Chef William Dissen has been one of the faces of Asheville’s culinary scene since he bought The Market Place restaurant from its founder, Mark Rosenstein, eight years ago. On the cusp of The Market Place’s 38th year in operation, Dissen recently announced his newest venture — a 150-seat farm-to-table restaurant in uptown Charlotte. Located just around the corner from the Carolina Panthers’ home venue, the Bank of America Stadium, the new eatery, Haymaker, is set to open in the fall.
“People kept saying, ‘You should do another Market Place,’” says Dissen. “But I think The Market Place is something special for Asheville. So we are hoping to create something that’s going to be special to Charlotte but with a similar ethos: local, sustainable, seasonal menus that are ever-changing and tap into the local community.”
In celebration of his new venture, Dissen will host a Haymaker-themed Blind Pig Supper Club dinner to benefit the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project on Wednesday, July 19. “I wanted to make some kind of announcement to Asheville and bring my friends here with me. And what better way to do that than team up with Mike Moore from Blind Pig, because he was really one of the first guys I collaborated with here in town,” Dissen says.
For the dinner, Dissen will partner with sous chef Ashley Quick of Knoxville’s J.C. Holdway to offer a mix of coursed dishes and family-style servings. As is always his habit, Dissen will highlight seasonal, farm-fresh foods. “We’re really trying to focus on the summer harvest right now,” he says. “If you go to the tailgate markets, it is really a kaleidoscope of vegetables and colors. So we are looking at what is fresh and in the moment and making a fun, family-style dinner.”
As for the name Haymaker, Dissen says it’s a piece of his family’s history. “My grandfather back in West Virginia was a coal miner and a farmer, and he used to always joke, saying, ‘I’m not a farmer, I’m a haymaker.’ So we thought that was a good name for a locally sourced restaurant,” he explains. He notes that the term is also a colloquialism for a big party or celebration and, in fighting terms, can also denote a big, windmill-style punch.
Regarding why he chose Charlotte as the spot for his new project, Dissen says, “Things are going really well at The Market Place, and I’ve got a really awesome team here [in Asheville], and I’ve just been looking for opportunities to try something different. Charlotte has been a market that I’ve been looking at for a while.”
Charlotte, he adds, is an exciting city in which to open a restaurant right now. “It feels a lot like when I moved to Asheville over eight years ago — it feels like it is still really finding its identity. Cities really define themselves and define their culture through food, and that is something we have really done well with here in Asheville. When I moved to town, I met my neighbor, Brian Canipelli [of Cucina 24], and Mike Moore [of Blind Pig Supper Club] and Elliott Moss [of Buxton Hall Barbecue], and you’d get that call that was like, ‘Hey man, can I borrow a cup of sugar?’” he jokes, drawing out a Southern drawl. “There has always been a sense of things being very collaborative and community-oriented here, which was always a breath of fresh air. Other communities that I have lived in were competitive — as they should be — but were not collaborative.”
Dissen says he senses a community vibe in Charlotte that is similar to Asheville’s. “As soon as I made the announcement [about opening Haymaker], I got phone calls and emails and texts from chefs there congratulating me and asking what they could do to help me out,” he says. “Joe Kindred from Kindred and Paul Verica of Heritage Food & Drink both reached out to me and offered to take me to the farmers markets and introduce me to their farmer friends.”
But don’t worry, Asheville won’t be losing Dissen. “I’m married with two kids, a restaurant and a house,” he says. “We’re East-West Asheville all the way. … We’re cranking on all eight cylinders at Market Place, and we are really starting to hit our sweet spot. I don’t plan on going anywhere. Asheville is my home, and I hope it always will be.”
The Blind Pig Supper Club’s Haymaker dinner takes place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 19. The secret location in Asheville will be disclosed to attendees shortly before the event. Tickets are $65 each and are available at blindpigsupperclub.com.