Things have been a little crazy lately in Justin Burdett’s world. Since early summer, the chef has been endlessly moving kitchen equipment, furniture and building supplies around in the Biltmore Avenue space that will soon be his new restaurant, Local Provisions.
When he paused to speak with Xpress recently, he had to step outside as a new 20-foot zinc bar was being installed. “We’ve been playing the biggest life-sized game of Tetris for months now,” he jokes, referencing an assortment of wood, tin, tables, machinery and appliances — not to mention the recently arrived 300-pound copper-and-wood business sign — that have been stored there since he claimed the space in June.
The location was previously occupied by chef Mike Moore‘s rustic-looking Seven Sows Bourbon & Larder. But Burdett, previously of Ruka’s Table in Highlands and a Star Chefs Carolinas Rising Star Chef for 2013, is heading in a different direction visually with Local Provisions.
“Literally everything is different,” he says. “[Seven Sows’] food and their space represented each other really well, but I’m going for something a little more modern and elegant-looking. … We’ve created a really clean, modern-looking space, but with some touches of farmy feel and Southern accents in the décor.”
Seven Sows’ big garage door has been replaced with glass. Gray walls and white ceilings are accentuated with black trim; shiny, sealed floors and dramatic wall sconces. Banquette seating and zinc-topped tables with cast-iron bases will share space with the bar. Existing wood in the bathrooms and on the front of the bar has been whitewashed in keeping with the color scheme.
The large sign and a smaller secondary sign for the corner of the building were both designed and made by Hendersonville tattoo artist Mike Pace, the man responsible for much of Burdett’s distinctive body art. “I trusted him enough to put ink on me permanently,” he says, “so I figured I could trust him to do our sign.”
In the spring, Burdett and his business partner, Neal McCarthy of Miller Union in Atlanta, plan to renovate and expand the patio area. “We’re just giving it a massive, massive overhaul,” says Burdett.
The menu, likewise, will reflect Burdett’s aesthetic vision as well as his penchant for doing creative, modernized riffs on traditional Appalachian and Southern fare. “I try to do flavors that are recognizable to people, or that I grew up eating,” says Burdett, who is originally from Georgia. “So [it’s about] taking things that are familiar and just giving them a facelift; I just elevate it little.”
As the name states, Local Provisions will mainly offer dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. Burdett, who worked a stint with Mark Rosenstein at The Market Place, estimates that as much as 90 percent of the menu will be crafted from food produced in Western North Carolina. His lamb and pork will come from Sugar Creek Meats in Leicester, for example, and Evan Chender of the Culinary Gardener will supply an assortment of unusual vegetables and edible flowers to add color and spice.
“He’s been bringing us the coolest stuff, like these crazy little peppers that look like habaneros but without the heat,” says Burdett. “We fermented a bunch of those. They have a lot of the fruit notes to them … so we are doing a fermented pepper puree with curds and whey, muscadine and lemon balm.”
Burdett developed a passion for fermenting and preserving foods during his time in Highlands, where access to quality local produce was hit or miss. He got in the habit of buying whatever farmers brought him, no matter how large the quantity, then preserving what he couldn’t use immediately for inclusion in winter dishes.
Accordingly, the menu at Local Provisions offers a section of $5 preserved dishes. Curried lamb loin, shaved pâté de campagne and other meaty items share the spotlight with kimchi, sour pickles and local cheeses.
Some of Burdett’s ingredients will come directly from the mountains themselves rather than from a farm. Burdett has a long-standing relationship with Highlands forager Ross Pearman, which he plans to continue at Local Provisions. “Ross has spots out in the woods out there that are completely untouched by anyone else,” he explains. “He can get things out there other foragers in Asheville can’t get. … It’s very much the flavor of this area and the mountains.”
Prices on the menu range from $5 “tastes,” such as buttermilk curds and whey; sea urchin and shaved, roasted cauliflower, to $24 entrees such as sweet-tea brined quail; Georgia rabbit; and South Carolina snapper. A wide selection of small plates ranges from whey-fermented carrots or a bitter green salad for $4 to a mixed-grain salad or a green-peanut risotto at the $8 mark. Highlights from the $4 dessert menu include caramelized banana bread and a fried apple pie.
Burdett says Local Provisions is on track to open for dinner and Sunday brunch by the end of October, early November at the latest. Lunch service may be added in the spring.