Kyle Wilkerson is the Executive Chef at Burlington Beer Works, a popular new (cooperatively owned!) lunch and dinner spot in downtown Burlington. Their delicious locally-sourced food and house-brewed beer definitely make the trip worth it. We sat down with Kyle to learn more about his history and approach to cooking.
Tell us about how you became a chef?
I grew up in Durham and have always been interested in cooking. I used to love to watch Justin Wilson’s cooking show. My plan in High School was to go to college to become a cartoon artist. Obviously, that’s not the path I took. After I graduated from the culinary program at Wake Tech, I was able to work in some exceptional kitchens with some great people, at well-known Durham restaurants, including Washington Duke Inn, Four Square, and Watts Grocery. I also got to open my own place, Heirloom, in Roxboro. While it didn’t work out long term, it was a great learning experience.
What inspires your cuisine?
My grandfather, who we all called “Papapaw” has probably been my biggest influence. He supported five generations of our family on a 2nd grade education, working as a farmer and running his own paint business. I grew up visiting his farm, tending the garden, running around with the chickens and pigs. So the concept of “farm to table” just makes sense to me. Why not support my neighbors? It just feels right and good to have real relationships with the people responsible for growing our food. I also like to stick to my southern roots. I worked with Sean Brock at Husk and he taught me a lot. So you’ll always find that my menus incorporate classic southern foods like fried chicken and corn bread.
Why do you source from Firsthand Foods?
Well, ya’ll just make it easy to source local. You do the research and find the best farms, and that takes a lot of the work out of it for me. But I still feel a part of that “happy circle,” where I know where it’s all coming from and value the relationship.