A Chefs Modern Farmhouse

 Many of you know that I am a huge fan of the Modern Farmhouse esthetic.
I wrote a post a while ago about the subject here and it has been viewed over 20,000 times.

 Clearly it is a style or perhaps a lifestyle that resonates with so many.
 It's a dream for some and a reality for others but the Modern Farmhouse look
has become the darling of Pinterest, with bloggers and decorators
and of course retailers are on the bandwagon

  I thought I would share another version of the Modern Farmhouse,
a conundrum of styles and ideas
created and lived in by a chef
in rural North Carolina

 I must confess that I am not a big television watcher but I happen to love PBS and many of the other interesting cable stations that have incredibly well written 
and creative passionate stories.

A Chefs Life is just that.

The series takes us along on the rather private and very interesting journey of Chef Vivian Howard, her husband Ben and their family.....once New Yorkers, 
they now reside in a very rural, middle of nowhere place:
Deep Run, North Carolina
Vivian and her husband were persuaded by her parents to move back to North Carolina 
by dangling an organic carrot of  sorts...
financial support 
to assist them in opening their own restaurant 
and a plot of land to build a home
Their restaurant is called aptly called The Chef & The Farmer 
and that is essentially at the core of her cooking 

Her relationship with local Famers 
and her ability to utilize the most basic of ingredients 
to create dishes fit for the cover of any 
top notch Food magazine is the story line here
She readily embraces the ingredients of her childhood 
and the regional specialities with such glee and focus 
that she makes the lowly sweet potato 
seem like a gift from the gods....
and perhaps if we were to try her recipe for Candied sweet potatoes with pecan bacon syrup .....
we would all agree 

Corn is just one of the more important vegetables grown in this region.
 as is wheat and rice
 oysters and of course shrimp
and all things pork 
including the rather odd and mouth watering (at least when it's done)
pork cracklin'
No regional item is off limits and in a couple of episodes we learn about Tom Thumb.
Yes my friends.... Vivian creates a sausage encased in the appendix of a pig 
and serves it at a James Beard dinner in NYC....
courage, confidence and the heart of a chef 
are at work here
Most of her cooking is much prettier that the Tom Thumb
 but she feels the need to share all of North Carolina's specialties
with her diners as well as others who love southern cooking.

She creates dishes that could be described as
"the new normal" such as her pimped up grits!

As basic as many of her dishes sound they are in fact quite complex, 
 layered with flavor elements and require hours of preparation to get the desired end result. 

You will see when you watch the series how much time she spends just creating a new dish 
and working with her young staff

At some point after the opening or the restaurant 
she and Ben started a family and have twins...
so I'm assuming that's why the Farmhouse was necessary

 They had lived in her childhood home for many years before building the house
 and the need for her own kitchen, 
bedrooms for her children and privacy for her and Ben
jump started the process

The house sits on a parcel of her parents vast acreage and was the topic of much discussion by the locals while it was being built

Some thought it looked like a spaceship 
and others a Doctors office

It actually looks like neither, but embraces midcentury modern vernacular 
that is probably rather foreign to most 
in eastern North Carolina
The back of the house with the massive fireplace is just beautiful 

The kitchen is open, quite simple and streamlined and the floors are all concrete....perfect for kids, family dogs and lots of cooking

At first I wasn't a fan of the blue tile but after looking at the entire house
I think it's a fabulous choice

The floating open shelves are just the norm for a chef
so they are probably more functional for Vivian as opposed to trendy
A collection of butter bean shucking pans lines the stairwell

I love it...minimal, modern and full of memories all at the same time

The collections are so cute and personal here.... you can't help wondering if these owls have a special meaning to Vivian
In one episode she visits a neighbor to cook little apple tarts
and admires her vast....(vast is an understatement)
collection of salt and pepper shakers

So as I have always suspected
collections are important and have special meaning to just about everyone...including your's truly!
beautiful bathtub!

Ben is also an avid painter and his work hangs 
throughout the house and at the restaurant

The relationship between Vivian and Ben is interesting.  He is clearly a creative, just as she is.
What is equally interesting is how he seems to have embraced the rural life so easily, almost more that she has at times.
He's from Chicago so he's not going home, he's finding home.

She on the other had is returning home,
to a place she vowed never to return.

The house is a lovely mix of colors and casual furnishings 
and the architecture is really striking

Vivian is now a co-producer and writer of the series which is wonderful for her, however she often complains about being seriously stressed out
so all of the added duties she has taken on is interesting to me.

I think her worries are the usual for all working moms and she feels truly exhausted and torn
(aren't we all) by the constant tug-of-war between family, work, success and marriage

It is hard to say no to any of it
and we all struggle with that.

Vivian also seems at times to be rather shy, which is interesting for someone being filmed for a television series
but her personality encompasses that strength of character 
that we read about in so many Southern women:
vulnerable, feisty, beautiful and hard working

And this is a story worth telling and worth watching to say the least... 
especially if you love to cook 
and enjoy the beauty of the local harvest 
as I have for the last few years

 Often I have written about my love of food and how anyone can learn to create a great meal 

Vivian is the master of that concept

find it here on PBS
  read more of her story 
 in a wonderful article written by Daniel Wallace 
for Garden and Gun

It's A Chef's Life Y'all

  1. Loved this post. Went right over to the TV and set the DVR. Thank you! Can't wait to check it out.

  2. What a wonderful post! I've been enjoying this PBS series as well. I also follow Vivian on Instagram. Imagine my surprise when I spied my nephew (A Charleston, SC Chef) in a photo with Vivian. I was so surprised. My first thought was, "What IS this...?" ... because my nephew isn't on Instagram -- but turns out it had popped up on Vivian's page, as she had stopped in at his restaurant (High Cotton). What fun! I wish I had caught this series from the very beginning. I might have to sit down & have a Chef & The Farmer marathon! Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Hi Sally! If you have a Tivo or Roku device you can go to the PBS channel and watch the entire series, both seasons. It is really great watching. How cool that you saw a familiar face on her instagram. I need to follow her now. xo

  3. I've seen the series as well and have enjoyed the mix of restaurant, local inhabitants and family. Unlike most reality shows, it is a slice of the balance of life and I love it's authenticity and gentility.

    1. well put! Not at all like the reality tv we are used to being served up. This is the real deal. It is also intellegent which is clearly lacking in most television series. I seriously believe the cable channels have a much better read on our IQ's than the networks. Thanks Suzy

  4. Love the mix of farmhouse with modern art and that raspberry painted secretary desk is perfect! Did that come from painted furniture barn or did they do it themselves? I am sure the locals are happy now.

  5. Hi Diane, I believe the red writing desk came from Bens Grandmother. I love it with the red rugs and the lime green chair. I think they have done so much for the community that everyone is happy they are there!

  6. I can't believe this program slipped past my notice. This is the very kind of food t.v. I enjoy. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for this.

  7. You have really delved into the story behind the series and the family! I am so excited to watch this program now, and like others can't believe I have missed it!

    The Arts by Karena
    A New Gallery in Town!

  8. I have the T.V. on in the kitchen almost every Saturday afternoon from noon until 4:00 (love This Old House series and A.T.K. and most recently have enjoyed "A Chef's Life". She does talk about being stressed out a lot doesn't she? If I ran a restaurant and had twins I think I would be too.

    Thanks for the little tour of Vivian & Ben's beautiful home!

    Linda in San Diego

  9. This post is amazing! Vivian story is so inspiring. I foud this house for very interesting and beautiful, and the interior is amazing!

    End of tenancy cleaning Greenwich

  10. I adore the back terrace with that enormous fireplace! This was a wonderful post I am checking out that show! Any other suggestions?!!

  11. I live 30 minutes from Vivian on the east Carolina coast. She really is in the boondocks as we say. :) However you can drive just a few miles and experience quaint southern living in pretty historic towns that are not rural. The food at both her restaurants is very good, the service could be better. Her type farmhouse is seen on lots of the old farms around here as kids return home to live on their parent's land. I love that so many are coming back. There is no prettier land anywhere!

    1. Hi Dianne! How interesting you live so close. Vivian complains about her staff all the time so it must be a real problem for her and Ben. Thank you for the great comment!!!

  12. I love hearing ABOUT the show from you, but I can't watch it because of all of the bickering and snarky comments between husband and wife. I'm not much of a TV fan anyway, and if I want to hear a fight, all I have to do is step out the door and listen to the neighbors :^) Antiques Road Show, Kevin Dundon and Nick Stellino are my favorite shows on PBS. The rest of the time my body is in front of the TV(to keep hubby company), but my nose is buried in a book or a sewing project!
    Blessings to you,


~*~love to hear from you~*~

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.