While most folks might call William Dissen a chef, his routine includes far more multitasking than one word describes. As the owner of The Market Place in downtown Asheville, Dissen is a head chef, a forager, an ecologist, an advocate and a host.
“At The Market Place, we create these little mini-vacations and experiences for people,” Dissen says. “I think what makes our food different is we're chef-inspired. I try to get people to know who I am.”
So what's the best way to get to know Dissen in his many capacities? Well, you will probably see him discussing produce at one of Asheville's farmers markets, or you might meet him in the woods searching for wild mushrooms. You could also see him speaking at any number of sustainable seafood conferences around the country. (He works with the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, for one.) And of course, you can find him stepping out from the kitchen to say hello to guests at The Market Place, where he's served “simple food with explosive flavors” since 2009.
You can also get to know Dissen on your plate. A summer special of mushroom gratin with its chanterelles and chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms proves Dissen's enthusiasm for foraging. A serving of pan-roasted snapper includes carefully sourced fish and an artful display of local accompaniments – watermelon, cornbread croutons, heirloom tomatoes, queso fresco, tapenade and cucumber dressing.
What's Dissen's secret ingredient? Asheville, of course. “There's fertile soil and fresh water, mountain trout, clean air and a temperate, seasonal environment,” Dissen says. “We really do live in this little utopia.”