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Appalachian chefs are spreading the food gospel across the country 




 

Appalachia has produced some incredible chefs who have ventured beyond the mountainous region to bring their place-based food to new parts of the country. Whether that influence is found through their ingredients or as inspiration for their dishes, Appalachia plays a role in the foundations of these chefs:

 

Mike Bowe

A native of Charleston, West Virginia, Mike Bowe is the executive chef at Red Yeti in Jeffersonville, Indiana, where he sources local ingredients to create “approachable, yet distinctive, southern comfort foods,” according to the website.

 

Bowe earned undergraduate degrees in business from Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, before completing his “Certified Chef de Cuisine” at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He was a corporate executive chef, culinary arts instructor and restaurant owner before joining Red Yeti upon its opening in 2014. 

 

In a recent prix fixe dinner, Bowe created dishes like: a sweet potato bisque with spice roasted hazelnuts, charcoal creme fraiche and brown butter with a house cracker; cornbread pudding and local beef brisket with Kentucky sorghum glaze, smoke pepper popped sorghum and micro buckwheat; bacon with grits, herbed goat cheese, tomato jam and charred onion; meatloaf with cauliflower silk, bourbon barrel red eye gravy and roasted root vegetables; and apple butter cake with whipped greek yogurt, smoked wildflower honey and granola. 

 

IF YOU GO: Red Yeti is located at 256 Spring Street, Jeffersonville, Indiana, 47130. It is open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (812) 288-5788; https://www.redyetijeff.com/

 

Anthony Wells

With roots in Appalachia, Anthony Wells was named a 2022 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef, for his role on the other side of the country at Juniper & Ivy in San Diego, California. 

 

Wells started as chef de cuisine in 2014 at Juniper & Ivy before ascending to the executive chef level the following year. In 2019, the restaurant earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand designation:

 

“Set within a 1920s warehouse, redwood beams and tan leather furnishings lend this popular eatery a certain rustic charm. Helmed by Chef Anthony Wells, the approachable menu offers a thoroughly contemporary take on SoCal cuisine, rooted in top-notch ingredients seasoned judiciously with Latin and Asian flavors. In season, you can enjoy pastas like a yolk-filled raviolo paired with sweet peppers and corn, sauced with a lively gochujang butter, or perhaps linguine loaded with Santa Barbara uni, chorizo and cotija cheese; mains like a roasted half chicken with grilled peach panzanella are similarly satisfying. Desserts, too, are excellent: a signature reimagined upmarket Yodel might feature flavors like pistachio, white chocolate and raspberry.”

 

In late 2023, it was announced that Wells was named the executive chef of Hotel La Jolla, Curio Collection by Hilton and will lead a new restaurant opening on its penthouse level. 

 

 

Zsahleya Aisha Ibrahim

Zsahleya Aisha Ibrahim was born in Iligan City, Philippines, and immigrated to Evans, West Virginia, when she was six years old. Now, she is the executive chef at the Seattle, Washington, restaurant Canlis and the first female executive chef in the restaurant's more than 70-year history.

 

She attended Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco and worked at a number of restaurants around the world, including as the sous chef at California’s three-Michelin-star restaurant Manresa, and cooking for chef Eneko Atxa at Azurmendi in Spain and as chef de cuisine at sister restaurant Aziamendi in Thailand, as well as in Malaysia, Taipei, and Japan. 

 

Her menu at Canlis features bites like duck with celeriac, fig and black vinegar; sablefish with matsutake, dulse udon and dashi; porcini with koji, pear and leek; escabeche florita with sea bream, carrot, kosho and meyer lemon; parsnip with cabbage, plum and smoked furikake; and American wagyu with Tsuyahime rice, turnip and ramp.

 

 

Appalachian chefs play a crucial role in preserving and promoting the rich culinary heritage of the region while also contributing to the global food scene. By sharing their craft with the world, they not only showcase the unique flavors and traditions of Appalachia but also foster an appreciation for the cuisine.

 

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