Small Bites: Mountain Cooking Club

BACK IN THE KITCHEN: After leaving the culinary world in favor of raising flowers at farm in Clyde, Chef Ricardo Fernandez responded to the requests of his foodie fans with ongoing cooking classes through his Mountain Cooking Club. Photo courtesy of the chef
BACK IN THE KITCHEN: After leaving the culinary world in favor of raising flowers at farm in Clyde, Chef Ricardo Fernandez responded to the requests of his foodie fans with ongoing cooking classes through his Mountain Cooking Club. Photo courtesy of the chef

With fewer than 1,500 residents, Clyde may not appear at first glance to be a culinary mecca. But Chef Ricardo Fernandez and his Mountain Cooking Club cooking classes provide at least one reason for foodies and home cooks to venture to the Haywood County hamlet.

Fernandez, originally from Argentina, owned the Lomo Grill in Waynesville — one of the pioneers of Western North Carolina’s farm-to-table restaurant movement – for 16 years with his wife, Suzanne, until they closed it in 2010. The couple also ran a successful business marketing Fernandez’s gourmet tomato sauces under the brand Chef Ricardo’s, until they opted out in 2013 in favor of a quiet life of raising peonies and gourmet fig trees at Wildcat Ridge Farm, their home in Clyde.

However, fans of Fernandez’s cooking were not happy that their favorite chef had abandoned the kitchen. “People kept asking me, ‘When are you going to open another restaurant?’ … So I started doing some cooking classes, doing some catering and private parties and special events. … It was because of the customers that we started doing Mountain Cooking Club. We are doing what we love to do. I cannot get away from food,” says Fernandez, who goes by the moniker Chef Ricardo.

Fernandez says the cooking classes, which he and his wife started offering occasionally at the Fines Creek Community Kitchen in Clyde more than a year ago, have been a smashing success. With topics ranging from how to cook with figs to risotto-making techniques to braising, Fernandez says the aim of his workshops is to provide useful information in an entertaining and accessible way.

“I try to make cooking classes that are fun and not intimidating for anybody who wants to come and participate. I want [each class] to be a social event,” he says. “There is always a lot of energy there. I give [the students] a lot of feedback and ideas, like what they can do with the leftovers. … I try to promote using local ingredients and seasonal stuff. I try to use only what is available locally, and I tell people what stores have those things.”

The next class, scheduled for Saturday, March 14, will be a hands-on, eat-what-you-make tutorial on breads, featuring prosciutto and Parmesan cheese straws, cheddar and scallion biscuits, paesano boule and walnut banana bread. Fernandez says the roster of future workshops will depend on what the growing season brings and what people request, but having recently built a new brick pizza oven at his farm, he is considering doing a session that shows step by step how to make a perfect pizza in a home kitchen.

All About Breads, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, March 14, Fines Creek Community Kitchen, 192 Fines Creek Road, Clyde. Cost is $50. Preregistration required. For details, visit chefricardoskitchen.com or contact Chef Ricardo at chefricardos@gmail.com.

New management at Stonebowl

Management has changed at Hendersonville Road Korean restaurant the Stonebowl. Rita Chen, who previously ran the restaurant along with Kristina Im, owner of downtown’s Korean House, recently took over management of the business. She told Xpress that the restaurant’s hours and menu will not change for the moment, but that she has begun to source more ingredients locally, including buying more vegetables from area farms. She adds that although there will be some staff changes, the restaurant’s chef, who also cooks for Chen’s other business, Koreana on Airport Road, remains the same and is placing a stronger emphasis now on using fresh ingredients. “We make the side dishes every day and keep all the ingredients fresher,” she says. “The customer can tell the difference.”

Stonebowl, 1987 Hendersonville Road, stonebowlkoreannc.com

Tupelo Honey rolls out big changes

Tupelo Honey recently gave its 15-year-old menu a major overhaul. In February, the Asheville-based regional chain introduced a new menu with a focus on small plates, seasonal specialty entrees and customizable supper plates. The restaurant, which opened its ninth store in late February in Myrtle Beach, S.C., is also sporting a refreshed color palette, replacing its standard yellow plates with crisp white ones. Many of the new menu items, created by executive chef Brian Sonoskus, offer cross-cultural flavors, such as small-plate selections like the country ham wontons and lamb meatballs with tomato curry sauce or the curried fried chicken thigh supper plate. In spite of the significant changes, fans of the old menu need not fret: Many of the tried-and-true offerings remain.

tupelohoneycafe.com/menus/

The Crack Heard Around the World

The cheesemongers at Whole Foods locations throughout the world will simultaneously crack into 85-pound wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese during the company’s annual Crack Heard Around the World event at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 7, Eastern Standard Time. The cheese experts will demonstrate the traditional method of opening and portioning the 24-month-aged Italian cheese wheels using the specially designed knives. The event is free and open to the public and will include tastings and pairings.

Whole Foods, 4 S. Tunnel Road, wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/asheville-kenilworth

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About Gina Smith
Gina Smith is the Mountain Xpress Food section editor and writer. She can be reached at gsmith@mountainx.com.

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