The best way to experience Asheville is to eat it — that’s chef John Fleer’s philosophy. “The food that grows here or the beer that is brewed here or the cider that is produced here is probably the most elemental expression of this place,” he says. “How it’s prepared is an expression of an individual restaurant, but the food and the brew, it’s the baseline of the place.”
In 2013, Fleer opened one of Asheville’s most anticipated restaurants, Rhubarb, where he shares his version of Asheville through New American dishes such as rabbit-leek rillette and roasted beet salad.
Once chef at the acclaimed Blackberry Farm resort in Walland, Tennessee, Fleer was attracted to Asheville for its natural beauty, curious eaters and community of culinarians. “I consistently see a good collection of chefs at the Saturday farmers market,” he says. “We’re all pulling from the same palette, so what’s really interesting is how different people prepare that stuff. Not only are you experiencing the place, but you’re experiencing different interpretations of the place.”
At Rhubarb, Fleer focuses on enhancing the experience of gathering around the table. Weekly Sunday Suppers provide an outlet for communal dining with shared tables and family-style dishes. Fleer hopes the three-course set menu will encourage diners, especially children, to try new ingredients. “Probably my favorite comment to hear from guests is, ‘I had never seen that before — or I’d never tasted that — and I loved it,” he says. “I like to engage guests by challenging them in a very kind way to try things that they haven’t ever tried before.”