Meet Kaley Laird: Harvest Wine & Food Festival Celebrity Chef

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“My most proud accomplishments are those that have worked under me growing and are succeeding now on their own.”

Meet the talented Chef Kaley Laird of Asheville’s famous The Rhu, Rhubarb, and Benne on Eagle. You can chat with Chef Kaley and try some of her incredible pastries at the Al Fresco Reserve Tasting and Grand Tasting at Harvest Wine & Food Festival this October! 

What’s your most unique trait as a chef? I have the niche and unfortunate curse of being a pastry chef that is gluten free/dairy free, and I don’t often crave sugar. My most prominent trait is my use of savory and interesting ingredients and my plating style. I utilize ingredients that not many people think to use in pastry and usually cook and process in a way that is also not typical to pastry. I have a very organic style of food, and I think that shows in my plating as well. Although if you ask my staff, they'd say my insistence on not using recipes and timers is my most prominent trait. 

When did you know you wanted to be a chef? I can't say that it was ever something I "wanted" to do. I want to do a lot of things and still ponder what else could I be good at. I've always had an endless list of ideas and possibilities, but at some point in my teenage years, this is what I decide I was going to do. I am indecisive with a lot of things, but when I know, I know. Sometime around high school I really started going after it, and I haven't quit yet. 

What is the one ingredient you can’t live without? Obviously salt! And sherry vinegar. It may seem typical and cliché, but the running joke is that if you ask me what I think, my answer will always be "Needs more salt." No, I do not like salt or want the taste of it to overpower any piece of food, but people forget how these staples elevate our food when used in the correct way and amount. 

What’s your favorite wine pairing? Wine paired with more wine. I don't really have a favorite pairing. Yes, I enjoy some foods elevated by a beverage, but I often keep them separate. I prefer whiskey, and I prefer to drink a drink just because I enjoy that drink and eat food just because I want to enjoy that food. I'm not a "this red wine will go so well with this steak.” I do love a nice glass of a dessert wine in place of my dessert as a whole. Dessert wines can be a beautiful thing. 

What are you most proud of accomplishing throughout your career? I don't yet feel accomplished, and I still feel that I have a long way to go. My most proud accomplishments are those that have worked under me growing and are succeeding now on their own. This career has gifted me the ability to meet and work with so many people. Some come and go. Some only see life their way and forever leave with a chip on their shoulder while some flourish and ideally become better than myself and all those that have taught them. I have a few assistants that I remain in contact with and am very happy and excited about who they have become. 

Harvest WIne & Food Festival returns to WaterColor October 24-26. You can meet Kaley and try her incredible treats during the festival's Al Fresco Reserve Tasting on Friday night and the Grand Tasting on Saturday. 

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Published on Tuesday, September 17, 2019