Q&A with Chef Clark Barlowe

Growing up in the farming community of Lenoir gave Clark Barlowe a clear definition of what the word “local” actually means.

As the executive chef of Charlotte’s Heirloom Restaurant, Barlowe doesn’t just tout a farm-to-table philosophy, he lives it. Both his parents and grandparents have had gardens for as long as he can remember and Barlowe relishes the chance to escape the city and see firsthand the bounty being grown by local farmers.

When he’s not in the kitchen, you can find him foraging in Carolina forests and fields, a hobby he enjoys sharing with community members interested in learning about the practice.

Barlowe will headline Pinehurst’s inaugural Chef & Maker Weekend Series event May 12-14, bringing his locally-sourced, globally-inspired cuisine to the Sandhills.

We recently caught up with the acclaimed chef to learn more about his background and cooking style.

How did you end up becoming a chef?
I got a job when I was 15 years old washing dishes in one of my dad’s friends restaurants. From there, the chef recommended that I go and Johnson & Wales, which was just opening up in Charlotte the year I was graduating from high school.

Johnson & Wales gave me a scholarship, so I earned my associates degree and I transferred to the main campus in Rhode Island to get my bachelor’s degree. While I was getting my degrees, I was working in restaurants like The French Laundry and El Bulli. I’ve been really fortunate to work at some fantastic restaurants over the years.

I definitely relate to the saying “standing on the shoulders of giants.”

What made you want to open your own restaurant in Charlotte?
When we opened in Charlotte there really wasn’t a dining scene here, it was still mainly corporate steakhouses.

No one was doing anything I thought was really interesting that I wanted to be involved in. I knew if I wanted to be close to my family I’d have to open my own place.

What are you like in the kitchen?
I think there are two different sides of me. During prep there is a sense of urgency and attention to detail. I’m pretty casual as I move in and out of the kitchen throughout the day, but then as soon as service starts we turn off the music and everything gets more serious and more focused.

Who inspires you?

My farmers and seed catalogs. I’m always flipping through seed catalogs thinking “it would be so cool if somebody would grow this.” That’s probably my biggest inspiration.

What’s your favorite ingredient?
Duck is my go-to ingredient. It’s one of my favorite ingredients to cook with because it’s so versatile, and has so many different parts. People have a misconception to what it actually is. I really enjoy giving people a good quality duck dish and changing their minds.

What spring ingredient are you most excited to cook with this year?
This year has been a prolific year for morel mushrooms. I’m an avid forager and it’s usually the most difficult mushroom to find and not ever plentiful. I’ve had about 70 pounds come through the restaurant.

What’s your favorite dish to cook at home?
Pho. I’m constantly trying to make it. I eat it at least once a week and I’ve tried so many times to make it at home, but it’s never as good as going out.

Quick Fire Round

Beer or wine?
I like them both, but I lean toward beer.

Celebrity you would love to cook dinner for?
Zooey Deschanel

Best midnight snack?
Claussen dill pickles

Best thing about being a chef?
The relationships.

View package details and join us for Barlowe’s Chef & Maker Weekend.