Chef Vivian Howard visited Meredith College on February 4, 2014. Owner of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, N.C., and star of the PBS documentary series A Chef’s Life, Howard shared how her passion for farm-to-fork dining resulted in an unlikely return to her native eastern North Carolina.
Howard and her husband, Ben Knight, made their way to North Carolina from New York City after her parents – including her mother, Scarlett Hill Howard, ’62 – offered to help them open a restaurant. Initially hesitant to accept the offer, which she described as a last ditch effort to lure her back home, Howard decided to make the most of the opportunity.
“Location wouldn’t dictate the quality of my work,” said Howard. “By serving handmade, thoughtful food, we could change the way people dine in our community – and the way they live.”
Howard also opened up about her experience working on A Chef’s Life. She pitched the idea to a filmmaker acquaintance who she says, “saw value in the content, felt the pull of her own roots, and wanted to give it a whirl.”
A goal for the series was to present cooking and the food industry in a realistic way. “We produced an authentic story about living, working, and cooking in eastern North Carolina,” said Howard.
Her work at the Chef & the Farmer and on the series has been life altering. Howard was previously very milestone oriented, but that’s changed. “It’s so much more about the journey than about the prize,” she said. “If I’m not going to enjoy myself along the way, I should just stay home.”
In addition to the public event, Howard delivered a guest lecture in an undergraduate environmental ethics class and participated in a roundtable discussion with students in the Master of Science in nutrition program.
“The nutrition program here at Meredith exposes students to a vast array of nutrition and food-related venues – from dietetics to gastronomy to environmental sustainability,” said Tracy Smith, master of nutrition program manager. “We knew that we couldn’t find a better real-life representative of the issues addressed in every day in our curriculum than Vivian Howard.”
This event was presented by the Meredith College Master of Science in Nutrition and the Environmental Sustainability Initiative.