I first learned about chef Andrea Reusing in 2002, back when I was frying catfish at 42nd St. Oyster Bar in Raleigh. "Have you heard about the woman in Chapel Hill smoking chicken over tea?" the line cook, freshly paroled from Central Prison, asked me. I had not. In my 22-year-old innocence, tea was something you drank and chicken was something you fried.
News of this rogue chicken smoker and her restaurant, Lantern, spread in a remarkable way. "I was once a guest of the Rockefeller Foundation on Lake Como in Italy," recalls novelist Allan Gurganus, author of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. "They seated me between two Nobel laureates in science. One rotely asked where I was from. 'Chapel Hill,' I said. His reply put me right at home. 'Oh, yes. Lantern.' "