Life in food service often starts on the ground floor. This was no different for Clark Barlowe who began his career as a professional dishwasher in 2003. Five years later, with a lot of hard work and perseverance, he moved up the ladder. Barlowe cooked twice at the #1 Restaurant in the World (3 Michelin starred) El Bulli. Since then, he has cooked at The French Laundry, been influenced by Matt Gennuoso at Chez Pascal in Providence, RI, and Clydes Restaurant Group in Washington, DC. You can say Clark Barlowe has run the gambit in food service; however, he has returned to his North Carolina roots with the desire to bring Charlotte’s food scene to the next level.
Growing up in Lenoir, NC, Barlowe was inspired to become a chef after his first job in high school left [him] with a thirst for more knowledge. With JWU opening in Charlotte that year, it was a serendipitous set of circumstances that started me on my path to becoming a chef. For six years, he traveled working in the food industry as a chef. Now with his return and the opening of the Heirloom Restaurant, Barlowe hopes to re-educate the public with respect to sustainable living and the whole animal. Focusing on the whole animal makes the Heirloom Restaurant unique. I personally love butchery of fish or land based whole animals. Its a challenge and forces us to be creative as chefs to create a more sustainable model moving forward. Our current food system is unsustainable, and we will need to focus more on whole animals in the future if we as a society want to progress.
Some of us grew up on stories told by our grandparents of life away from the big city when families lived off the land, growing crops and canning for winter, raising cows, butchering hogs for meat and salted pork. Milking and churning butter, raising chickens, and collecting eggs each morning was a daily chore performed by mom and children. Grandma made fresh apple pie with apples picked from the orchard and homemade strawberry preserves were made from berries growing outside the kitchen door. Homemade honey might be served with buttermilk biscuits due to Grandpas beekeeping skills, but these days are only memories long gone, or are they? With the new sustainable movement exploding on the horizon and chefs like Clark Barlowe, the days of fast food eating is lessening.
With that said, the Heirloom Restaurant is unique. The products we serve, says Barlowe, focus on the whole animal. We only source from North Carolina which separates us from other restaurants nation or worldwide. Because the menu is based on the local ingredients including beer, wine, and liquor from NC, it changes daily. Each evening, the kitchen team collectively writes the next days menu. It’s based on what our farmers are harvesting. “I love duck preparations and the fresh fish, but we are fortunate to have such amazing farmers and producers in NC. Its a constant inspiration and motivator as a chef,” says Barlowe. A typical day for Barlowe consists of writing the menu, meetings with several farmers, daily prep, and preservation of ingredients. Kitchen cleaning, family meal with staff, dinner service, more cleaning, plus a post dinner culinary meeting makes for a very long day. The hours of which fluctuate between 12 to 16 hour days.
With the new breed of chefs rising up in Charlotte, the citys idea about eating is changing. Barlowe feels the food scene that once was stagnant is no longer true. Corporate restaurants are finding themselves competing with local restaurateurs and chefs who believe very strongly in the sustainable movement and mantra: buy local; support local; eat local.
As a chef, Barlowe has traveled extensively working with photographers and videographers. “I have met truly amazing people. That wouldn’t have been possible in many other careers,” he says. ”Also my relationship with my farmers is truly a blessing.” Barlowe believes that to be a great chef, you must focus on the product and have tremendous respect for it. “If you have that everything else will fall into line. For Barlowe, its all about loving the ingredients and the stories they tell.” For further information on Heirloom visit their website at www.heirloomrestaurantnc.com.