I believe in cooking food that has a story behind it and integrity to it—food with a very specific sense of place and that people want to eat.
A former advertising executive, Vivian left the glamorous world of marketing to gain hands-on experience in the restaurant business. Her next step led her to enrollment in ICE’s culinary arts program, “so that [she] could get an internship in the city’s top kitchens.” Soon Vivian found herself in those very kitchens, completing her externship at Wylie Dufresne’s wd~50. From there she trained at Jean Georges’ Spice Market, and launched a successful catering business.
When her parents learned that Vivian was planning to open a New York storefront, they proposed to fully fund the opening of her restaurant—but only if she returned to do so in her hometown in eastern North Carolina. That restaurant, Chef & the Farmer, sources over 70% of the restaurant’s inventory from within 60 miles. Vivian and her husband have also opened Boiler Room in Kinston and Benny's Big Time in Wilmington, NC. As Vivian got to know her local farmers, her interest in the stories behind food blossomed, and she recruited a childhood friend and documentary director, Cynthia Hill, to help investigate the region’s culinary heritage.
The now-acclaimed PBS show A Chef’s Life was born, mostly recently garnering both a Peabody and a James Beard Award and securing Chef & The Farmer as one of the nation’s top “destination restaurants.” Describing her culinary voice, chef Vivian says, “I believe in cooking food that has a story behind it and integrity to it—food with a very specific sense of place and that people want to eat.”
- Institute of Culinary Education, Culinary Arts, 2003
Awards and Honors
- Award of Outstanding Personality/Host, James Beard Foundation, 2016
- Host, A Chef's Life, Kinston, NC
Specialties / Areas of Interest
- Farm to Table
Affiliations & Memberships
- James Beard Foundation, USA