By Jennifer Fulford
Chris Sharpe has taken a knack for cooking and gardening and turned it into a busy farm-to-table enterprise, Eden Out.
He and a small crew prepare and deliver plant-based meals to homes in and around Asheville for a growing group of discerning eaters. Eden Out delivers “positively plant-powerful meals” by the hundreds each week.
“I’ve learned a lot about the reasons for being a vegan,” he says, standing in his commercial kitchen north of Asheville. Not that he didn’t already know about such a diet; he’s been a vegetarian since age 14 and vegan for the last few years.
Sharpe wears the dual hats of chef and farmer. Fresh produce—in some instances picked just hours prior to prep—is featured in each dish: cabbages for slaw, yams for stew, carrots for lentil loaf, cucumbers for salad. The food is harvested from Sharpe’s two-acre farm near the store and from R Farm, a neighboring farm in Weaverville. An emphasis is placed on local, organic and seasonal crops. Sharpe’s farming methods are vegan, too. No chickens, for instance.
“We don’t use any animal byproducts at all,” he says, which includes not killing bugs. “For me it’s always been about animals. I don’t feel like killing them.”
The menu of Eden Out focuses on variety and flavor. A mock turkey salad with Brazil nuts and cranberries hardly tastes much different than the real thing. Herbs are a key ingredient in most of the dishes, such as the beet and nectarine salad, chock-full of fennel.
Comfort food seems to be a favorite on the menu, which changes weekly. Orders are taken over the weekend, and meals are delivered or picked up on Tuesdays. Affordability is an important feature of the Eden Out philosophy. For around $100, diners enjoy two meals a day for a week. Delivery is free and extends from Waynesville to Black Mountain and Marshall to Brevard.
Integral to the operation are Dora and Keith Sharpe, who bought the business two years ago for Chris, who is their middle child. He and his girlfriend, Hannah Jeske, are farmers-in-chief.
“He has a crazy green thumb,” Dora Sharpe says. “I don’t know where he learns the information, but he knows how to turn a property into a full-fledged farm.”
The previous owner, chef William Najger, taught Chris Sharpe the ropes. But he already had an affinity for food. He started cooking as a teenager, volunteering in the cafeteria of an alternative high school he attended in Colorado and later during a wilderness program through the National Outdoor Leadership School. He was the head cook for 90 people on a backwoods expedition.
“It wasn’t vegan cooking,” he says, “but it taught me a lot about trusting your instincts and learning how food behaves and how to make it taste good even in harsh conditions.”
Harsh conditions aside now, Eden Out’s food is fresh, flavorfully dense and inventive. The added bonus is that it’s healthy.
For menus, pricing and order forms, visit eden-out.com or call 828.645.3336. Walk-ins are welcome in the kitchen at 148-C Weaverville Highway in Woodfin.
Jennifer M. Fulford is a journalist and novelist living in Candler who runs her own micro-press, Black Bomb Books.