Living in a self-proclaimed Foodtopia like Asheville, one can often go one of two directions. You can either go broke eating out every night, indulging yourself on local fare, or you ignore the restaurants, bunker down in the farmers market culture and just cook for yourself. Fortunately, two local authors have put together a book that meshes those two fronts together. Farmer & Chef Asheville is the latest independent release from local cookbook author Debby Maugans and her business partner, marketing professional Christine Sykes Lowe.
“It’s a love letter and a guide book to Asheville and the surrounding areas, our food, our farmers and our chefs,” says Maugans. “We wanted to shed light on small farmers and the chefs here in the city.”
The book is dense — more than 270 pages of glossy, local-food porn, all shot by one of Maugan’s friends from Birmingham, Ala., Beau Gustafson. Forty different restaurants and even more restauranteurs, writers and farmers offer their recipes.
But in spite its broad perspective, this is no schmaltzy, tourist-fodder cookbook. Assembling something of this magnitude and acuity was a heavy task. Each of the 230-plus recipes, all compiled within a month and a half, had to be tested and logged by Maugans.
Fortunately, this isn’t the author’s first rodeo. She recently shifted from a career as a food writer at The Birmingham News where she penned a column called “Table for Two” as well as writing for various publications to her current role as the food marketer for the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., developing products, then photographing and writing about them.
“Because of my background, I knew that we wanted to do this right,” she says. “We had everyone submit their recipes formally, with a submission form and then I tested and edited all the recipes, putting them in a book form that really made sense, and that was the fun part of the whole process.”
In the pages, Dan and Jael Rattigan of French Broad Chocolate Lounge serve up ginger-coconut meatballs. “He sent Jael out to get lettuce from the garden to make the salad,” Maugans recalls, “and she said, ‘Where’s the best spot to pick it?’ and he said, ‘That chickweed underneath the trampoline out back.'” Most all of the dishes are just as simple and home-cook friendly to prepare.
Chef Traci Taylor of Fig offers North Carolina flounder with a lemongrass broth that Maugans describes as “just divine.” Meanwhile, Seven Sows’ Michael Moore delivers his fried chicken dinner, of which, Maugans says, “Yahoo called that one of the best chicken dinners you can get in the country.”
Over the past year, Maugans and Lowe partnered with Joe Yonan of The Washington Post and Kathleen Purvis of The Charlotte Observer and Savor the South book series to throw several events with local chefs and restaurants, something they see continuing in the future.
“The cool thing about this book is that if you buy it before you come to Asheville, it is going to be a great way to find out what is here and to get a good view of the restaurants and the food scene,” she says. “This was our first book,” she continues. “We have three other cities in mind throughout the South and we’ll see how it progresses.”
A launch party with chef demonstrations and a book signing will be held noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, at Williams-Sonoma in Biltmore Village. Farmer & Chef Asheville will be released in early November and can be pre-ordered now at farmerandchefsouth.com.