We had the opportunity to spend the day with Chef Clayton last fall when he decided to join us on a trip to visit David Whitman, one our hog producers in Duplin County. He wowed us by bringing along shoo fly pie, a Whiskey Kitchen favorite. Read on to learn more about Clayton.
Tell us a bit about your background:
I started shucking oysters and washing dishes at age 14 in Gainesville, FL. I was offered the Assistant Kitchen Manager when I was only 16, & continued there until I finished high school and left to join the US Army. After four years with the 82nd Airborne Division I returned to to kitchen with a renewed passion for the industry and have been here nearly 30 years now. Working with talented chefs like Jonathon Botta, Cheetie Kumar, Micheal Thor, Coleen Speaks and Aaron Matyac not only helped me to hone my craft but exposed me to the terroir of North Carolina. The abundance of local produce and proteins and my talented colleagues have kept me inspired, challenged and proud to call Raleigh, North Carolina home.
What is your philosophy/inspiration for your cuisine?
Mother nature makes the best flavors. A little tender love and care is all they need to shine, well that and maybe a little smoke. With nearly 400 whisk(e)ys in house there is a plethora of flavors to pair with. One thing they all have in common though is smoke. Each one of those aged bottled beauties picked up a little smoke from its barrel(s) somewhere along the way. We, at Whiskey Kitchen, look at (and use) smoke as an ingredient and not just a cooking method. We also are very cognizant of where our food comes from. We strive to support other local producers, preserve the terroir of our region and expose as many people as possible to those wonderful local flavors. “Titillate, educate and satiate” is kind of a motto around here. The farmers, fishermen, artisans and educators that we work with are building a network that supports the community we all live in. We are proud to be a part of a community that not only supports its local food producers but celebrates them as well.
North Carolina is rich in food traditions. From the coast to the mountains North Carolinians have been defining their cuisine over the course of our state’s history. We respect and honor those traditions. Our food is delicious not pretentious. We do our best to do right by those traditions as we attempt to elevate, modernize and have some fun with those age old recipes and techniques.
Why do you use Firsthand Foods products? What does it mean to you?
We use Firsthand Foods not just because of the incredible products and great people we get to work with but also to help sustain and grow the local farming community. It’s important to preserve the local flavors that NC families & geography have helped to shape over the years. The farm I did get to tour was an amazing experience. Getting to meet the people who toil to bring these products to market was an honor. These are dedicated individuals and families who go to extreme lengths to provide the best products possible. I admire and thank them to no end for that. People need know where their food comes from, it’s just that simple. These are just a few of the reasons I am helping to expand the Piedmont Culinary Guild into the Triangle, work with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and buy from Firsthand Foods. Buying from Firsthand Foods means that money stays in the local community, we are supporting not just a local business but the farmers as well. It means top quality products that are NC through and through. We, at Whiskey Kitchen, strive to give our guest the best experience possible and that begins with top quality ingredients even before the doors open for the day.