Owner/head chef of The Chef’s Table in downtown Waynesville, Monroe has created for his customers an atmosphere of incredible food, flair, family and friends. Originally from Fairview, Monroe fell into the food industry by helping his father run the family diner in Asheville. From there, he went to culinary school at AB-Tech and worked in a variety of area kitchens, most notably at the four-star Richmond Hill Inn.
Then one day, Monroe found himself strolling down Church Street in Waynesville en route to a job interview at another restaurant. He was wearing his chef outfit to the interview and was stopped by Richard Miller, the previous owner of The Chef’s Table.
“He was looking for a chef and offered me a job right on the spot,” Monroe reminisced with a smile. “So, I became the chef, and three years later, in 2009, I bought the place.”
With the styles and flavors of Italy as the platform, Monroe has taken his love of fine food to the highest levels possible, even beyond farm-to-table.
“It’s seed-to-table here,” he grinned. “There’s nothing better for a chef to put on the plate than something just picked.”
You see, Monroe also owns and operates a 12-acre organic farm in nearby Canton. It’s a farm homestead that he and his family brought back to life, back to what the original agricultural landscape of Haywood County resembled. Alongside his goats and chickens, he grows his own mushrooms, squash, corn and beans, among other produce. This spring, he also planted 100 blueberry bushes.
“It’s a really nice thing to have a customer ask you where an ingredient came from and you know exactly where in your field it was picked from,” he said. “And for me, I love being able to learn about the nuances of the ingredients — the weather conditions involved, the seasons, knowing what to grow and the timing of when to pick it.”
If there is an ingredient that he needs but doesn’t grow himself, Monroe utilizes many of the local farmer’s markets and other organic farms around Western North Carolina. For Monroe, it’s about supporting those who support you.
“Waynesville is such a beautiful place, and it’s still growing, especially with all its natural beauty and opportunities to succeed,” he said. “This is still a farming community and I love that there’s still so much of that old knowledge of farming here in Haywood County, where you can learn from other farmers and old-timers on just what you need to do to succeed.”