'Rhubarb' chef to talk about food, restaurants


On Wednesday July 26, Chef John Fleer, five-time James Beard Best Chef-Southeast finalist and owner of Rhubarb restaurant in downtown Asheville, will appear at the Montreat Adult Summer Club.

John Fleer

At the 2:30 p.m. event in the Upper Anderson room of Anderson Auditorium, Fleer will discuss the “Farm to Table” movement in American cuisine, which he helped pioneer. His talk will encompass the virtues, idiosyncrasies and contradictions within that label. The presentation will include a lively discussion of the challenges and rewards of making “Farm to Table” ingredients a central part of his cuisine.

Fleer is a native of Winston-Salem. His inspiration began with his immersion into the food culture of Venice, Italy while studying abroad as a religion and philosophy major at Duke University. He began his culinary career humbly, working in kitchens to pay for graduate school at the University of North Carolina. His passion for the restaurant industry ignited, and he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America to further his education.

After graduation, Fleer worked at a CIA-run restaurant and also served as a personal chef to actress Mary Tyler Moore before joining the team at Blackberry Farm where he served as executive chef from 1992 through 2007. The unique “foothills cuisine” cooking style he helped establish at Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm wandered the line between refined and rugged, fancy and familiar, transforming local ingredients into world-class dishes.

Under Fleer’s leadership, the Tennessee destination was honored by Zagat in 2003 and 2004, as number one small hotel and number two hotel dining in America.

In October 2013, Fleer opened Rhubarb in the heart of Asheville’s Pack Square. His cuisine pays homage to the region’s seasonal bounty and brings a flair to Southern cooking. Rhubarb has a relaxed atmosphere that reflects the rural roots of Fleer’s food and the authentic sourcing of his ingredients. At the same time, Rhubarb has provided a culinary platform that has allowed Fleer to broaden his approach to American cuisine.

Montreat Adult Summer Club presentations are open to the public. Everyone is welcome and invited to attend.