The Appalachian Food Evangelist
Chef Dale Hawkins's new TV show spreads the good news about mountain cooking.
Photographed by Carla Witt Ford
Dale Hawkins first made a name for himself as executive chef at Stonewall Resort before becoming owner and operator of the celebrated Fish Hawk Acres farm in Rock Cave. He now runs the popular Fish Hawk Market in downtown Buckhannon and, in late 2016, made his debut as host of Appalachian Food Evangelist, a television show sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and the state Division of Tourism.
You can catch the show on West Virginia Public Broadcasting or on YouTube. The premiere of the five-episode inaugural season featured Charleston’s Capitol Market, JQ Dickinson Salt, and Pies & Pints. The second episode, a holiday special, centered around the General Adam Stephen House in Martinsburg.
We talked with Hawkins on the morning he was to tape the third episode, featuring his hometown of Buckhannon, about his philosophy for the show and what he hopes viewers will take away. “Appalachian Food Evangelist” on Facebook
“We’ve talked about doing a show for a long time. I’ve done TV work, but it was mostly three-minute vignettes when I was the chef at Stonewall. It took a few years to get the funding together and a concept. The focus of this series is specialty crops that are grown in West Virginia. Specialty crops, what is that? It’s anything that’s not a commodity. Even honey can be considered a specialty crop. And most everyone in West Virginia has access to that. I’d like to see everyday folks latch onto it and rediscover what food’s about.
I want viewers to know you don’t have to go out of your way to find really good, clean food—that it’s being grown right here in our state. The hope is that (Appalachian Food Evangelist) will convince people to shop locally for produce, for meat, and that they’ll spend more time in the kitchen cooking simple foods and come back around the table.
Food’s the one common thread we all have. Most of us live on our cellphones nowadays and we don’t take time to put them down and engage with people and enjoy food that’s not processed. When I was a child we took our meals at the table. Now, in 2017, it seems we have such a fast-paced lifestyle that we eat on the run.
I’ve studied food pretty much my entire life. And when you put that many years into food, it gives you a different context in which to talk about things. It’s easier for me to talk about not just how to cook it or preserve it, but how to grow it and why it’s important to our heritage.
My concept of Appalachian cuisine borrows from the past and mixes the present into it. It’s always nice to highlight home. This is where my roots are. And I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of traveling around the world and all over the U.S., bringing it back home and incorporating it into my repertoire.
I see the word ‘Appalachia’ coming up in all kinds of places. Twenty years ago, when people said ‘Appalachia,’ it had a negative connotation. People are embracing the culture and the food that goes with it.”