Vivian Howard Talks Her North Carolina Roots, Famous Nachos, and New Book

The chef, restaurateur, and author joins us on Biscuits & Jam.

Vivian Howard
Photo: Baxter Miller

Chef, restaurateur, author, and five-time James Beard Award semi-finalist Vivian Howard joins Sid Evans on Biscuits & Jam to talk about her latest book, her North Carolina roots, and the unique experience of both opening and closing a restaurant during the pandemic.

Get to Know Vivian Howard

Vivian Howard is an acclaimed chef from North Carolina, and thanks to her hit PBS program, A Chef's Life, the first woman since Julia Child to win a Peabody award for culinary broadcasting. Over her career, she's found that the ways Southern food traditions are passed down are just as important as the food itself. A five-time James Beard award semi-finalist, Vivian Howard is also the restaurateur behind Chef & the Farmer, which opened in 2006 in the town of Kinston, North Carolina, and has remained one of the most influential and celebrated restaurants in the South. Another PBS show of Vivian's is Somewhere South, a culinary exploration of how Southeast Asian, Hispanic, and other communities are redefining Southern food.

What Vivian Howard Talks About in This Episode

  • Leaving New York to return to eastern North Carolina
  • How collard green kraut inspired A Chef's Life
  • Her latest book, This Will Make It Taste Good
  • Both opening and closing a restaurant during the pandemic

Quotes from Vivian Howard

"I went to my neighbors and I said, 'Oh, thank you so much for this kraut. I would really love to, to make it with you, to see how you do it.' And they're like, 'OK, great. We'll do it next year, right around Thanksgiving...We only do it once a year..... And, you know, women can't make the kraut. So you'll have to stand like outside of here because women taint it.' And I was like, 'Oh, my God...this is so wild.'"

Vivian Howard

"And that's the way that so many of these, like, rural recipes are. They're so simple and so mundane that, you know, people never even wrote them down. There's so many things that are kind of cornerstones of rural culture that no one's ever thought to really celebrate."

— Vivian Howard

"I had made five seasons of a Chef's Life and I was so fatigued by my own story that I really wanted the opportunity to turn the lens outward and learn about the cultures and communities in my backyard, which is the American South. It was all loosely based around this idea that I've discussed with my editor over the years, which is that there's really only about 20 dishes in the whole world. And every culture has their hand pie, their way of cooking grains, their way of cooking over fire, their pickle. We all eat the same things. So that was the guiding principle around Somewhere South."

"So many of us get into this business because we like doing things for people. We like cooking for people. We like making people happy. They don't call it the service business for nothing, you know? Once you're in the service business, you're always on that side of things that the giving, the raising can still do so much more to, to help your community."

About Biscuits & Jam

In the South, talking about food is personal. It's a way of sharing your history, your family, your culture, and yourself. Each week Sid Evans, editor-in-chief of Southern Living, sits down with celebrity musicians to hear stories of how they grew up, what inspired them, and how they've been shaped by Southern culture. Sid takes us back to some of their most cherished memories and traditions, the family meals they still think about, and their favorite places to eat on the road.

Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Stitcher.

Visit our Podcast Primer for information on how to download and listen to a podcast.

Get a transcript of the full interview with Vivian Howard.

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