Experience Vivian Howard’s North Carolina

A Chef's Life | Markay MediaExperience Vivian Howard’s North Carolina

Vivian Howard gives TV audiences intricate looks at North Carolina on her PBS show, A Chef's Life

Vivian Howard knows food. And she knows North Carolina.

The chef, restaurateur, TV star and – now – cookbook author is sharing her knowledge with us. So when you travel across our state, you'll take with you her insider's perspective on some of the most coveted places to stop and eat and spend time enjoying all there is to love about Southern cuisines and cultures.

Fall is a wonderful season to experience North Carolina, something Vivian learned while growing up here, but with a different appreciation.

"Growing up my family farmed tobacco, so summer was our busiest time," Vivian says. "We didn’t go anywhere from June till early October, but just after the tobacco business was done, we piled in our yellow station wagon and headed to the North Carolina mountains."

Tweetsie Railroad entrance

Tweetsie Railroad

Vivian says Tweetsie Railroad is her "all-time favorite" place in the North Carolina mountains

Because Vivian grew up in Eastern North Carolina, and the mountains are in the western part of our state, she got to see first-hand, year after year, our vast and varying landscapes. She grew up in Deep Run, a small, rural community near Kinston, and after graduating from North Carolina State University she moved to New York City and began building her culinary career. Lucky for us, Vivian, now married, returned home. For the past decade she’s run Chef and the Farmer restaurant in Kinston, which has become one of the most lauded eateries in the state.

Chef and the Farmer dining room

Chef and the Farmer

Inside one of Chef and the Farmer's dining rooms

In 2013, she began starring in her own PBS show, A Chef's Life, which chronicles her experience running two restaurants in Kinston (the second being Boiler Room), the way she goes about sourcing ingredients from local farmers, her family life and more. Now in its fourth season, A Chef's Life has racked up Peabody, Daytime Emmy and James Beard Foundation Awards.

Vivian has just released her first cookbook, Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South. It's part story, part history and part recipes, named after the place where she grew up. The book is organized by ingredient with dishes suited to every skill level, featuring meals from Chef and the Farmer, and recipes that reflect Southern traditions.

"When I think of the ingredients that define North Carolina's table, muscadines, sweet potatoes, pecans, turnips, peanuts and air-dried sausage jump out right away," she says. "The food we cook at the restaurant is often based on the traditional, simple manipulation of these things.

"But at the restaurant," she continues, "we add levels of complexity a home cook – even me at home – might not reach for. Things like candied yams or whole roasted sweet potatoes still in their jackets, grape hull pie, simple butter roasted pecans with salt, mashed turnip roots and greens, air-dried sausage biscuits with muscadine preserves, peanuts and Pepsi, and pecan pie are wells of inspiration."

And when it comes to fall, which Vivian encourages you to experience in her home state, food plays an important role along with several other local staples.

Blue Ridge Parkway trail in fall

Mountain trails in North Carolina, including along the Blue Ridge Parkway, showcase beautiful fall colors

"For me, fall means fish stews in big cauldrons outside, oyster roasts, corn mazes, the state fair, North Carolina State football games and, if I can swing it, a trip to the mountains to see the leaves."


There’s much to see and do in North Carolina, so read on.

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