Chef Clark Barlowe is a seventh generation North Carolinian; hailing from Lenoir. His roots run deep in the connection to food and cuisine of this wondrous state. Chef Clark recalls memories of his grandmothers cooking and recipes from growing up that find their way into the kitchen of his restaurant, Heirloom. Chef Clark says one of the coolest things now is showing different techniques he learned when harvesting ingredients to his cooks who may not have had the same exposure growing up.
Chef Clark attended culinary school in Uptown Charlotte and soon made his way to Chez Pascal’s kitchen in Rhode Island, The French Laundry in California, El Bulli in Spain and many other notable culinary ranks. Chef Clark always had the intentions to open his first restaurant before he turned 30, but the concept evolved from wanting to do a tapas style Spanish restaurant into the North Carolina driven restaurant he eventually opened, Heirloom. The name alone is simple and memorable; the food straight forward, yet thought provoking.
Chef Clark takes sustainable and local food to another level. Everything (except the olive oil from Georgia) at Heirloom is from North Carolina. All ingredients are utilized to their fullest; from top to bottom to reduce waste and increase flavor. When many restaurants are using the buzzwords of local and sustainable, Heirloom takes this task to heart. Chef Clark and his staff not only create phenomenal dishes from North Carolina’s bounty of ingredients; they are well versed in each ingredient since they have intimate relationships with the farmers who grow and produce these items. Each day at family meal, Chef Clark gives the rundown of the menu including vivid descriptions of each ingredient and the names of the farms that provided the goods.
Chef Clark’s respect for the farmers is evident, with each ingredient on the menu preceded by the name of the farm that grew and harvested the items. Chef Clark says he looks forward to Saturday mornings at the farmers’ market when he can see what unique and exotic items the farmers have that week. He loves the relationships he’s built with the farmers and is able to highlight to the diners over at Heirloom.
Chef Clark draws inspiration from the seed catalogues each season. He says, “Nothing gets me more excited than looking through the catalogue to see what we can grow, and, in turn, use in the restaurant.” Chef Clark and his brigade show great respect to each ingredient, using every part of it. He continues, “We hear from other restaurants and chefs that we source better than anyone else. I agree; we work hard to maintain those relationships and do our best to honor the ingredients.”
Heirloom Restaurant consists of many ways for diners to partake in the North Carolina cuisine. The tasting menu offered includes 3, 5, 7, 9 or 12 courses where you can choose to dine alone or split it with another person. Diners are also able to order a single course, too. However, Heirloom’s locally sourced and globally inspired cuisine can best shine and be appreciated in their tasting menu format. Chef Clark says the next year will also bring the development of an A La Carte menu. This menu will include traditional, static favorites that will help the restaurant move forward to include the crowd pleasers. Chef Clark says, “We’re still in a largely blue collar area. We want to create this menu so that it’s approachable and recognizable to diners who may not be familiar with a tasting menu. Having A La Carte options hopefully will bring them in and gain exposure to the tasting menu, and maybe encourage them to try the tasting menu the next time.”
Chef Clark wishes to convey to diners that each dinner is unique and different, meant to capture a feeling and at a specific time and place. “I ask my chefs to really observe their surroundings. How did they feel that day? What did they notice in their environment? We then draw upon those inspirations to make the menu. I hope this translates over into the meal for the guests to enjoy and relate to.”
Chef Clark’s Heirloom is not one to be missed. Not only is the food delectable, they embody and practice what it means to be a sustainably sourced restaurant. We’re fortunate to kick off our first Charlotte Food Adventure with Chef Clark at Heirloom Restaurant on October 25th at 7pm. Come and see what inventive dishes Chef Clark and his team are serving up. Tickets are available over on our events page.
Photos courtesy of Chef Clark and Heirloom.
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 @