Mouthful

Zagat names Durham chef a ‘Southern chef to watch’

Chef John May, a Durham native, returned home in August to become chef of the Durham restaurant, Piedmont. Zagat, one of the authorities in food guides, has named him one of “9 Southern Chefs to Watch” this year.
Chef John May, a Durham native, returned home in August to become chef of the Durham restaurant, Piedmont. Zagat, one of the authorities in food guides, has named him one of “9 Southern Chefs to Watch” this year. PIEDMONT

Zagat, one of the authorities in restaurant guides, has named Piedmont restaurant’s executive chef one of “9 Southern Chefs to Watch” this year.

Chef John May, a Durham native, returned home in August to become chef of the Durham restaurant after a two-and-a-half year stint as a sous chef at Vivian Howard’s Kinston restaurant, Chef & the Farmer. He was featured on several episodes of Howard’s award-winning PBS series, “A Chef’s Life.”

The Zagat article comes after the 12th annual Charleston Wine + Food Festival, where critics sampled food by May and from several North Carolina chefs. They came up with the list of “nine pioneering chefs who you can expect big things from in the not-so-distant future.”

Here’s why he’s one to watch, according to writer Stephanie Burt: “His calm demeanor translates into the laidback vibe at Piedmont, an extension of Coon Rock Farm (owned by the same couple). May’s a big fan of chef’s tweezers and petite herbs and greens for garnishes, but there’s deep satisfaction for the diner in most dishes on the menu, especially the seafood, one of his passions, as well as veggie-forward offerings. His use of diverse produce, from muscadines to beets to broccoli rabe is particularly exciting to see on any Southern menu.”

May also has worked at The Boot in Durham and Weathervane at Chapel Hill’s A Southern Season.

Piedmont is owned by farmers Jamie DeMent and Richard Holcomb of Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough and makes the most of ingredients from the farm. Each month a seasonal staple is the star of a tasting menu while May has invited other chefs to join him for monthly “Seasons of the Sea” collaborations. April will toast chefs of the Southeast with a collaboration between May and Chef Karl Worley, known as the “Biscuit King” of Nashville.

Info: Piedmont is at 401 Foster St., Suite 401-B2, Durham. piedmontrestaurant.com

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