Former Chef & the Farmer sous chef moves from Durham’s The Boot to Piedmont

Chef John May will take over the kitchen at Piedmont restaurant in Durham starting Aug. 1.
Chef John May will take over the kitchen at Piedmont restaurant in Durham starting Aug. 1. Courtesy of A Chef’s Life

John May, a former sous chef at The Chef & The Farmer in Kinston, will take over the kitchen at Piedmont restaurant in Durham, starting Aug. 1.

May, who is familiar to fans of the critically-acclaimed PBS show, “A Chef’s Life,” left Kinston for Durham earlier this year when he became executive chef at The Boot in Durham. After four months, May said it became clear that it wasn’t a good fit; his take on seasonal Italian food was a bit more high end than the owners, chefs Andy Magowan and Andy Perno, wanted for the family-friendly restaurant. About the amicable split, May said, “It just made sense that we parted ways.”

May said he was looking forward to working at Piedmont, a seasonal farm-to-table restaurant that is owned by farmers Jamie DeMent and Richard Holcomb of the Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough. The farm provides much of the meat and produce served at the downtown Durham restaurant.

May said he was excited about the opportunity at Piedmont to work closely with the farm manager to help decide what is planted each season. “That’s really exciting for me because I can have whatever I want on a plate,” May said.

The move to Piedmont seems more in line with the food May was cooking at Chef & The Farmer in Kinston, which serves seasonal Southern food in a fine dining setting. At Chef & The Farmer, May worked alongside chef Vivian Howard for two-and-a-half years. Fans of Howard’s show will recognize him for kitchen scenes at the restaurant. The show chronicles Howard’s life as a wife, mother and entrepreneur and celebrates the foodways of Eastern North Carolina. The show has won daytime Emmy and Peabody awards; and Howard won a James Beard award for outstanding television personality this spring.

Piedmont’s current chef, Greg Gettles, is moving to Charleston, S.C. He will finish out Triangle Restaurant Week at Piedmont, which ends June 12.

“We salute chef Gettles for his work, further establishing Piedmont as a destination for locals and travelers alike who value an exceptional farm-to-fork dining experience,” said Piedmont’s general manager Crawford Leavoy. (Piedmont fans will be happy to know Leavoy is not going anywhere; if you haven’t already, you should read this excellent profile of him from the Indy.)

In the interim, chef de cuisine Lorenzo Leon-Guerrero, who has been with Piedmont for two years, will serve as chef. The restaurant will announce a series of special dinners featuring May this summer. Follow May on Twitter and Instagram at @dogwoodjm.

Piedmont is at 401 Foster St., Durham, 919-683-1213,

Weigl: 919-829-4848;

Twitter: @andreaweigl