Expressions 2012 Chef Team
“I am inspired by the Lucy Daniels Center and how art and creative expressions are so deeply rooted in its programs. It is such a pleasure to work with potter Mark Hewitt and understand his creative process and then translate his inspirations and technique into our artful cuisine. The fact that it benefits such an important program in our community makes this event one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.”
--Scott Crawford, Executive Chef, The Umstead Hotel and Spa
Once again this year, a team of culinary masters led by Scott Crawford comes together for Expressions, taking their inspiration from the highly regarded work of Pittsboro, NC-based potter Mark Hewitt to create a unique, multi-course gourmet meal for supporters of Lucy Daniels Center and their guests.
Scott Crawford, Executive Chef, The Umstead Hotel and Spa (Cary, NC)
Crawford’s extraordinarily refined American cuisine is a study in both comfort and elegance. A master at pairing unexpected flavors, applying modern techniques with integrity, and exercising precision to brighten each ingredient’s flavor and purpose, Crawford achieves intensity and excitement in each seductive dish. He deftly translates local, seasonal ingredients and classic ideas for a contemporary palate. The result: a sophisticated and artful farm-to-table dining experience.
Before joining The Umstead Hotel and Spa in March 2009, Chef Crawford was the executive chef of The Georgian Room at the Cloister Hotel in Sea Island, GA, where he earned the coveted Five Star Award from Mobil Travel Guide.
Crawford first garnered national attention in 2004, when he became the executive chef of Woodlands Inn& Resort in Summerville, SC, and earned his first Five Star award from Mobil. As executive chef of The Georgian Room, Crawford transformed the establishment into what John Kessler of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called the best restaurant in Georgia and the Gayot guide lists as one of the top 40 restaurants in the country.
Tarver King, Chef, The Ashby Inn and Restaurant (Paris, VA)
Chef Tarver King has a long family connection to fine food. His grandmother was the food editor for Vogue magazine in the 1960’s, published multiple cookbooks, and contributed to Gourmet magazine’s cookbook. With his own calling to the culinary craft, King began his career with an apprenticeship for the chef of three-starred restaurant La Villa Lorraine, Alain Jackmin, at his Virginia Beach restaurant, Le Chambord. Tarver has since worked with acclaimed and accomplished chefs across this country and Europe, including time in the kitchens of Le Bec Fin, The Inn at Little Washington, The French Laundry, The Fat Duck, and the Waterside Inn.
Renown of his own came first as the head chef of The Dining Room at The Woodlands Inn & Resort, where he and his team achieved Mobile’s highest award of five stars and AAA’s highest recognition of five diamonds. He was also named “Grand Chef” by Relais & Châteaux. Esquire magazine named King among its top five chefs to watch, and he has been featured and published in numerous periodicals including Wine Spectator, Bon Appetit, and Food & Wine.
As chef at the historic Ashby Inn & Restaurant—located in the quiet village of Paris, VA (population 67), one hour west of Washington, DC—Tarver has returned to the roots of cooking. He draws from what the region has to offer, crafting a daily-changing menu based on what the local farmers, fisherman, and foragers provide. The elemental base of fresh ingredients serves as inspiration for his contemporary cuisine.
Ryan Smith, Executive Chef, Empire State South (Atlanta, GA)
Originally from Pennsylvania, Chef Ryan Smith has called Atlanta, GA, home for the last dozen years. Ryan took an interest in cooking while working at Penn State, and he graduated from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in 2000. Ryan was drawn to Atlanta by a fellow chef, who heralded the emerging national fascination with Southern cuisine.
Since his arrival in Atlanta, Ryan has worked in the city’s most acclaimed restaurants, including Bacchanalia, Canoe and, most recently, with 2012 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef Southeast, Linton Hopkins, at Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch.
Empire State South chef/partner Hugh Acheson, himself a four-time James Beard Foundation nominee, named Ryan executive chef of ESS in 2010. The restaurant was named Restaurant of the Year by Atlanta Magazine in the fall of 2011. Atlanta Journal-Constitution food writer John Kessler, in naming Smith a “True Wit” in the Fall 2011 Dining Guide, noted, “We all need to give Ryan Smith a hand for not only sidestepping the clichés of contemporary Southern cooking but for giving it a fresh, urbane perspective… Count on Smith to give your every expectation of farm-to-table Southern cooking a fresh twist.”
Daniel Benjamin, Pastry Chef, The Umstead Hotel and Spa and Herons (Cary, NC)
Daniel Benjamin is celebrated for his creative and modern approach to Southern sweets as pastry chef of The Umstead Hotel and Spa and Herons, its award-winning signature restaurant. Incorporating over 10 years of extensive experience in many of the best pastry kitchens in the country to his role as pastry chef, Benjamin joined the refined culinary caliber of the North Carolina destination in January 2007 as a member of the pre-opening team.
A true master of his craft, Benjamin’s forte spans from preparing pre-desserts and petit fours for fine dining to prepping expanded dessert selections for banquets. Noted for a contemporary take on dessert staples of the South, original Benjamin menu items exclusive to Herons have included the luxurious, burnt sugar cake with chocolate rice pudding, stewed cherries, and horchata ice cream; sweet potato soup with apple, raisin, gingerbread panzanella and pain d’epic ice cream; and bourbon chestnut moon pie with toasted almonds, candied chestnuts and burnt almond ice cream.
Benjamin’s talent is punctuated by technical expertise and refreshing creativity, attributes which continue to establish him as a first-class leader in the world of pastry arts. Benjamin’s desserts are offered on Herons lunch and dinner menus, his pastries at breakfast, and his sweets are served with afternoon tea. Since opening in 2007, Herons has received the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Restaurant Award and AAA Five Diamond Award in addition to recognition by Food & Wine, Condé Nast Traveler and Southern Living.