A Chef’s Life plunges audiences into the kitchen of a high-end restaurant located in the low country of eastern North Carolina. It follows the trials and travails of Chef Vivian Howard and her husband, Ben Knight, and their farm-to-table restaurant, Chef & the Farmer, exploring both traditional and modern applications of quintessential Southern ingredients. Vivian’s skill in the kitchen is an equal match for the charismatic personality, radiating behind her crystal grey eyes. Much more dynamic than a typical cooking show, A Chef’s Life is a character-driven documentary and cooking series that premiered nationally on PBS stations in September 2013. A Chef’s Life is currently in its second season, which features 14 half-hour episodes. The first season consisted of 13 half-hour episodes.
A little history… Vivian was one of the opening staff members with Jean-Georges at Spice Market and simultaneously opened her own gourmet delivery service Vim’s Kitchen, serving the likes of Liv Tyler, Helena Christiansen and the fusionists of Gucci. Trendsetter, Underground Eats, called her their all-time favorite chef.
With such great momentum came investment offers. But an offer from Vivian’s father, a big-time hog farmer, called out the loudest. He offered to help her open her own restaurant South of Houston Street (Shoo) – way south! The Deep South to be exact: Kinston, North Carolina, an area known for its history in tobacco cultivation and BBQ joints. Vivian and her husband Ben (a Chicago-raised professional artist) found the offer too good to resist and packed up their Manhattan life for a new opportunity. The girl who said she’d never go back was heading home.
She soon realized the cooking techniques she learned in NYC could be applied to her “grandmother’s ingredients,” the bounty grown and raised by local farmers. In true farm-to-table fashion, audiences follow Vivian into the fields as she travels from cornfields to strawberry patches to hog farms to hunt down the ingredients that drive her seasonal menus.
Ten years in, Vivian and her restaurant have won numerous accolades, including the prestigious Peabody Award along with a James Beard nomination. As the series opens, Vivian and her husband Ben are juggling the restaurant with raising twins, and a fire destroys the restaurant's kitchen. What happens next is a true testament to what local cooking and eating really mean.
A Chef's Life is produced by Markay Media in association with South Carolina ETV. The series is directed and produced by Cynthia Hill with Rex Miller as director of photography and co-producer. Vivian Howard is writer and producer. Tom Vickers is editor. Amy Shumaker is executive-in-charge for SCETV. The series is a project of the Southern Documentary Fund. The show's theme song is written and performed by North Carolina's own Avett Brothers.
Featuring: Vivian Howard & Ben
Also featuring : Staff of Chef &
the Farmer, The Howard Family
Producer/Director: Cynthia Hill
Director of Photography/Co-producer:
Editor: Tom Vickers
Executive in Charge for SCETV: Amy
Executive Producer: Derek Britt
Co-Producer: Malinda Maynor Lowery
Original Score: Chuck Johnson
Second Camera: Josh Woll and Blaire
Associate Producer: Jenn Cromling, Shirlette Ammons, Un Kyong Ho
Graphic & Web Design: Margaret McNealy
Public TV Consultant: Selena Lauterer
Assistant Producer: Jason Hill, Dawn Dreyer
Social Media Coordinator: Hayley Teater
Collage Artist: Curtis Gaston
Makeup: Tonya Adams & Jamie Warzel
Web Design/Development: Smashing Boxes
Additional Camera: Josh Woll, Blaire Johnson, Jeremy Lange, DL
Anderson, Steve Milligan
Production Assistants: Eli
Van Noppen, Will Gehrman, Sarah Law, Mel Blankenship
Post Production Services provided by
Post Supervisor: Leah Welsh
Color Correction: Alan Maynard
Audio Post: Michel Marrano & David
Post Production Technician: Kevin
Legal: Karen Shatzkin
Accounting: Sharon Anderson
Fiscal Sponsor: Southern Documentary
Will You Return
Written and Performed by the Avett
Additional Music Provided By Shark Quest Courtesy of Merge Records Provided by Bank Robber Music
Photographs by Rex Miller