With a temperate climate conducive for long growing seasons, providing an abundance of locally grown produce for home kitchens and restaurants, Asheville is a place where foodies are born, and where visiting foodies stop by for a bite and never leave. Like Sommer Collier from Oklahoma. She planted her feet in Asheville – and a futile vegetable garden – and never left.
What started as teaching ‘Confidence in the Kitchen’ to many aspiring home cooks in Asheville, led to Sommer discovering the world of food blogging, where she now shares A Spicy Perspective on her cooking, life in Asheville, and travels around the globe.
"I love cooking things that bring back happy memories, and foods from places I’ve traveled." Through her experiences in China, Thailand, India, Cameroon, Liberia, Central America, and Europe, Sommer’s kitchen is always evolving. “I’ve learned simple yet important things, like the art of layering spices over time in Indian cooking, and wok cooking over ultra high heat.”
While featuring recipes straight from her travels like Classic Thai Fried Rice and Vietnamese Banh Mi Sandwich, Sommer also creates fusion recipes as a way to introduce new flavors and spices to her readers; to encourage everyone to explore the world through their kitchen. Lemongrass flavored shortbread cookies. Grilled chicken breasts with Indian spices.
“It’s easy to get comfortable with what you know, and never allow your horizons to be broadened. One of my favorite parts of teaching ‘Confidence In the Kitchen’ class, is hearing a person say they enjoyed a dish we’ve cooked–something they previously believed to be inedible. I have secretly made it my quest to ‘help’ others expand their taste buds, to overcome their stigmas about food. My husband would tell you that I have ‘helped’ him overcome his dislike of fish, fennel, citrus desserts and maple syrup, to name a few. Of course, I was ‘helping’ him against his will, in most cases, but my attempts paid off!”
As much as Sommer looks out to the world for new ideas, she always returns home. An advocate of locally sourced ingredients, you can find her picking strawberries, blueberries, and heirloom apples at local orchards with her two kids, and visiting local farms to source free-range meats, specialty peppers and fresh goat cheese. And right in her backyard, where she grows herbs like lemongrass and – the one she cannot live without – lavender.
But as the name implies, a Foodtopian Society is more than food; it’s about community. Behind every local ingredient, there is a farmer or gardener. And behind every dish, there is a cook. You will find many Asheville faces on A Spicy Perspective like the cooks and owners of The Gourmet Chip Company, HomeGrown, Curate Tapas Bar, Okie Dokies Smokehouse, and Chai Pani - an Indian restaurant in Asheville that mixes street food with home-cooked dishes from all over India.
“Featuring local food businesses has definitely taught me to not be afraid to ask questions. When people are passionate about something – they are generally happy to discuss it! Many great friendships have developed from these articles.”
And through these relationships, A Spicy Perspective has become more than a place to feature Asheville; it has become a part of the Asheville community itself. A Spicy Perspective represents everything that is great about Asheville. And why Sommer represents her home on the New Spice Route.
Thank you, Sommer, for stopping by Season with Spice for a chat. One last question before we go: Who has more 'Confidence in the Kitchen' - your husband or your kids?
“Ha! My kids. They are always willing to help with and taste just about anything. My hubby is actually quite a good cook, but would tell you he has no need to do it since he has me. ;)”
In addition to reading through Sommer’s recipes and stories online at A Spicy Perspective, you can now hear Sommer on her new radio program at Asheville FM on Thursday mornings providing her insights, tips and tricks, plus a new recipe each week. Is TV next for Sommer? “No, I’m not trying to be a TV food star; I’m just a girl who loves to help others enjoy their time in the kitchen.”
Images courtesy of Sommer Collier at A Spicy Perspective