By Sara Patterson
October 27, 2015
Marc Jacksina and Peter Taylor have a plan to bring Charlotte chefs into the national culinary conversation. It all started with sitting around and talking about fried chicken.
Jacksina wrapped up a stint as an uptown chef a few years ago, certain that he was done with the “run hot and burn out” lifestyle of a marquee chef; but unsure of his next steps. He found himself out with a “mixed crowd” of chefs and creatives, including photographer Taylor, whom he had met when Taylor was shooting a farm-to-table project about local chefs and purveyors. And when Jacksina started talking with other chefs about the best fried chicken he’d ever had and where to find it in Charlotte, Taylor realized that “this conversation between chefs was more compelling than any food article or documentary series I’d seen.”
Taylor floated the idea for a weblog at first, and the idea simmered for a year and a half while Jacksina reinvented himself as Executive Chef at Earl’s Grocery–now known, perhaps not coincidentally, for its fried chicken. “Pete reached back out about this project at exactly the right moment,” Jacksina says, and by this past June, “Order/Fire” started taking shape.
The concept for the series, slated to release new episodes every three weeks beginning with the premiere November 1, is a simple one. Two chefs, tucked into a quiet corner at Earl’s, talking about food. But it’s the unique culinary atmosphere of Charlotte that makes these conversations, in Jacksina’s words, “fucking magical.”
“Most cities with a culinary scene have a rich history of assholes,” says Jacksina. “They’re screaming orders at the kitchen staff and they’re not dispensing knowledge.” But in Charlotte, “even the grumpy old men are smiling.”
“The support among chefs in Charlotte is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” says Taylor, who has lived and worked in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, DC. Chefs share knowledge here, quietly and without expectation or ego. In no small part because of a strong common thread of regional agriculture.
In Charlotte, “the farmers are our lexicon,” says Jacksina, who was drawn to the area for its growing local agricultural network. In cities like Charleston, a regional style makes the food distinctive, but in Charlotte the same vein of local purveyors feeds the culinary pulse. So while the first four episodes in the “Order/Fire” pipeline feature chefs with wildly different styles and flavors, their ingredients are likely to come from the same local farms, and with the same amount of enthusiasm. “People in Charlotte are almost embarrassingly in love with the region,” says Jacksina.” We’ve got grown men here posting heart emoticons on social media photos of radishes.”
The premiere episode with Chef Clark Barlowe of Heirloom Restaurant encapsulates Charlotte’s farm-to-table bent. Barlowe sources every single item and ingredient on his menu, including beer and wine, from local growers and producers. He sat down with Jacksina “hoping to bring more awareness to Heirloom’s mission to promote North Carolina not only as an amazing food destination but as a locale that, for those of us lucky to enough cook in, provides endless resources and inspiration for our craft.” Barlowe also discusses Charlotte’s food deserts in his episode, and how food can be used as a vehicle for social change. But despite the depth of the content, Barlowe says, “most of the time the episode was just a conversation between friends.” And that’s exactly how Jacksina and Taylor plan to keep setting “Order/Fire” apart.
“We’re not promoting any one place or agenda,” says Taylor. “We shoot at Earl’s rather than on location so the chefs can be more comfortable and undistracted. It’s just two friends talking.”
Barlowe’s episode kicks off a 12-week run of shows already completed and in the pipeline, including interviews with Blake Hartwick of Bonterra, Greg Auten of Pinky’s Westside Grill, and Alyssa Gorelick of Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen. Paul Verica of Heritage Food and Drink, whom Jacksina and Taylor count as a frontrunner for the prestigious James Beard Award, is also slated for an upcoming episode. Jacksina and Taylor plan to do at least two specials covering larger regional subjects like barbecue or beer, which will run once a week for four weeks.
“Order/Fire” kicks off with its premiere party at Free Range Brewing Sunday November 1 at 2pm, with live music by the Loose Lugnuts and food provided by Papa Libretto’s Street Pizza.
The first beer for the first 100 people to arrive is on the house thanks to Asterisk Creative. Barlowe’s episode will be screened in its entirety, and all episodes will be available and fully embeddable online as they are released. Visit orderfireclt.com for episodes and updates.