Local Asheville culinary celebrity and rising international food star Katie Button has made Food & Wine magazine’s list of Best New Chefs for 2015. In an article on F&W’s website announcing the nominations, the magazine’s editor in chief describes Button’s restaurant Curate at 11 Biltmore Ave. as the “coolest Spanish tapas spot in the country” and cites Button’s diverse background and hands-on experience working at Spain’s El Bulli restaurant as reasons for her nomination.
A native of Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, Button had already earned a master’s degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University before making the leap into the food industry. After working under renowned chefs like Johnny Iuzzini and José Andrés in New York and Los Angeles, she was accepted into a seven-month internship at Spain’s famous El Bulli, the first American intern to receive the highly competitive position.
Her inclusion in F&W’s latest annual ranking (she also won the magazine’s People’s Choice Award for Best New Chef 2012 and 2013) is just one accomplishment on her extensive resume, which includes being a semifinalist and finalist for James Beard’s Rising Star Chef award, featured in national publications like The New York Times and Southern Living, and a stint hosting the television series “World’s Best Chefs”, where she traveled around the globe interviewing top chefs from various countries.
In a February 2015 interview with Xpress, Button expressed her excitement about branching out into the catering industry, as well as new opportunities to expand her culinary offerings through Asheville’s Nightbell restaurant, which opened in 2014 and focuses on American cuisine and seasonal dishes. “People ask me, ‘What is American cuisine,’ and really we are a nation that is a melting pot of other nations,” Button said in the interview. “Our cuisine is very much a reflection of that and the different regions and what they’re serving. It really opens up the whole world in that way.”
Speaking to Xpress about this most recent award, Button said it came as a surprise: “I received a personal phone call from [Food & Wine Editor] Dana Cowin, which was kind of shocking and flattering in itself,” she says. “I’ve been wanting to do the Classic in Aspen for awhile, and this is really a great opportunity.”
With a recently born baby girl and a cookbook slated to publish in 2016, Button has a lot on her plate at the moment. However, she sees the accolades pouring in as not only a reflection of her dedication and family’s support of her hard work, but also as the beginning of even greater things to come.
“I think this latest recognition only sparks all of us to work harder,” Button says. She details plans to revamp and expand Nightbell’s menu and offerings this spring, as well as plans to renovate and retool Curate’s menu and space in 2016.
“Recognition of this kind only reinforces our plans,” says Button. “With this publicity comes higher expectations, and this is not the time for us to let up.”
She is also excited about the attention her personal accolades can bring to the Asheville culinary scene, which she says offers chefs the unique opportunity to “work and live in a beautiful, vibrant community, while being able to raise and support a family.”
Button adds that “it’s really an exciting time to be in the city. The Asheville food scene was already developing before we came here. It’s what drew my family and myself to the area, and it’s exciting to watch it grow every year.”
Button will be featured along with the other winners of F&W’s 2015 Best New Chefs in the July issue of the magazine and will attend a showcase event at the 33rd annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colo.