Chef Spotlight – Chef Eric Gephart at Kamado Grille

Kamado Grille opened up in May 2015 at the corner of Spring Forest Road and Falls of Neuse Road in North Raleigh.  Albeit a young restaurant, Kamado Grille is already generating a buzz for its cooking style of bringing the flavors of the outdoors inside.  This North Raleigh location is the first of its kind and was developed by the founders of PDQ.  Aside from fresh salads and a few accoutrements, all items are cooked on Kamado Joe Grills located inside the restaurant.  The amazing thing about this is the delicious, smoky, barbeque flavor is imparted into the food, not your clothes.  Kamado Joe Grills are large ceramic grills that offer the versatility to grill, smoke, and sear meats that impart smoky flavor while keeping meat juicy.  These workhorses create serious flavor in all the food coming out of Kamado Grille’s kitchen.  With over 10 Kamado Joe Grills in house, they also produce a large volume of food.  The attention to detail at Kamado Grille is evident down to the designation of separate grills for separate proteins in order to accommodate for a wide variety of dietary restrictions.

Kamado Grille Grills

Kamado Grille Grills

As Chief Culinary Officer, Chef Eric Gephart has been spearheading the development of culinary creations coming out of Kamado Grille’s kitchen since before its inception.  Chef Eric is a local North Carolinian, hailing from the town of Hillsborough.  He attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and majored in literature.  Working in restaurants while attending school, Chef Eric developed an interest and a passion for cooking.  He found the kitchen environment was suitable for his high energy personality, and vice versa.

After graduating from UNC Wilmington, Chef Eric continued his pursuit of culinary education at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.  Post grad, he migrated back down south.  Chef Eric opened and operated two separate restaurants at varying times along the eastern North Carolina coast.  He also racked up several Top Chef of Wilmington awards from 2008-2010.  Before moving back to the Raleigh area, Chef Eric spent time in distinguished kitchens from New York City to New Zealand to Naples, Florida.  His education and extensive experience eventually lead to an opportunity for him to help open The Chef’s Academy in Morrisville.  This has quickly grown to be a notable culinary school in the Triangle, offering education to those wishing to pursue a career in the culinary arts or pastry arts fields.

Chef Eric (Photo courtesy of Kamado Grille)

Chef Eric Gephart (Photo courtesy of Kamado Grille)

In addition to his many culinary awards and accomplishments, the theme consistent with Chef Eric is his passion for culinary education and community involvement.  Chef Eric finds himself “constantly inspired” with his style of cooking and menu ideas.  He has spent years developing and maintaining relationships with farmers and local North Carolina purveyors to help further the variety of menu offerings.  Chef Eric reiterates the importance of “building partnerships to ensure quality” of the ingredients used in Kamado Grille’s kitchen.  He believes this concept is part of Kamado Grille’s company culture as well as his personal philosophy.

Kamado Grille - Kitchen Tour

Kamado Grille – Kitchen Tour

Chef Eric and his culinary team teach free cooking classes every Saturday morning at 10 o’clock at Kamado Grille.  Items cooked vary from week to week, but the emphasis is put on how to learn to cook using the Kamado Joe style grill.  Chef Eric’s passion for cooking and educating the attendees is apparent with his detailed and informative, yet laid back teaching style.  His dynamic teaching style is what he likes to call “edutain,” which is the perfect combination of educating and entertaining.  His boisterous voice carries through the audience with a sense of confidence that can only be developed through years of experience teaching.  Although Chef Eric uses science terminology to describe how the food is cooking on a molecular level, no one gets lost listening to him because he translates and makes it relatable so everyone knows exactly what he is talking about.  It’s clear that Chef Eric has put great time and effort into making sure the classes are this way through conscious effort.

Kamado Grille - Spark Up

Kamado Grille – Spark Up

After the class, Chef Eric led a guided tour of the kitchen.  Getting a sneak peek behind closed doors in a kitchen can be quite rare, but Kamado Grille is sticking with its transparency to both team members and diners alike.  They even gladly share all recipes for their menu items, having recipes available to the Saturday class attendees.  This is unheard of in a restaurant, as most places guard their recipes like a treasured family heirloom.  Chef Eric says this goes back to their founding principles in believing people have a connection to food.  Giving them the recipes are just one of many tools they can use to cook on their own, which is an incredibly empowering deed.

Akin to Kamado Grille’s founding principles, Chef Eric sees employees as team members who have to find significance from one another by building each other up to become the best at what they do.  Chef Eric considers what they’re doing in the kitchen a small step in the direction of becoming a bigger platform to reach out and help other people within the Kamado Grille family and within the local community.  Despite its young age, Kamado Grille has already made leaps and bounds in beginning and sustaining strong connections with several farmers in the region, as well as local community members.

Kamado Grille

Kamado Grille

Chef Eric Gephart and the Kamado Grille team are already starting off on the right foot with making delicious food from quality, consciously sourced ingredients.  Chef Eric is a true “edutainer” and culinarian with a charismatic personality that transcends through his food.

Tessa Nguyen is a chef and registered dietitian working in the Triangle area. She is an alumna of Johnson & Wales University and Meredith College. When Tessa isn’t traveling and discovering new food spots, she teaches culinary nutrition cooking classes at Duke and works as a consultant in the health and wellness industry. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @ChefTessaRD.

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