The Heritage Fire, a live-fire food-tasting festival, debuted in the Asheville area in 2022 and will return on July 16, 2023.
Cochon555, Asheville Citizen Times
ASHEVILLE – The tasting festival that’s set the country ablaze with flames and flavors will return to Western North Carolina this summer.
The Heritage Fire Tour, presented by Cochon555, travels from city-to-city challenging food and beverage professionals to bring their best to the table.
For 2023, the nationwide food and wine tour has 13 destinations, including a stop in the Asheville area.
Heritage Fire-Asheville will begin at 4:45 p.m. (4 p.m. for VIP ticketholders) on July 16 at Horse Shoe Farm, 155 Horse Shoe Farm Drive in Hendersonville, which offers acres of farmland and a backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It will be the second consecutive year for the national event series to come to WNC. Last year, it debuted at Franny’s Farm in Leicester.
Asheville’s at the epicenter of a region teeming with culinary and craft greatness and with an agriculturally rich landscape. The lineup of guest chefs and purveyors will provide a sample of what’s possible.
Two area chefs are ready to return to the outdoor hearth, and they’re calling all the food enthusiasts out to join them for 2023 Heritage Fire-Asheville.
What is Heritage Fire?
Heritage Fire celebrates heirloom produce and heritage breeds ― livestock traced back through multiple generations.
The festival calls attention to the importance of local farms and purveyors, as well as sustainability practices that can create and support a thriving agricultural industry and environment.
“Heritage Fire’s mission is to provide guests with an experience of culinary awakening and raise awareness about local farming and sustainable cooking,” Maribel Chaluja, VP of Culinary Event Operations for Agency 21, said in an email.
“What distinguishes Heritage Fire from other culinary events is that our ultimate aim is to provide education to consumers and create an experience that guests can sink their teeth into: honest food from real farmers. In each city we visit across the tour, we curate 20 of the best chefs in that market to create a live fire cookout, who receive stipends to source locally from their preferred farmers as a way to continue our mission in supporting homegrown family farms,” she said.
What is live-fire cooking?
Another factor that sets Heritage Fire apart from other food festivals is that all chef participants will cook over an open fire, which is a particular test of how well a chef can handle the heat outside of a traditional kitchen.
Chef Owen McGlynn is a live-fire veteran: It’s what his downtown steakhouse, Asheville Proper, is based on. He’s primed to demonstrate how the method of cooking can elevate a dish.
“It definitely manipulates the texture,” said McGlynn, who also co-owns Little D’s restaurant in North Asheville. “You get different flavors on it from smoke to char. If you’ve got something fatty on there, it’s almost like a fat cap rendering down and cooking a little crunch to it.”
Josh Begley is the executive chef for Indaco, a rustic Italian restaurant that opened in Greenville in June. Indaco’s menu features in-house wood-fired pizzas and fresh pasta.
Begley anticipates racking up more hours over an open flame in the great outdoors.
“I’m going to build my own grill ― a cinderblock grill. I’ve done that a couple of times now,” Begley said. “It’s a bunch of cinderblocks, some metal sheeting and some grill grates and cook on top of that. I like it a lot because it brings it back down to the rustic style of cooking where it’s just fire and that’s it and you just figure it out.”
“It’s as basic as it gets. There’s nothing controlling the flames. You’re controlling the heat yourself. I’m used to it now because we have the wood-fired pizza oven, so I’ve gotten used to working with fire and working with the wood that I really enjoy it. It brings it back to the roots of everything. There’s no gas assist or anything like that. It’s nothing helping you out. You burn something, it’s kind of on you because you can’t control the flames correctly.”
Who’s bringing the fire?
More than 20 local and regional guests are confirmed for Heritage Fire-Asheville, but only one will be named “Heritage Hero” at the end.
The 2023 chef participants represent restaurants, catering groups and bakeries including Baby Bull, Bargello, Bears Smokehouse BBQ, Cranford Brothers, Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro, Foothills Meats, Huli Sue’s BBQ and Grill, Eldr, Julep Contemporary Kitchen, Luminosa, Mikasa Criolla, Oak Steakhouse at Skyline Lodge, Sea of Sweets Bakery, Thai Pearl, The Montford Rooftop, The Silo Cookhouse, Ukiah Japanese Smokehouse and White Labs Brewery Relic.
Plus, there will be wine pairings from the sommeliers of Posana, Indigo Road Hospitality Group and Appalachian Vintners.
“It sounds like everyone’s doing different stuff, so just like last year, it’s something for everybody,” McGlynn said. “We’re looking to go out there and have some fun and show people what we can do at Asheville Proper and Little D’s,” McGlynn said.
Guests may vote on their “Best Bite of the Day” with the team with the most votes winning the Heritage Hero award.
Last year, McGlynn’s team claimed the title of Asheville’s Heritage Hero. The Asheville Proper crew prepared in-house dry-aged New York strips with locally sourced heirloom tomato chimichurri, a Vidalia onion salad and tallo ash aioli.
This year, McGlynn plans on making wagyu beef sourced from a farm in Georgia and vegetables. Guests will have to attend the festival to see the final product.
“We work with this farm out of Georgia, and we’ve been so happy with the product,” McGlynn said. “We’re excited about being able to get a good amount of their stuff to feature. We’re pretty fired up about it.”
Begley’s first Heritage Fire event was at the festival’s Charleston, South Carolina, debut last December.
For Heritage Fire-Asheville, he plans to make multiple dishes, including one with beef shanks prepared with a char to add more flavor.
Also, Begley will give festival guests a taste of what Indaco has to offer by preparing a sausage and peppers dish, a nod to the restaurant’s whole animal butchery practices.
“I want to showcase to everybody the beginning of our charcuterie program that we’re working on and showcase our Italian sausage,” Begley said.
The festival will offer live-fired plant-based dishes and desserts, as well as gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian, vegan and other options for guests with dietary restrictions. Nonalcoholic beverages will be available, too.
Why attend Heritage Fire-Asheville?
Simply put, “It’s fun,” McGlynn said.
“It’s a big party. Just the vibe, the feel. I have some friends who want to go this year. I said, ‘You guys will love it,’” he said. “It’s like a big party with the deejays and music and different chefs and cocktails. It’s a good time.”
Begley is stoked to be a part of the festival series again, this time at a new venue and with a new Heritage Fire crew.
“I’ve done a lot of festivals and events, and Heritage Fire is definitely something unique with the way everybody gets to cook on an open flame, around grills, around smokers – however they choose to do it,” Begley said. “It’s back to the basics. You’re in a field and we’re cooking on fire.”
Also, guests may shop the Heritage Fire market for fresh produce to take home and purchase merchandise, like jewelry, from vendors. Other activities include design-your-own custom hat, ax throwing and more.
Tickets are $175 for VIP early access at 4 p.m. and $125 for general admission at 4:45 p.m.
The perks of VIP include shorter lines and more time to eat, drink, dance and join the activities, Chaluja said.
Tickets include free-flowing food and beverages. Guests must be ages 21 or up.
“Heritage Fire features 20+ local establishments that range from BBQ to James Beard nominated restaurants, focused on farm-to-table cooking and sustainable, heirloom ingredients,” Chaluja said. “Guests will also have unlimited access to our premium wine, beer and spirits partners crafting unforgettable and innovative beverage experiences.”
More food and beverage festivals not to miss:
Heritage Fire Tour-Asheville
Where: Horse Shoe Farm, 155 Horse Shoe Farm Drive, Hendersonville.
When: July 16, 4:45 p.m. general admission entry, 4 p.m. entry for VIP ticketholders.
Info: For more and to purchase tickets, visit https://heritagefiretour.com/.
Tiana Kennell is the food and dining reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Please support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.