Q&A with New Executive Chef at Highland Lake

New Season’s chef Steve Boeger does the farm-to-fork thing with deep pizazz.                               Photo by Tim Robison.

Steve Boeger’s job description is typed on a piece of paper that hangs above his office computer. It says nothing about wandering the garden looking for inspiration, but that’s what the new executive chef at Season’s at Highland Lake in Flat Rock sometimes does. On the inn property is a half-acre plot of dirt currently bursting with basil, rosemary, oregano, three types of beets, seven or eight varieties of tomatoes, and much more. “Right now I’m out in the garden about twice a week looking at things,” says Boeger. “My mind starts churning with different ideas, different flavors, different presentations.”

A first-generation American, Boeger grew up in Connecticut with his brother and German-born mother and grandparents. When his grandparents retired to Weaverville, Boeger’s family came too. He studied at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and has cooked in Asheville and Philadelphia since his twenties. Boeger recently took the position at Season’s and logs long days cooking, planning menus, and training his staff to follow his culinary approach.

“My philosophy with food is kind of like with the people I work with — if I’m showing my people the same love I’m showing my food, it’s a lot easier to get a great product out there.”

He shared a little love with Bold Life, taking a break from his busy schedule to answer a few questions.

What’s your style?

It’s farm to fork. It’s modernist. It’s simplistic. It’s electric fusion. On my menu you’ll see fusion from all over the world. You’ll see fusion in every one of my dishes. My style is not just based on Southern food, although that’s the ingredients I have to work with, so you’ll see some Southern flavors that are coming out. I’m all over the place with food and flavor and textures these days.

Why did you become a chef?

The funny thing is, when I started, it wasn’t in my mind to be a chef one day. It was the rock-and-roll lifestyle of the kitchen. You’d have beers when you are 20, you could smoke cigarettes and stay up all night. I was spinning records in nightclubs, so it fit my lifestyle. But thinking back, like the way I was raised by my grandparents, food was so important to them. Every time my grandfather went home to Germany he’d take an extra suitcase to bring pretzels back. They got all of their meats from the German butcher in Connecticut shipped down here. They’d spend more money on food than anything else. It was important. The love in my family with food drew me into cooking.

If you can make one dish for yourself at home, what would it be?

I like throwing down a pizza. I like making the dough. I like cooking Thai food or a good pasta. But I’m not at home that much since I started here.

Do you watch cooking shows and learn from them?

I used to, when I first started cooking. I’m 38 now, so probably when I was 20. They were great back then. Like how MTV was great back then. I like to watch Top Chef now. I feel like everyone on there is innovative and very current, so that’s a good way to stay current. Now I just do a lot of reading and research.

How many cookbooks do you own?

No one has ever asked me that before. It’s bad when you go to a store and see them and you don’t even tell your fiancée that you bought another. … I have a few hundred. I’ll buy one, get stuff out of it, and then give it to someone.

Season’s at Highland Lake Inn (86 Lily Pad Lane, Flat Rock, NC) is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Call 828-696-9094 or visit hlinn.com/seasons for more information or to make a reservation.

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