When you first meet Isaiah, all you see is a tall bearded guy in his mid thirties. When you get to know him, and understand his skills and talents, he is even “bigger and taller”.
Isaiah started in the kitchen at the age of 15, as a dishwasher. About 6 months after working there, one night he smelled the odor of fresh bread coming out of the oven. The brioche rolls started this love story between Chef Isaiah Allen and food.
He asked pretty quickly after that if he could do some prep work, and at 15 his parents had to grant him permission to get a special permit to do knife work.
At that time, working was just a paycheck, but in his mid twenties he decided to make it a long time career.
He took pride in learning at the Sienna hotel, in Chapel Hill, NC, under different Chefs each station.
Under Gennaro Villella, at El Palio, Isaiah learned all about Italian cuisine. One summer, he went to Italy to work in Gennaro’s bakery. The next summer he worked outside of Florence in a restaurant.
3 Years ago in April he became the chef de cuisine at the Sienna.
There, he learned under Adam Rose how to buy as much produce as he could from local farmers. When Isaiah started to talk to me about arugula, and farm to table food, you can see the passion. He started to describe Arugula from Asher Farms and how it was peppery, his all face lit up.
The year he got his sustainable agriculture certification was the year that changed his life. He was suddenly in a classroom full of people that think like him, it was a very empowing experience and a turning point.
He bought a farm that has grown now to 20 acres, 30 ducks, 100 chickens…
Talking to him, I have learned that they are 2 kinds of farmers, the ones that were given land and are family owners from generations on…
And the second kind of farmers that want to do it and buy farm to make it a career.
He discovered The Eddy Pub in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, on a date night with his wife, and felt a community, family feeling in there.
When The Eddy Pub started to look for a new chef, a chef friend of his was hired but thought Isaiah was more a match for the place. The rest is history. It has been 3 years since Isaiah is at The Eddy Pub, as the Executive Chef.
He loves that there is a trust between the Chef, the farmer and the local clientele.
He is really pushing for local food. His love for local food really goes beyond the trendiness of “Farm to Table”. He just got his certificate for food manufacturing at NC State to be able to do canning and to sell homemade ketchup.
I was privileged to have a tour of The Eddy Pub kitchen and Isiah was so proud to show all the local produce he has.
There are 8 people in the kitchen including the dishwashers. Isaiah really helps his staff to grow and rise if they have the desire. His specials change on average every 2 days, and his inspiration comes from research and sometimes from his staff.
With such a passion, he offered me a carrot to eat and started to explain how carrots can be grown twice a year and taste very different. You really can appreciate the farmer background in his personality.
I watch him prepare one of entrees on the menu: “Left Bank Butchery Pork which is: Chop Cane Creek Farm pork, served with garlic mashed potatoes and collards”. Left Bank Butchery
He bathes and feeds butter on top of the chop for it to get the fragrance of the rosemary that was placed on it, before putting it in the oven.
Proud of feeding his own yeast, I was able to taste the homemade bread that is produced in house…..Un delice!
At the end of my meeting and interview, Isaiah pointed out that there is virtually no waste in his kitchen, and showed me how he even uses the eggshells to help provide nutrition in the soil at his farm.
The Eddy pub in Saxapahaw, North Carolina is much closer than you think and well worth the trip. I hope you have the opportunity to meet Isiah when you visit as he takes the term, “farm to table” seriously.