Photo by Josh Woll, courtesy of A Chef's Life
Chef Vivian Howard in Season 5 of A Chef's Life
Kinston chef Vivian Howard and her crew celebrated the fifth season of A Chef's Life
, the award-winning PBS series directed by Durham filmmaker Cynthia Hill, at Durham's Carolina Theatre Sunday.
True to form, Howard enraptured the sold-out crowd with her playful charm and honesty. They chuckled and clapped throughout her introductory onstage monologue, in which she explained how she became "this awkward, accidental celebrity."
After Howard thanked many local and national sponsors, which both she and Hill admitted took a long time to achieve, she screened the first episode of A Chef's Life
's newest season. It tells the emotional story of Chef and the Farmer's tenth anniversary, which is as much an homage to Howard's staff as it is to the featured ingredient: the tomato. The episode airs locally on UNC-TV on October 5 at 9:30 p.m.
A Chef's Life
has risen to national acclaim much due to the trendy focus on food and the unexpected surge in popularity of Southern food in particular. But it's also Howard's raw energy and endearing willingness to be exposed through the ups and downs of owning a family business in her evolving hometown that has given the show an edge. Or, as Howard puts it, she's been "open to failure."
During a Q and A afterward, moderated by former Food & Wine
editor in chief Dana Cowin, Howard talked about how most food television presents an unattainable idealized kitchen. "Even for professional chefs, it makes it seem like we can only dream about doing what we see on those shows."
The documentary series is in a category all its own, bending the genre of reality television into something more smart and beautiful.
"Entertainment doesn't have to be stupid," series director Hill told the crowd. "You want to tell a good story and have a purpose."
Copies of Deep Run Roots,
Howard's first book of recipes and stories, were on sale before the screening through local purveyor Regulator Bookshop. The chef-author hinted that the title of her next book (in the works) may be Pleasantly Plump
, "a name my grandmother called me because I was fat," she said. It will explore "body image, diets, binges, and moderation."
The screening was followed by an after-party at 21C Hotel.
Watch A Chef's Life
Thursdays at 9:30 pm on UNC-TV beginning October 5.