“This is a celebration, not a funeral,” says Mike Moore, who is on vacation with a group of his former employees at a rented beach house outside of Charleston, South Carolina, instead of on the line at Seven Sows, his recently shuttered Asheville restaurant. For the past two years, as the streets around the restaurant filled with new spots to eat and drink, it was a comfortable place to pick over a plate of buttermilk hush puppies or a tray of raw oysters. But the chef has been busy with other projects, and he was ready to sell when a friend asked if he would.
Still, it is a little bit sad.
Restaurants all over the country now offer the sort of studied comfort food pioneered by John Currence in Oxford and Sean Brock in Charleston. But at Seven Sows, the food was not the only source of comfort. Moore put his favorite family recipes on the menu, dishing his great-grandmother’s butterscotch pudding and fried chicken topped with giblet and egg gravy and sliced pimento pepper, like his grandmother served it. The kitchen staff was part of the family, too. On the final menu, two dishes bore the names of the sous chefs who created them.
Moore will not leave Asheville. Over the past four and a half years, he has hosted dozens of one-night-only charity dinners through his Blind Pig Supper Club, and he is planning more, including some in other cities. He also hopes to build a communal kitchen and event space where chefs catering his well-attended gatherings might rub elbows with others chopping vegetables for food trucks or farmers’ markets. Justin Burdett, an up-and-coming protégé of Atlanta chef Steven Satterfield who last cooked in Highlands, is renovating the old Seven Sows space and planning to open his restaurant, Local Provisions, within the next several months.
There is plenty to celebrate, and plenty to mourn. Either way, it’s a good time for a platter of fried chicken. Last year, Moore shared his recipe with Debby Maugans and Christine Sykes Lowe, the authors of Farmer and Chef Asheville. It is reprinted below, with accompaniments. Raise a drumstick and a spoonful of macaroni and cheese to a humble eating place now gone.