Rayen Studios Photography
Location: Highlands, NC
Why He's Amazing: Because he's serving technique-driven modern cuisine inspired by traditional Southern cooking in a tiny North Carolina town.
Culinary School: Self-taught
Background: Five & Ten (Athens, GA), Miller Union (Atlanta), Market Place (Asheville, NC)
Quintessential Dish: Pork belly with rice, grits, spicy okra and sorghum
How He Learned to Cook: "When I was really little, I learned from my grandmothers. At 14, I started working in barbecue restaurants, mom-and-pop places. It was the only thing I was interested in and really good at. In 2005 I decided to make the leap to Five & Ten and do the higher-end stuff."
Knife Brand of Choice: Fujiwara, a Japanese company that made swords before it made kitchen knives.
TV Moment: In 2008, he appeared on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, making a "nose-to-tail rabbit dish with mushrooms native to Appalachia." And in 2011, he appeared on the Food Network's cooking competition Chopped—and won.