In this episode, we interview John Fleer, the founder and owner of three Asheville restaurants: Rhubarb, The Rhu, and Benne on Eagle.
Here’s What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- The story of how John went from studying Theology and Philosophy to working in a kitchen
- How a study abroad experience in Italy shaped John’s view on food
- John’s career path, from working as the private chef for Mary Tyler Moore to establishing a unique cuisine at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee
- What it was like to open a restaurant in downtown Asheville
- Why John chose to expand, going on to open The Rhu and Benne on Eagle
- A few of John’s favorite things
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About John Fleer
A native of Winston-Salem, NC, John Fleer is an award-winning chef, restauranteur, and owner of Rhubarb, The Rhu, and Benne on Eagle. He was named one of the “Rising Stars of the 21st Century” by the James Beard Foundation and is a five-time finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southeast. John is known for this ability to transform local ingredients into world-class Appalachian-inspired dishes. When he’s not in the kitchen, you can find him on the soccer field or spending time with his wife and three sons.
Rhubarb is the first restaurant John opened in Asheville. Located in the heart of downtown Asheville overlooking Pack’s Square, the restaurant serves contemporary Appalachian cuisine in a warm, rustic setting. Visit rhubarbasheville.com to learn more.
The Rhu is Rhubarb’s little sister —a bakery, cafe, and pantry serving up locally roasted coffee, freshly baked breads and pastries, and delicious bites. It’s located just around the corner from Rhubarb on South Lexington. Visit the-rhu.com to learn more.
Benne on Eagle
Benne on Eagle is John’s newest eatery in town, serving up Affriliachian cuisine — Appalachian “soul food” that pays homage to the African American community. It’s located on Eagle Street in Asheville’s historic neighborhood called The Block, connected to The Foundry Hotel. Visit BenneOnEagle.com to learn more.
People & Organizations
- Adam Sachs – James Beard Award-winning Food Journalist who wrote the article The Second Coming of John Fleer, published in Garden & Gun magazine in 2014
- Ben Barker – Chef and owner of Magnolia Grill in Durham, NC
- Bill Neal – Chef, restaurateur, and writer who opened Crook’s Corner in 1982
- Brian Lee – Guest Services Manager at Blackberry Farm
- David Chang – Chef, author, and restaurateur known for his Momofuku restaurant group
- Frank Stein – chef in Birmingham
- Gary Larson – Cartoonist famous for his comic series The Far Side
- Kaley Laird – Pastry Chef at Rhubarb, The Rhu, and Benne on Eagle
- Kreis Beall – Owner of Blackberry Farm
- Louis Osteen – South Carolina Chef who helped elevate Southern cuisine in the 1980s and 90s
- Ludwig Wiggenstein – Austrian-British philosopher who worked on the philosophy of mathematics, mind, and language.
- Mary Tyler Moore
- Sunburst Trout
- Asheville Independent Restaurants (AIR)
- Blackberry Farm
- Camino de Santiago
- Canyon Kitchen
- Culinary Institute of America
- St. Andrew’s Cafe
- The Foundry
- Wake Forest University
- “Barns burnt down…I can see the moon.” — Mizuta Masahide (17th century Japanese poet and samurai)
- “We want to cook what people want to eat.” —John Fleer
- “As patient as the floor.” — Unknown
Books, Movies & Podcasts
- Babette’s Feast (Movie)
- The Bitter Southerner Podcast: “The Ways of Waffle House”
- Like Water for Chocolate (Movie)
- Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger by Lisa Donovan (Book)