Meet the owner of Heirloom restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Chef Clark Barlowe is a North Carolina native who attended Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte.
His resume includes stints at some of the world’s top restaurants, including The French Laundry, in Napa, Calif., and El Bulli, in Spain, as well as Chez Pascal, in Providence, R.I., and Clyde’s Restaurant Group, in Washington, DC.
How long have you lived and worked in Charlotte?
In 2005 I came to Johnson & Wales University to earn an Associate’s degree and I also worked at Mama Ricotta’s Restaurant on South King’s Drive; I was working the pizza station and then grill station. [After earning my Associate’s degree in Charlotte, I moved to Rhode Island to get my Bachelor’s, and then worked in several different kitchens around the world.] I moved back to Charlotte in 2013 and focused on opening Heirloom.
What’s your take on the current dining scene in Charlotte?
I think it’s very exciting right now. We’ve got great restaurants opening up that are doing really exciting things. From 2005 to 2007 it was sort of stagnant with more of a corporate dining scene but now there are more independent restaurants focused on local ingredients.
What do you consider to be some of the great restaurants in Charlotte?
Passion8, Heritage Food & Drink, and Block & Grinder. All great chefs.
What’s next for Charlotte’s food scene?
It’s difficult to say. It’s looking like it’s going to be a lot more independent restaurants opening up, more focus on local products. We’re hoping to make ‘local’ the rule more than the exception.
What are some of the best local ingredients?
There’s everything. There’s not a lot we can’t get. I really particularly enjoy working with duck from Harmony Ridge Farms, it’s a fantastic product. And vegetables from Jamie Swafford’s farm. Those are two favorites though it’s hard to pick because there’s so much that’s great.
How would you describe “Charlotte cuisine”?
I think right now Charlotte is still looking to define its cuisine. For so long it was corporate steak houses but now we’re at a crossroads and looking to see whether local is the rule rather than the exception or if we’ll fall back into a corporate dining scene. I’m excited to be a part of the push to make it local and I think that’s where it’s headed.
Tell us more about Heirloom.
Everything comes from North Carolina farms and producers. The menu changes daily. All the liquor is 100 percent North Carolina spirits, the wine is 100 percent North Carolina wine, and the beer is 100 percent North Carolina beer—the beer is almost 100 percent from Charlotte, though we have a brewer from Morganton and another from Raleigh.
We offer a 12 course tasting menu every day, though guests can order 3, 5, 7, 9 or 12 courses and can also order a la carte.
Was this approach something you considered missing from Charlotte’s dining options?
It’s sort of the evolution of everything I’ve done in my career. I’ve seen a lot of tasting menus—it’s mostly what I’ve worked with—and I wanted to make one that is approachable for everyone. Twelve courses may not appeal to the average person who walks in off the street, but here they can still order one, three or whatever number of courses. We don’t have limits or requirements.
8470 Bellhaven Blvd.
Charlotte NC 28216
– Photo courtesy Heirloom