Brian Noyes, Red Truck Bakery (Marshall, VA)

photo: lisa ekus

photo: lisa ekus

If you got invited to a dinner party with Oprah, Obama, and Andrew Zimmern (and wouldn’t that be some invite?!), chances are they’d want you to bring a baked good from Red Truck Bakery in Marshall, VA. Baker Brian Noyes has served cakes and pies to them and lots of other famous folks from his off-the-beaten-path spots -- now two of them -- in rural Virginia, but I found him through one perfect bite of Lexington Bourbon Cake at Garden & Gun’s Made in the South weekend. See, I don’t consider myself an expert cook but I do know my way around a bundt pan, and this cake was a confection of my dreams. For Brian, it’s a combination of culinary training, sourcing local, and plenty of “go big or go home” attitude that makes his work a continued and delicious success. I had to know more, and well, he said he’d fly to Charleston with pie. Who could turn that down?

Episode 138 >

Cheetie Kumar, Garland (Live from Thrive NC, Raleigh)

photo: juli leonard

photo: juli leonard

People often ask me what my favorite food is, and I’ll answer, but for the most part, the answer is deeper than one dish or one ingredient. My favorite foods are the ones soulfully prepared, or another way to put that is prepared with heart, not from a place of purely commerce or transaction, but from a place of communication and connection. I think that’s a true X factor that comes through in flavor on the plate. So, it’s only logical that one of my favorite places to eat in the South right now is Garland in Raleigh, NC. Chef Cheetie Kumar has wowed and wooed me from the first bite at her table, her mix of Indian and Asian flavors with North Carolina ingredients at once a comforting yet elegant alchemy. She’s been featured in The New York Times, participates in the popular Brown in the South pop-up dinners and has been at many a food festival as of late, but what I’m most excited about is how her work is only going to get better from here, work that I’m already ready for another helping of.

Episode  139 >

Mickey Bakst, Charleston Grill (Charleston, SC)

photo:andrew cebulka

photo:andrew cebulka

The first personal interaction I had with Charleston Grill’s Mickey Bakst was when he called me out of the blue on my cell phone a few years ago. And I’d never given him my number. That’s just how it is with Mickey in Charleston, SC, a man known as the unofficial mayor of the city, who has been general manager of the Grill since 2004 and been named a top five maître d in the country. These days, you hear his name connected more with his charity work, either through his focus on food insecurity with Feed the Need, the mentor of future hospitality stars with Teach the Need, or through his sober safespace community Ben’s Friends with co-founder Steve Palmer, but as someone who’s still greeting diners at the restaurant front door a few times a week, I knew he had pearls of hospitality wisdom for us. And here, he doesn’t pull any punches in sharing them.  

Episode 140 ›