Kinston, NC | Chef and the Farmer
Born in Deep Run, North Carolina to tobacco and hog farming parents, Vivian Howard learned early on to appreciate the ebb and flow of eating with the seasons. Still, it took 23 years and a false start in the advertising business to convince her that a career in food was not only feasible, but the right path.
After college, Howard moved to New York to find work behind a desk, but she found the city’s food and restaurant scene more intriguing. So like many before her and many to come, Howard dove in and worked her way up. A server position at Greenwich Village’s Voyage made it possible for her to train under Chef Scott Barton. But Howard didn’t stop there. She went on to learn under some of New York’s most cutting edge chefs including Wylie Dufresne and Sam Mason at wd~50 and as a member of the opening team at Jean Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market.
She soon realized the cooking techniques she learned in the city could be applied to her “grandmother’s ingredients,” the bounty grown and raised by local farmers. So, in 2005, Howard and her now-husband, Ben Knight, decided to abandon the urban landscape for something closer to Howard’s roots. They opened a high-end, farm-to-fork restaurant in the small town of Kinston, North Carolina. Chef & the Farmer has been serving local, seasonal, creative cuisine since the summer of 2006. Howard has cultivated strong relationships with local farmers along the way, making it possible to source more than 70 percent of the restaurant’s foodstuffs within a 60 mile radius.
The couple expanded their restaurant footprint in August 2013 and opened the Boiler Room Oyster Bar. Named for the original boiler still occupying the space, the oyster bar presents a fresh perspective on an Eastern Carolina-style oyster bar. The menu features burgers, fine oysters, and an array of draft beers, modern cocktails, punches, and wines.
Howard’s passion for her craft extends beyond the kitchen and into homes across America. In September 2013, her series, A Chef’s Life, premiered on PBS. The show follows the trials and travails of Howard and Knight and their restaurant, Chef & the Farmer, exploring
both traditional and modern applications of quintessential Southern ingredients. In 2014, the show received a Peabody Award and was a James Beard Media Award finalist for Television Program on Location.
When she’s not in the kitchen or in front of the camera, she enjoys spending time with her husband and twins, Theo and Flo.