A food attitude

Ask Mackensy Lunsford what her favorite food is, and for a moment she draws a blank. But then she offers an answer, of sorts. “I’m not partial, really,” she says. “I just love food. Honestly, I can’t think of a single thing you could put in front of me that I would not eat, unless it was something as obscure as monkey brains, and even then I’d probably be curious.”

Lunsford’s food fetish does, however, have its limits — or rather, its standards. “I’d just as soon eat a really good slice of pizza and drink a pint of beer than have, say, veal and foie gras with a glass of Bordeaux,” she explains. “My favorite food is food that’s well prepared, whether it’s kick-ass mac and cheese or something fancier.”

It’s wide-ranging tastes like these that six years ago brought Lunsford to Asheville, where she makes checking out the cuisine scene her daily business — as both a producer and consumer. “Every job that I’ve had has had something to do with the food industry,” she says. In Asheville, she started at Salsa, where she moved from washing dishes to lead line cook in less than a year. After three years at that restaurant, she ran a small-scale catering business and then moved on to cook at Savoy. For the past year, she’s worked at Zambra, where she’s a cook and assistant to the kitchen manager.

And now, Lunsford’s going to hold food court for the Mountain Xpress as the resident reviewer for our new food section. Given the wealth of culinary options Asheville enjoys, she says, it’s high time for a deeper look at where we chow down. “Most of the people that live here seem to be trying to follow their calling, to follow their passion. And I think that that shows in what the chefs around here are doing.”

By the way, Asheville’s passion for food was evident this winter in the response to Xpress‘ advertisement for a food critic. It took three judges many hours to evaluate the scores of applications and clips, and narrow an obviously talented field. Many thanks to all who offered their writing and food expertise.

Each week, Lunsford will cook up “The Straight Dish,” a frank review of Asheville-area restaurants, and a side of a few “small bites” of food news. To fill out the menu, local eateries will sponsor listings to help you find your favorite flavors around town.

Eat up, now. And have as many helpings as you like.

— The editors

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