As a child, Charlotte-born Evan Micek spent some time in Irmo, SC; there, he attended the Okra Strut, a local festival celebrating the Southern staple. So began the stirrings of his love affair with all things local. After graduating from Providence High, he tinkered with the IT field but found his calling in the culinary world. He picked up basic skills at Avanti at the Arboretum and is currently working as line cook at the Mint Museum-adjacent Halcyon, which advertises itself as a "celebration of artisanal farms, dairies and wineries from the Carolinas and beyond."
Creative Loafing: When you go grocery shopping for yourself, do you prefer to buy local products?
Evan Micek: I'm in love with local foods. I've found the flavors to be astounding and plentiful. Sure, I shop at the local supermarkets for everyday items, but I like to stop at stalls driving through the local Waxhaw/Weddington roads to see what new crops are up. My good friend has also set me up in the past with local beef that his father raises in Marshville. After visiting France and the U.K., I really have learned to appreciate local markets: the smells, hustle and bustle, tasting food and beverages from the vendors. I really wish we could get a big market going Uptown that runs daily with similar attributes. I think Charlotte is still growing as a metropolitan area and we still need to make our stamp in the culinary world here. There are lots of great chefs with good attitudes toward food. The local food scene is sprouting here and we are getting more creative with what we have each season, which is a lot. North Carolina and its agriculture really have a lot to offer the culinary world and Charlotte is lucky enough to be so close to such a variety of produce.
What's your favorite dish to cook at home?
Chili. I make a big batch and throw whatever I have laying around in the pot. My wife usually beckons me to throw a few Serrano peppers into the mix to give it some heat. I eat chili plain, on hot dogs, burgers, top it on crackers, so many possibilities. It's something great to grab since we are both running around all the time with school and work.
You're about to receive your culinary degree. What have you taken from your studies?
Attending CPCC is always refreshing. Chef Jim Bowen has been an inspiration to a lot of what I believe about food now. I take his fun facts and replicate them to educate friends and family. Chef Jim is a reason why I am trying to take such a local sustainable stance on food. I'm still an aspiring chef, so I'm soaking up any and every bit of knowledge I can. Down the road, I would love to open a sustainable restaurant with a great friend of mine, where we can point out the window and say, "That crop is on your plate."