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Nathan Allen

Chef Nathan Allen
Photo © Emma Nash

Restaurant: Knife and Fork (Read a review)

Location: Spruce Pine, NC

Why He's Amazing: Because he moved from L.A. to a former mining town where he's serving creative, super-local food with a Provençal bent.

Culinary School: Johnson & Wales University (Providence)

Background: AOC, Restaurant at the Getty Center (Los Angeles)

Quintessential Dish: Braised rabbit loin with turnips, carrots, celery and hop syrup

What Led Him to Professional Cooking: "I was going to school for jazz composition at East Carolina University. I was cooking for all of my friends at such a rate that I was running up a huge credit card bill. My parents let me off the hook on the condition I would change career paths and enroll in culinary school."

On His Unique Purveyors: "I'm in love with my farmers. These crazy people basically abandon modern calls for complacent consumerism and embrace self-sufficiency. And they share."

Themed Dinners: In January 2013, Allen served a special dinner called The Secret Joy of Hidden Treasures, based on stuffed foods from around the world. Prepping for it, he wrapped more than 200 spicy trout wontons while listening to an audio book of 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami. It was a "Zen-like experience," he says.

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