Anyone who has eaten at Lexington Avenue Brewery knows that in spite of its name the place is not just about the beer. Featuring a diverse, globe-spanning menu that offers everything from a Buncombe County artisan cheese plate to an Ethiopian yemiser w’et lentil stew, LAB has earned a spot on the Asheville map as a go-to dining spot.
On Tuesday, March 18, LAB’s head chef, Mike Fisera, will go head-to-head against Steven Goff of King James Public House in a preliminary round of this year’s Fire on the Rock Competition Dining Series at Lioncrest at Biltmore. Fisera took part in the competition last year as a LaB team member, but this will be his first time in the starring role. Xpress recently talked with Fisera about inspiration, outside-the-box beer dinners and the upcoming competition.
Xpress:Your bio on the Fire on the Rock website says you identify your cooking style as “fearless.” Can you talk about what you mean by that?
Fisera: It’s cool to live in such a foodie scene where you have an audience who will let you kind of get crazy and have fun with it and indulge your eccentricities. I’ve always appreciated that … and I definitely push it as far as I can and try to have fun with it. It keeps it exciting for the guys in the kitchen here too, because we’re always playing with new things.
With Fire on the Rock, there will be a secret ingredient that won’t be unveiled until the day you compete. Do you have a strategy for dealing with that?
It’s really hard to go in there with a strategy because it can go any direction. I’ve had vegetables in the past, I’ve had protein and dairy products; you try to think how you could use every ingredient. I try to keep an open mind as much as I can and kind of let it come to me.
A few weeks ago, LAB hosted a really fun and unusual interactive beer dinner that featured some lively dinner-theater elements and courses based on popular TV shows. Are you planning any other interesting events in the near future?
That was the first time we had really done a beer dinner in that capacity and that was that involved and dimensional and it went well for us. We’re planning on doing another one on May 6 – that’s the tentative date. We’ll be doing a similar concept but with a DC Marvel Universe comic theme. We’re going to have some skits and audio-visual, and all the courses will be based off of elements of well-known comics. It should be a lot of fun.
What inspires you with your cooking?
I guess it’s being in a town that has so much locally produced produce and proteins. We’re really spoiled to be here and to have the plethora of farmers markets to go to. Also, seeing how excited the whole community is about the food scene—that pushes me even further and really inspires me.