Tupelo Honey Cafe opened in 2000 as an eclectic café at 12 College Street in downtown Asheville, NC. Serving up a menu that offered delicious, scratch-made Southern comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the “Mothership” quickly became a go-to spot for locals and tourists alike. And with the support of a 12-acre organic farm, Sunshot Organics, which was privately operated by now Executive Chef Brian Sonoskus, Tupelo Honey also established itself as one of the first farm-to-table eateries in a city that has since become synonymous with the movement. There are now 11 locations throughout the Southeast, but walk into any one of those and you’re still certain to find fresh, delicious food and genuinely happy folks who are passionate about serving their customers and the greater community.
When we started working with Tupelo Honey, the cafe was only operating out of its two Asheville Locations. Tupelo was one of our first customers, so it’s been a pleasure to watch the company grow over the last few years. Especially considering Tupelo Honey has used its expanding resources to find more sustainable and higher quality ingredients for their restaurants. Recently, Dianna Kolb spoke with us about Tupelo’s recent growth, as well as their Recover Experience. Give it a read and check their list of locations to see if there is a Tupelo Honey near you!
Tupelo Honey was an early purveyor of Farm-to-Table dining in Asheville. Tell us about your farm, Sunshot Organics, and the role it plays in your operation.
Sunshot Organics was actually owned by the head chef Brian Sonoskus, and not Tupelo Honey Café directly. It was primarily a blueberry farm during Brian’s ownership and is the birthplace of our blueberry compote served with all of our complimentary biscuits. Brian loved the farm and being able to get his hands into the production of his ingredients…but he is a chef at heart! His focus on creating uniquely southern dishes pulled him away from the farm and in 2010 he sold it to a friend who still owns it under the new name Aardvark Farms. On occasion we will still get some of our ingredients straight from the farm like berries and tomatoes.
With Tupelo Honey’s recent expansion, has it been difficult to maintain your commitment to responsibly sourced food?
It is a balancing act and something that we are constantly striving to do better than we did the day before. We have systematically worked on eliminating products that do not fit our overall vision, and now have simpler foods with ingredients we can pronounce! Our two biggest champions have come in our Biscuits and Mac and Cheese, from the early days of Tupelo they were made with less than desirable ingredients…but now we have worked to serve them scratch made and responsibly sourced. Our burger and shrimp are other great examples of the higher quality ingredients we have moved to, with many more to come.
Hickory Nut Gap Farms and Annie’s Bakery are two vendors that have been able to grow with us. We have worked with them to ensure that they can deliver the product we need to our ever growing customer base, thus guaranteeing that we have the best quality foods in our restaurants.
How important was it for TH to find a sustainable merchandise partner?
Super important! Our jams and sauces are all made by local vendors in Asheville so it only seems fitting to have our other merchandise be made by a regional company who we are proud to work with for their professionalism as well as their good business practices.
What’s been your experience working with Recover?
Staff response was OVERWHELMING when we switched. Everyone has just loved the shirts! We appreciate their mission, local roots and that they are growing and working hard just like we are! From a strictly business sense, they are professional and they deliver: Every time, without fail.
Any surprises on the horizon?
Although we are constantly improving ourselves, there are going to be some big strides in our restaurant experience. Our customers love the funky mountain vibe that we provide around the south, and we are looking to create even more new southern traditions with things like fried chicken and champagne and a bluegrass music series. Not only that, but we’ll be opening in Atlanta in 2016 as well!