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What is your favorite part of being a restaurant owner or chef in Asheville
Can I say ‘everything’? First and foremost, it’s the community. It is incredible that Asheville has such a vibrant food scene with so many talented and creative chefs. We are fortunate that our farming and local community is committed to supporting our needs and interests as well. We have built so many wonderful relationships with local farmers and purveyors. Every December, I look forward to sitting down with Margaret and Charles from Fork Mountain Farm to discuss our plans for the year. They talk about what they want to grow and we share what we would like them to grow. It’s really a conversation between farmer and purchaser that shows how much we each value the other. We are lucky to work with over 65 different local purveyors, farmers and food artisans.
Martha and I grew up in the midwest and have traveled all over the world. When we were living in LA, we travelled to Asheville on multiple occasions for meditation retreats. We knew this was where we wanted to be. The community resonated with us, reflected our values and felt like home. The authenticity of the people and the overflowing richness of the community packed into such a small population were impossible for us to resist. We knew Asheville would be a wonderful community to raise a family and we’ve never given it a second thought.
What is the background of your restaurant’s name?
Posana is an incredibly unique name. We wanted something original. We flipped through endless resources looking for the right word and even played around with making up a word. In the end, we did a bit of both. I guess you could say we drew our inspiration from Sanskrit. However, Posana has no meaning in the Sanskrit language.
What ingredient could you not live without?
Salt. It’s also my favorite ingredient as well. It’s all about perfect seasoning, and salt can completely amplify flavor of a food, such as a great piece of meat or a fresh vegetable. The menu at Posana is driven by the seasons. I believe that fresh, local, in-season ingredients just taste superior. I spend so much time sourcing, that I want to be sure everything tastes as best it can. Salt allows food to taste the best food can be.
What is your favorite dish on your menu?
Our menu always changes. Right now I am obsessed with the Charcoal Rubbed Rack of Lamb with glazed beets, fennel, winter squash, satsuma orange, hazelnut jus that’s on our winter menu. But the one dish we can never take off is our kale salad. It’s the most requested recipe ever.
What is your favorite dish from a fellow AIR restaurant’s menu?
That’s impossible to answer. There is so much amazing food in this town I would not feel comfortable having to settle on one favorite. My kids however may say Asheville Pizza & Brewing’s Large Pepperoni Pizza (who I think they have on speed dial). It seems every other weekend I find a large pizza box lying around.
Why did you choose Asheville to open your restaurant?
I think Asheville picked us. When we moved here in 2003, I was pursuing real estate and cooking professionally was not on my radar. But Martha, who had seen me as a chef and as a realtor, knew a change was needed. I think she probably spent close to three years strongly suggesting I entertain opening a restaurant.
When she found our current location and suggested doing a European Style Coffeehouse, I knew this was what I was meant to be doing. The farming community and diversity of the local palate made it easy for me to do food the way I love doing food. We are very much looking forward to the expansion of Mandara Hospitality Group with two more independent restaurants we’ll be opening at the end of the year in the Arras Hotel.
What is your favorite chef’s tool and why?
My hands. I always tell people at home you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment. Your hands (clean!) can do so much and you shouldn’t underestimate how useful they can be.
Two others: on the essential end, a great knife. Chefs are obsessed with ‘their’ knives and for good reason. A great 8-inch chef’s knife will do so much. Just make sure you find a really good one — and keep it sharpened. I recommend that people have them professionally sharpened once a year.
On the higher end (not all kitchens have this), we are obsessed with our new pasta press. We are opening Bargello restaurant late this year in the Arras Hotel, and it will have a Mediterranean focus so we ordered it to experiment and start testing. But in the meantime, we’ve been perfecting our gluten-free pasta recipe at Posana and loving all the shapes and sizes. You can’t buy great prepared gluten-free pasta, so really the best is our own homemade recipe. This is my favorite tool of the moment.