Vivian Howard was awarded the Humanities and Social Sciences Distinguished Alumna award at NC State’s 2015 Evening of Stars gala.
Howard (English, ’00) has found the recipe for success. Along with being a very fine cook — she’s a four-time semi-finalist for the James Beard Best Chef Southeast Award — Howard is a restaurateur, a TV star, a writer and an ambassador of Southern culture and cuisine. She and her husband, Ben Knight, are the owners of Chef & the Farmer restaurant, a food mecca in Kinston, North Carolina, that serves local and seasonal food with a modern twist, attracting diners from miles away.
Born to tobacco- and hog-farming parents, Howard learned early on to appreciate the ebb and flow of eating with the seasons. Still, it took 23 years and a false start in advertising to convince her that a career in food was not only feasible, but the right path. After working under some of New York’s most cutting-edge chefs, Howard and her husband returned to her roots in North Carolina in 2005 to open Chef & the Farmer. Eight years later, the couple expanded their restaurant footprint in Kinston to include the Boiler Room Oyster Bar.
Howard also stars in the Emmy award-winning PBS documentary and cooking series, A Chef’s Life, now in its third season. The program, part cooking show and part documentary, follows Howard in and out of the kitchen as she showcases the ingredients and dishes that define the South, everything from Hoppin’ John to red velvet cake. In 2014, the show received a Peabody Award, the broadcast industry’s most prestigious honor, given for excellence in broadcasting. In 2015, the show earned a Daytime Emmy.
To further define her food legacy, Howard is developing two cookbooks to be published by Little, Brown and Company in 2016. Deep Run Roots will be a love letter in cookbook form to the pantry of Eastern North Carolina.
When she’s not in the kitchen, in front of the camera, or trying to write, Howard enjoys spending time with her husband and their twin children, Theo and Flo.