11 Local Chefs Transforming Charlotte’s Culinary Scene
We’ve got on our radar 11 local chefs responsible for diversifying what Charlotteans are now craving.
by Erin Breeden Jul 20, 2017
The Charlotte culinary landscape is constantly evolving. New restaurants and established concepts alike continue to dazzle and delight the palates of Charlotte diners. From those foraging for mushrooms to those imbuing dishes with Spanish influences or making dessert the main event of a meal, we’ve got on our radar 11 local chefs responsible for diversifying what Charlotteans are now craving.
Chris Coleman, Stoke Charlotte
Chef Chris Coleman has worked in the culinary industry since he was 14 years old. After a brief stint in art school, Coleman attended and graduated from the culinary arts program at Central Piedmont Community College. Coleman worked at McNinch House Restaurant while he was still in school and served as executive chef at The Asbury before taking the reins of Stoke Charlotte, which is located on the street level of the Charlotte Marriott City Center. “We’re cognizant of the fact that we’re located in a hotel, and we want to show off for the travelers who stay with us,” Coleman says. A fan of cooking that takes time, most of the dishes Coleman creates at Stoke take four to five days of preparation before they are served to customers.
Ashley Bivens-Boyd, 300 East and Heritage Food & Drink
Pastry Chef Ashley Bivens-Boyd is an artist—literally and figuratively. Boyd earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Although she majored in art, it was her interest in pastry making that brought Boyd home to her Charlotte roots to work at her family’s restaurant, 300 East, in 2001. Eventually, Boyd’s distinct artistic touch proved a game-changing angle for the restaurant’s dessert and pastry menu. “I’m a produce kind of girl,” she says. “I love building a dessert around a gorgeous fruit, vegetable or herb, especially if it’s an ingredient not typically featured in the dessert course ... I like chocolate, don’t misunderstand me! But it’s much more likely to show up in a supporting role.” Boyd’s attention to detail and taste are exactly what Chef Paul Verica sought for the restaurant he opened in 2013, Heritage Food & Drink. Now, Boyd works part time for Verica at Heritage, where she supervises the dessert program, and at 300 East.
Jossie Perlmutter, Sweet Affairs Charlotte
After completing an eight-week program at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie in Yssingeaux, France, Jossie Perlmutter was hired as the opening pastry chef at Heirloom Restaurant. Although she learned basic techniques in France, most of her education has come from direct experience and working. Citing local chefs Chris Coleman (Stoke Charlotte) and Matthew Krenz (The Asbury) as influencehonoris in teaching her about flavor development when she worked with them at The Asbury, Perlmutter is Owner and Head Pastry Chef at artisanal dessert catering service, Sweet Affairs. “My goal for all of my desserts is to create something that most people in Charlotte haven’t experienced before,” she says. Known for her cooking’s French influence as well as a personal style that utilizes layers of texture and flavors, Perlmutter was recently named NCRLA (North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association) Pastry Chef of the Year for 2016.
Qian Zhang, The Dumpling Lady
Qian Zhang came to America in April 2015. She grew up in a small city in the Sichuan (Szechuan) province of China. Spicy food plays a big role in her hometown, and it plays a big role in Zhang’s food truck, The Dumpling Lady. After moving to Charlotte, Zhang began making dishes she enjoyed in her youth to ease her feelings of being homesick. In February 2016, she started selling her dumplings at local farmers markets. Customers loved her dumplings, but they were concerned about cooking them at home and whether or not they could do it. “We didn’t want to disappoint people, so we decided to have a food truck in an effort to control the final products and give them what they wanted,” says Zhang. With meat locally sourced from North Carolina farms, some of the best ingredients come all the way from China. “I use this peppercorn that is shipped from my hometown. People either love it or hate it. And luckily, people in Charlotte have been loving the peppercorn,” she notes.
Greg Collier, The Yolk
Chef Greg Collier’s culinary training began with washing dishes and cutting celery and carrots at Ching’s Hot Wings in Memphis, Tennessee. After Collier had attended culinary school in Arizona and worked at numerous resorts, the Charlotte area scored a win when he moved to Rock Hill, South Carolina, and opened The Yolk in 2012. “No other restaurant does only breakfast,” Collier explains. “We do classic dishes, but we also like to play with flavors in traditional items.” Honoring breakfast staples, Collier also likes to switch it up and give the city something new. “I like smoked and pickled things,” he says. “My favorite thing to do is use traditional cooking techniques on different items, like smoking rice, pickling tofu and charring fruit.”
Oscar de La Fuente, Evoke
Open since 2015, Evoke inside Le Méridien Charlotte has been lauded with local awards for best new restaurant and ranked among the top-ten Charlotte restaurants. Under Chef Oscar de La Fuente’s expert guidance, Evoke serves up simple yet sophisticated food. La Fuente attended Humber College in Toronto, Canada. Following culinary school, he won the Canadian Black Box Championship, apprenticed at the World Black Box Championship and gained valuable experience in some of the finest restaurants in Toronto. “My philosophy and cooking style is to respect the ingredients and use the correct techniques to prepare them,” says La Fuente. “If you start with a great product, you will have exceptional food.” It’s this philosophy that has put Evoke on the map with locals as well as visitors staying at the hotel.
Blake Hartwick, Bonterra Dining & Wine Room
Chef Blake Hartwick was destined to be a chef. His father owned a catering company, where Hartwick worked during summers to earn his allowance. His travels, however, proved to have the greatest impact on his personal culinary style. While staying with his grandparents on their 2-acre farm in Rocky Mount, Virginia, Hartwick w as exposed to preserving, pickling and Appalachia-inspired cooking. He has since worked in Spain on four different assignments, including stints in Madrid and Barcelona. Spanish influences coupled with regional, Southern inspiration is what has made Hartwick’s 16 years at Bonterra Dining & Wine Room so memorable. With a menu that changes once or twice a week, diners can experience something new each time. “It’s endless with how far you can go with food,” Hartwick says. “Looking back on recipes is like family photos, and sometimes you say, ‘I can’t believe I did that.’ We still have the same wine, style of service and atmosphere, but the food is constantly evolving.”
Clark Barlowe, Heirloom Restaurant
Chef Clark Barlowe began his culinary career in his hometown of Lenoir, North Carolina, where his family was his inspiration for traditional Southern cooking techniques and ingredients. While attending Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, Barlowe worked for legendary Charlotte restaurateur Frank Scibelli at Mama Ricotta’s Restaurant. Barlowe also worked in the kitchens of some of the world’s top restaurants, including The French Laundry in Napa, California, and El Bulli in Spain. Barlowe decided to open his own concept, Heirloom Restaurant, almost three years ago. Here at his homey stop in the Coulwood neighborhood, the focus is on sourcing every single ingredient from North Carolina—right down to the soap in the restroom. By collecting his products from the Tar Heel State, Barlowe has defined what it means to be locally sourced. He plans his menu around what is available and in season and draws inspiration from regional farmers. Nationally known for his talent, Barlowe has competed on Food Network’s “Chopped” and “Beat Bobby Flay.”
Cody Suddreth, The King’s Kitchen
Chef Cody Suddreth likes to experiment with food combinations. He’s been known to combine butternut squash caponata with field peas, muscadine vinegar, smoked pecans and pickled ramps. “I enjoy the earthy with the sweet and sour and the smoky,” Suddreth elaborates. His unique combinations have even been touted nationally, including in USA Today, which featured Suddreth’s divine pimento cheese ravioli with curried crispy pig ears. At The King’s Kitchen, a nonprofit restaurant that donates proceeds from sales to feed those in need, Suddreth and his team specialize in innovative Southern cuisine. Influenced by his grandparents, Suddreth earned his culinary stripes serving up dishes in restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia, before coming to Charlotte. With a focus on supporting North Carolina farmers and regional artisans, Suddreth ensures that each dish has heart and local soul.
Bernard Brunet, Global Restaurant
Growing up in Nice, France, Chef Bernard Brunet knew his calling was in the culinary industry. Brunet worked in an array of establishments spanning from the Southeast of France to Paris, where he showcased his culinary prowess in three Michelin-starred restaurants. He even eventually had the opportunity to work in Russia. Dreaming of ultimately working in America, Brunet accepted a position in the cruise industry and met his wife, Shannon. Nine years ago, Brunet opened Global Restaurant. With a focus on seasonal flavors and ingredients, Brunet takes an eclectic approach to food, preparing traditional meals that incorporate the sous-vide cooking technique and creating fusion concepts prepared with a French spirit and influence. “I am like music—quite eclectic,” Brunet says of himself. In 2015, Global, still at Brunet’s helm, relocated from its longtime locale in Ballantyne to new digs in Pineville.
Jamie Lynch, 5Church
The newest season of Bravo's “Top Chef,” which was recently filmed in Charleston, South Carolina, and debuted in December, features culinary whiz Jamie Lynch. In the show, chef-testants battle to impress celerity judges Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and newcomer Graham Elliot. Lynch, executive chef and partner at Uptown hot spot 5Church is no strange to the bring lights. He’s performed in some of New York City’s top kitchens, including Le Cirque, Aureole and Café Boulud. At 5Church, the New England Culinary Institute grad wows Queen City locals with innovative dishes like wasabi-crusted Yellowfin tuna and shitake mushroom and leek agnolotti.