Located at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro—part of the Oldham Hospitality family—brings the mountain air and southern flare into the lodge and onto the plates of locals and tourists. Chef Jeff Carter, who has been crafting distinctive meals for Knoxville residents for nearly three decades, sits at the culinary helm of this Townsend favorite.
Carter’s original foray into Dancing Bear’s kitchen was back in 2006 as the restaurant’s original chef. After leaving his mark on kitchens across the region over the course of the next decade-and-a-half, Carter found his way back to his roots, rejoining the Dancing Bear team as Executive Chef last year. The cuisine Carter creates is authentic to Appalachia. “I love this area,” he says. “This restaurant has a special place in my heart.”
Inside his family kitchen in Mobile, Alabama, a young Carter found inspiration from his dad. “He loved to cook and thankfully took time to teach me,” Carter says. “He got off work earlier than my mom and we spent afternoons cooking together.” Those moments in the kitchen—crafting dishes with a cultural flair—helped shape his future career path.
Today, a long-time competitor in Top Chefs, he is no stranger to creating culture-inspired, mouthwatering dishes that appeal to all palettes. He enjoys using rustic ingredients and bringing genuine Appalachian fare to guests, just like he did those first three years in Dancing Bear’s kitchen. Only now he brings the skills and prowess of a long career in kitchens across East Tennessee with him.
Carter has now been a chef for 26 years and doesn’t seem to be planning to stop anytime soon. His fruitful career has expanded his love for his craft, and his passion for food and flavor is unending.
Butter poached gulf prawns, fingerling potato “salad”, fermented chili aioli, watercress, preserved lemon, and dried heirloom tomatoes. Paired with a 2019 Anselmi San Vincenzo, Italy.
3rd Place Winner
Peppercorn crusted ribeye filet, smoked salsify puree, fava bean, cippolini onion, local mushroom ragout, and thyme jus. Paired with a 2018 J. L. Chave Silene, France.