Chef Talk: Oso’s Culinary Passport

Chef Oso Wallman.

Chef Oso Wallman.

Oso Wallman is a chef, a culinary wanderer, a teacher of world cuisine, an activist and a true Asheville character. Wallman is the culinary arts director for the LEAF festival and runs a company, Culinary Passport, which offers services that run the gamut from catering to portraiture. Oso recently took some time out of his day to answer some questions for Bold Life.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?To be at the door of “next,” opening it and having all I need show up to walk through it.

Which person, alive or dead, do you most admire? It’s a toss up. David Bowie and Jim Thorpe. Bowie for being a chameleon and Thorpe for overcoming huge obstacles.

What is your guiltiest pleasure? Doing nothing for long periods.

What is the quality you most like in a person?Courage.

What is the quality you least like in a person? Blindly following tradition.

Which talent would you most like to have?Music!

Which habit would you most like to be rid of? Trepidation — you’d think after all my moves and all the projects I’ve started I would have kicked this by now.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Committing my heart to my wife.

What is your biggest vice? Eating convenience store crap, I’m fascinated by convenience-store culture.

What is your favorite thing to do on a cold day? Put on a pot of beans and nudge them into velvety goodness over a 12-hour period.

What would you cook for the President? Tamales, chicken with mole poblano, maybe some migas — all comfort food that hits home for almost everyone I’ve made it for.

Who would you most like to have dinner with? Najmieh K. Batamanglij — a fabulous Persian chef. Persian cuisine is my newest passion.

What is your favorite culinary tool? My trusty Dexter Chinese veggie cleaver. It’s been by my side for 26 years now—it never let me down.

Who is your favorite chef? Locally, Reza Setayesh (of Rezaz). Abroad, Master Chef Dr. T. Publis Silva in Sri Lanka.

Who is your favorite writer? Umberto Eco. I love history!

Who are your heroes in real life? My wife, my great friend Jaime Walker and Maurice who lost his limbs in a freak accident and still showed up to help out everyday — God rest his soul or at least make copies.

What food could you not live without? Beans. It’s the first thing I learned to cook and I can always find a new way to make them.

How would you like to die? In the woods, far away next to a tree, take my last breath and get aspirated by the tree and have one final look at everything I’ve done, touched, felt, experienced and know that it was all for me.

How would you like to live? Pretty much like I’m living now, without pretense and useless traditions.

What is your motto? Everybody matters, every one counts.

To find out more about Oso Wallman, visit

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