From sweet corn to cornbread and collards to cracklins, Vivian Howard’s PBS TV show, “A Chef’s Life,” brought the delicacies of the South to life and made the Kinston chef a star.
After five seasons, the Emmy- and Peabody-winning show will end this month with a one-hour finale. The “Harvest Special,” airing Monday, Oct. 22, looks back on the five years of the show, the cast of Lenoir County characters woven into the episodes and a couple more iconic ingredients overlooked until now: chow chow and paw paws.
With any retrospective, there’s the passage of time: Howard’s husband, Ben Knight’s graying hair; their twins Flo and Theo growing up; the progression of Howard cooking nightly at Chef & the Farmer to opening two other restaurants; and building a television career.
This summer, Howard and Durham-based Markay Media announced last year’s fifth season would be the show’s last, but promised a proper send-off with the Harvest Special. In it, scene-stealers Lillie Hardy and Warren Brothers, who often cook with Howard or provide her ingredients, get one last walk through the garden.
It all builds to a final meal at a long table in a dusty dry cornfield, gathering just about every regular since the show began in 2013.
A viewing party of the final episode will be in Kinston’s Grainger Stadium, Sunday, Oct. 21, the night before the national premiere. Howard, director Cynthia Hill and other members of the crew will hold a panel discussion before the viewing. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at woodducksbaseball.com.
The News & Observer is giving away two tickets to the finale viewing party. The contest is currently open and closes Friday, Oct. 19 at noon. Click here to enter, giving your name, phone number and email address. Winners will be notified Oct. 19.
The finale will air at 9 p.m. on UNC-TV. The entire series can be streamed for free through Nov. 30 on PBS Digital.
Howard and Markay Media are developing another series that could air in 2019. This summer, they announced they’re developing six hour-long episodes for PBS, with Howard showcasing the foods and traditions that cross and connect cultures. The show doesn’t have a title, nor an air date.
Hurricane Florence benefit
Meanwhile, Howard has participated in a number of benefit dinners raising money for victims of Hurricane Florence or relief organizations. Much of Eastern North Carolina, Howard’s home, experienced devastating damage.
She is selling a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Country as Cornbread” to raise money for flood victims of Jones County, next door to Lenoir County where she lives. The shirts are $25. Donations go to the North Carolina Community Foundation’s disaster relief fund and are earmarked for Jones County.
Since they went on sale Sunday, more than 2,000 shirts have been sold. The shirts will be on sale until Oct. 31 at vivianhoward.com/products/country-as-cornbread.