Justin Burdett

Justin Burdett
Photo © Stephanie Butler/
Rayen Studios Photography

Restaurant: Ruka's Table (Read a review)

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 (/sites/default/files/thens, 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.