy award-winning series that also earned her a James Beard Award for Outstanding Personality/Host in 2016. “The ingredients are characters who shape my life," she writes. "Eastern North Carolina is my Tuscany, my Szechuan, my Provence.” Of course, hints of Italy make themselves known in her crunchy endive salad with Parmesan and pine nuts, while Southeast France peeks through in her spicy fish stew.
Like Howard herself, her dishes may start out local, but they succumb to wanderlust. The recipes she’s made for Panna are no exception: BLT Dip, a blissful concoction that reimagines the flavors of an iconic American sandwich, includes a touch of tarragon and anchovy; her glazed pecans—aka "Viv's Addiction"—are tossed in a powerful mix of paprika, cumin, chipotle, and coriander. We can't wait for you to turn Howard's kaleidoscopic Southern dishes into traditions of your own.