ASAP likes to share stories of people who help us fulfill our mission. This month, in anticipation of ASAP’s Local Food Experience, we’ve spoken with Dan Silo of Buxton Hall BBQ. Dan is a dedicated chef who is committed to sourcing and serving local. Hear why Dan loves what he does, and buy your ticket to the Local Food Experience today!
What is one of your favorite things about being a chef?
I think my favorite thing about being a chef is utterly the most basic aspect of the job: getting to feed people everyday. I thoroughly enjoy most of the other elements of my job, but cooking for people in a thoughtful and intentional way seems to me to be the best way to show complete strangers that you care about them.
What are some things you enjoy about working at Buxton Hall?
My favorite thing about working at Buxton in particular is the primal nature of the cooking we do there. Although it’s enormously labor intensive, it’s a very basic, closed-loop type of system. Two farms who we know personally bring us beautiful whole pigs. Another business owner we all know personally processes trees into firewood. We burn that wood and use the coals it produces to cook the pigs. That’s it: wood-fire-coals-pigs. People have used this process (or close variations of it) to feed themselves for hundreds of years, and I love the feeling of being a part of that continuum of cooking.
How has your relationship with local farms and local food impacted your work?
My relationship with local farms and food has impacted essentially everything about the way that I work. I had cooked professionally for years before I was first struck with the gravity and imperative nature of that relationship. Early on in my career I was cooking in Baltimore, MD, and before I had any real concept of farm-to-table, I got a job at an intensely local restaurant called Woodberry Kitchen. It was the first place that I saw farmers themselves bringing produce they had grown or animals they’d raised into the kitchen. Being able to put a human face on all of that food allowed me to see beyond just ingredients in a walk-in, and I started to think about where food comes from. The time and thought and effort, and the lives of the plants and animals themselves. It fundamentally changed the way that I approached my job. Not only did I come to realize how much better local food tasted, but I got to the point where I couldn’t even cut an onion without paying critical attention to waste. It almost started to feel tragic every time something got over-seasoned or burned or had to be thrown away. Like I was letting down the people who had worked so hard to put those ingredients in front of me. The respect I developed for locally produced food actually made being a cook feel kind of important.
What are you most excited about for ASAP’s Local Food Experience?
Other than getting to work with and showcase some fantastic pork from a beautiful local farm, I’m most looking forward to getting to meet and work with so many local people who are dedicated to developing a diverse and sustainable and accessible food system for our community.
If there was one thing you wanted the general public to know about chefs and farmers what would it be?
It’s critical for the general public to know that there are an incredible number chefs and farmers who care so passionately about producing beautiful food that they are willing to work insane hours for relatively minimal return.
What is one of your favorite summer dishes right now?
I think my favorite summer dish since moving to Asheville has become a simple tomato sandwich. I didn’t grow up with tomato sandwiches as a kid in upstate NY, and since moving to the south they’ve become something I look forward to every year. A ripe local tomato is such a perfect expression of the height of summer, and a thick slice really doesn’t need much more than some crusty bread and a super thin layer of mayo.
What is something that you appreciate about being a chef in Asheville/WNC?
Possibly the best thing about cooking in Asheville is the feeling of community among chefs and restaurants in the city. There is obviously a level of competition as everyone is trying to make a living, but there is a much more supportive environment here than anywhere else I’ve worked. Chefs frequent each others’ restaurants and are quick to refer cooks looking for work, or farmers looking for business.