Born in Deep Run, N.C. to tobacco and hog farming parents, Vivian Howard’s upbringing was steeped in the Southern food traditions of her neighbors. After college, Vivian moved to New York to work in advertising, but soon transitioned to the city’s food and restaurant scene. Vivian honed her culinary skills and love of food working in the kitchens of some of New York’s most esteemed restaurants and training under some of the most cutting-edge chefs from Scott Barton of Voyage, to Wylie Dufresne and Sam Mason of WD~50 and later, with Jean Georges Vongerichten at his critically-acclaimed Spice Market.
In 2005, Vivian returned to Kinston, N.C. to open her first award-winning restaurant, Chef & the Farmer, followed by the Boiler Room, also in Kinston, and Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria in Wilmington. In the fall of 2018, Vivian will open her fourth restaurant, Handy & Hot in Kinston. Vivian and her restaurants have won numerous accolades, including her selection as a five-time James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast.
In 2012, Vivian and director Cynthia Hill premiered A Chef’s Life, the award-winning documentary television series celebrating eastern North Carolina food traditions. After five seasons, a Daytime Emmy, Peabody award, and James Beard award for Outstanding Personality/Host, the series has segued into a new series to premiere in 2019, where the hour-long, primetime show will tell food stories of the American South in the context of global food traditions.
In October 2016, Vivian released her first cookbook, Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South, published by Little, Brown & Co. A comprehensive record of modern Southern cooking, filled with stories and more than 200 recipes that celebrate the flavors of her eastern North Carolina home, Deep Run Roots catapulted to the top of the New York Times Best Sellers List for Advice, How To & Misclenlaneous. The cookbook was nominated for a James Beard award for the American Cooking category, was named Cookbook of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and was selected as the winner of the 2017 Southern Book Prize for the Nonfiction – Cooking category. Vivian is currently working on her second book.
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