Food events abound as spring blooms

BFF: Twisted Laurel chef Sean Ashbridge, left, will lend chef Paul Cressend, right, creator of the Ben's Friend's Fundraiser Low Country Boil, a pair of hands in making a mess of crawfish on May 2. Photo courtesy Paul Cressend

In February, chef Paul Cressend, who serves as Asheville co-leader with Avenue M chef Andrew McLeod of food and beverage industry recovery support group Ben’s Friends National, posted bare-bones thoughts on his Facebook page about a possible fundraiser for the organization. A native of New Orleans, Cressend envisioned a crawfish boil.

“So many people immediately jumped in wanting to know what they could do and how they could help that I had to hit pause for a minute to organize the idea into a plan,” he says.

Among the event’s many friends are Carrasco Catering and Pacha Mama 5 at 10 N. Market St., where the inaugural Ben’s Friends Low Country Boil will be held Sunday, May 2, 2-6 p.m. Twisted Laurel’s Sean Ashbridge and The Marketplace’s Josh Ambruster will assist Cressend in cooking over 150 pounds of mudbugs being shipped up from Louisiana the day before.

Additionally, Mother Ocean Market will provide South Carolina shrimp, and Rosetta’s Kitchen, Sand Hill Kitchen, Baba Nahm, Devil’s Foot Beverage, U.S. Foods and the Asheville Independent Restaurants Association will provide other food and drink items for the event.

Pre-sale tickets for the event are sold out, but crawfish or shrimp by the pound and a $40 package that includes crawfish and/or shrimp, corn, potatoes and choice of three sides will be available on a first-come, first-served basis on site May 2. Quantities are limited, so Cressend advises those without tickets to arrive early.

For more information, visit

In and/or out

In 2020, Western North Carolina AIDS Project’s annual fundraiser Dine Out for Life was restructured to Dine In for Life in response to the state-mandated closing of North Carolina restaurants. Recognizing the financial challenges imposed on the hospitality industry by the pandemic, WNCAP suspended its requirement that participating DOFL restaurants donate a portion of the day’s proceeds, and instead encouraged supporters to order takeout and buy gift certificates.

Though many of the fundraiser’s 2021 participating restaurants have resumed indoor dining in some capacity, WNCAP is repeating the DIFL model. Diners can take part on Thursday, April 29, in whatever way feels comfortable, then make a donation directly to WNCAP until Friday, April 30, to qualify for one of three grand prizes. For a list of DIFL restaurants and to donate, visit

How now, Chow Chow?

COVID-19 canceled Chow Chow 2020, but it didn’t kill the buzz generated by the culinary festival’s successful debut in September 2019. The yearlong breather proved productive. Organizers used the time to gather community feedback and examine ways to make the event’s mission — to celebrate and enrich the unique foodways of the Southern Appalachian region — more diverse, equitable and inclusive. They also took care in planning a festival structured to accommodate ongoing pandemic protocols and policies.

Chow Chow 2021 will launch Sunday, June 27, with the Appalachian Pride Brunch at Smoky Park Supper Club featuring chefs Michelle Bailey, J Chong, Silver Cousler and Ashleigh Shanti. Over the subsequent three months, a ratatouille of virtual classes, demos, workshops and in-person events will take place, ending on Sunday, Sept. 26, with a multicourse, multichef dinner at the Funkatorium. The full schedule and tickets, which range from $15-$200, can be found at

New Rhubarbians

Rhubarb chef/owner John Fleer says he and his new chef de cuisine, Glenn Osterberg, share a passion for vegetables and wood-fired cooking. Fleer jokes that once Osterberg becomes more immersed in Appalachian culture, “He’ll be a well-rounded CDC, ready to keep pushing Rhubarb forward.” Osterberg was most recently at St. James Seafood Restaurant in Durham, and before that, he was sous chef at Café Altro Paradiso in New York City.

Meanwhile, in the wake of Kaley Laird’s departure for Charlotte, Becca Schiller assumes the role of pastry chef at Rhubarb and The Rhu, joined by pastry sous (and Rhubarb returnee) Bella Cremer. Fleer says he is still seeking a lead baker for Rhubarb and The Rhu’s bread program.

Rhubarb, 7 SW Pack Square

Wading in

Jamie Wade, the perennially positive chef and owner of Sand Hill Kitchen, has more reason to put on a happy face these days. Having battled through 2020, the 4-year-old eatery has expanded its hours to Wednesday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m., and Saturday 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Wade credits her staff and loyal customer base who supported her through the trying past year, not to mention the menu’s perennially popular fried chicken and Buffalo chicken sandwiches. Sand Hill has also added more desserts to its weekly rotating menu of cakes, pies, cookies and parfaits. Breakfast and lunch service are still takeout only.

Sand Hill Kitchen 491 Sardis Road,


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About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

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