Shannon McGaughey




Photo by Lynne Harty

What is your favorite part of being a restaurant owner in Asheville?

The community.  It’s really amazing how many guests we have come to know intimately because of their love for what Josiah and I are doing at Vivian.  Coming from Chicago where the business can be a little more cut throat, its incredible to meet complete strangers who, because they come to believe in our food mission and our passion for the craft, become friends and family who fully support us by pushing the Vivian image via social media and visiting as often as possible. 

What is the background of your restaurant’s name?

Vivian is the name of Josiah’s grandmother.  She was an all out grand hostess who had a great passion for food, was a lover of Julia Child, and put on the most incredible gatherings.  She was one of the first reasons Josiah was inspired to cook and his passion just grew from there, so it seemed apt we named the restaurant after her.

What ingredient could you not live without?

For me, running the bar/wine program, there are too many to list….I guess top of the head—bourbon (!) and can we list the Northern Rhone as an ingredient??  For Josiah, I know it would also be a difficult call, he love so many different ingredients including a great love of working with all meats, especially pork, but I kiiiiinda want to say butter.  We love it so much.  He has a tendency to go decadent, and the secret to a lot of these old school European recipes is that buttery base.  When we cooks for us at the house, and I clean up after, I am always alarmed to see a whole pound of butter we had before the meal to have disappeared…..

What is your favorite dish on your menu?

The menu is ever changing as farmer’s bring in new items and as Josiah’s brain dreams up different ideas, so favorites change quite often.  However, if I were to pick right now I’d have to say its the rare seared venison in our appetizer section served with lightly smoked mushrooms, huckleberry compote, and pickled mustard seeds.  

What is your favorite dish from a fellow AIR restaurant’s menu?

Fresh in my mind from enjoying it just the other day, the capered egg salad from OWL Bakery.  Cannot give these guys enough credit for the amazing pastry and bread work they do, and that egg salad is just perfectly briny/salty/creamy.  Love it.

Why did you choose Asheville to open your restaurant?

Josiah and I wanted to find a city to call home that had a warm, small town vibe with plenty of nature surrounding it, full of locals with a love of food and drink, and even seasons (you can only do the 8 month winter of Chicago so long!).  Asheville seemed like the perfect fit.  We were newly married, searching for a way to make our restaurant dream a reality, and although it took a different route than expected from busking to food truck to finally Vivian, we could tell from day one that Asheville was the place to make our dreams work.