hleigh Shanti has developed her brand of Black Appalachian food since coming into the culinary spotlight five years ago. As the former chef de cuisine at Benne on Eagle in Asheville, she introduced modern diners to dishes like buttermilk-cornbread soup (a recipe from her grandmother) and collard greens salad with fried plantains. Through extensive research and re-creation of her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother’s recipes, Shanti preserves the old flavors and foodways of Black Appalachia. In 2019, she was named one of “16 Black Chefs Changing Food in America” by The New York Times and an Eater “Young Gun.” This past year, the now-freelance chef competed on season 19 of Bravo’s Top Chef, and the excitement doesn’t end there.
On the phone this fall, Shanti and her fiancée are in Texas, scoping out wedding venues. She’s also in the process of opening her first restaurant in South Asheville (scheduled to open its doors in spring 2023). The brick-and-mortar space will be the latest evolution of her pop-up, Good Hot Fish. The concept embraces old-school community fish camps with “a focus on Appalachian-soul cuisine,” Shanti says.
The menu is a blend of old and new, with standbys like cornmeal-battered catfish sandwiches with sour collards and Old Bay aïoli alongside smoked trout melts with hot sauce and more Old Bay aïoli. The grounding ingredient across the menu, Shanti says, is Duke’s Mayonnaise.