John Fleer, Executive Chef and owner of Asheville’s Rhubarb announces accomplished Pastry Chef Kaley Laird has joined the team, bringing her unique style and non-traditional culinary methods to the kitchen at the acclaimed restaurant.
“Kaley brings a unique perspective to the Rhubarb culinary team. Not only does she thrive on working with local products, but she has a playful spirit that loves to blur the lines between sweet and savory.”
At just 28 years old, the Rochester, N.Y.-area native boasts an impressive resume with more than 11 years of culinary experience. She comes to Asheville, N.C., from the San Francisco Bay Area, where she was most recently Executive Chef at Aveline, located in the historic Warwick Hotel. Following culinary school at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Kaley relocated to Napa to work at the prestigious Bouchon Bakery, where she was honored with the Core Award, which is bestowed upon the individual that best displays the CORE values of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. Kaley then joined the team at the Michelin Starred Ubuntu under the direction of Chef Aaron London, whose confidence in his chefs’ abilities allowed Kaley to experiment with incorporating savory flavors into her pastries. When Ubuntu closed, Kaley began working as Pastry Chef for the Plumpjack Group at The Carneros Inn’s FARM restaurant, where she was quickly promoted to Executive Pastry Chef. Kaley left The Carneros Inn in 2014 to open Aveline, where she rose through the ranks again from Pastry Chef to Executive Chef.
Staying true to her motto, “flavor first,” Laird focuses on flavor and taste, knowing that the rest will follow. ”I am excited to dig in and learn the food culture of Appalachia and the south. Asheville is an exciting area to come to and practice my craft. My goal here is to develop a modern, but comforting approach to dessert and pastry that is that is rooted in the abundance of the region, but at the same time excites the palate with interesting flavors.” In her two months in Asheville, as the pastry chef for Rhubarb and Chef Fleer’s newly opened bakery, café and pantry The Rhu, Laird has expanded both pastry programs to include an extensive list of gluten-free breads and pastries available for retail at The Rhu. Laird’s delicate balance between savory and sweet dishes include: rhubarb and rye, rhubarb layered rye cake, caraway ice cream, crispy honey and sweet potato toffee, burnt butter caramel, pecan granola, sweet potato pudding, sweet cream ice cream, rosemary. Laird plays on the classic cookie at The Rhu, with a fig rhuton, a brown butter shortbread crust filled with a rhubarb and fig jam.
Four-time James Beard Award nominee, Executive Chef John Fleer opened Rhubarb in October 2013, in the heart of Asheville, N.C.’s Pack Square. Chef John Fleer’s cuisine at Rhubarb pays homage to the region’s seasonal bounty and traditional American cooking while showcasing rotating menus based on available ingredients. A wood-fired oven and grill complement the rustic creations. The wine selection is composed of winemakers who use ecologically sustainable, organic and/or biodynamic practices to produce their wines and the cocktail culture pays tribute to the inventiveness of the early 20th century. Rhubarb is located at 7 SW Pack Square, Asheville, N.C., 28801, and is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and closed on Tuesday. Rhubarb’s R-Bar is open until midnight from Thursday through Saturday, with a limited menu. For reservations and more information please visit the website or call 828.785.1503.