Ayoka Lucas Was in the House
By Melanie McGee Bianchi
Photography by Zaire Kacz
Flashbulbs popped like heat lightning on November 3, when Low Country socialite Ayoka Lucas made a red-carpet appearance at MG Road on Wall Street, sponsored by Sonia Hendrix of SH+PR. (Hendrix’s newly branded fashion-and-lifestyle company specializes in event coordinating, media outreach, and product development, among other endeavors.)
The creator of Charleston Fashion Week, which she still oversees, Lucas recently became a freelance stylist. She has praised Asheville’s theatrical indie aesthetic, its close-knit camaraderie, its commitment to upcycled clothing, and its great vintage shops. (She also seems to be weighing the possibilities of an eventual Asheville Fashion Week.)
New AIR President Drives the Local Foodie Scene
By Carolyn Comeau
Photo by Matt Rose
Sherrye Coggiola is ready to swing open new doors as the first woman president of Asheville Independent Restaurants. AIR is a ten-year-old consortium of local dining establishments that promotes WNC farms and breweries and engages in food-centric philanthropic work.
“I’d like to effectively communicate the benefits of AIR membership,” says Coggiola, who will hold the volunteer position for one year. “Any [non-chain] Buncombe County restaurant is eligible to join. AIR offers peer expertise that can’t be gotten elsewhere. I’d also like to step up member involvement.”
The nonprofit publishes the AIR Asheville Passport coupon book, which boasts $1,000 in savings; an annual dining guide; and is involved in two career programs: Chefs of Tomorrow at A-B Tech (a scholarship division of the school’s award-winning culinary curriculum) and the GO Kitchen-Ready training program. Last month, the group held its annual public fundraiser, the Taste of Asheville fête featuring 40 different local member restaurants, plus local wine and beer.
Like past AIR presidents, Coggiola is also a restaurateur – she owns Biltmore Village’s Neo Cantina. As part of a re-branding effort starting January 1, Neo Cantina will be known as The Cantina at Biltmore. And as part of her new presidency, Coggiola knows how important it is to keep Asheville a high-profile foodie destination.
Local Women’s Organization Brings Mobile Produce Markets to Asheville’s “Food Deserts”
By Gina Smith
Photo by Candice Maliska
It sounds like a health-conscious parent’s fantasy: a retrofitted school bus cruising through local neighborhoods selling fresh vegetables and fruit, offering families a radical alternative to the ice-cream truck. But through a new initiative of the Asheville-based Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation, local moms and food activists Olufemi Lewis and Tema “Ayanfe” Jamison are about to bring that fantasy to life.
The two women are the first worker-owner members of the fledgling Freedom Market program. Together with Nicole Hinebaugh, the foundation’s director of programs, Olufemi and Ayanfe – who asked to be identified by their common names – are developing a model for a successful worker-owned mobile-market cooperative that’s breaking ground in Western North Carolina.
The idea grew out of community-organizing efforts the foundation initiated in West Asheville’s Hillcrest public-housing community in September 2010. Hinebaugh, then a volunteer for the organization, conducted door-to-door surveys and forums with public-housing residents to get a scope of the life experience there, and to find out how residents would like to change their community for the better.
Deli Owner Trades Chef’s Coat for Holiday Sparkle
By Austine Little
Photos by Tim Robison
The ambitious sandwiches at Mountain Deli in Hendersonville, an eatery popular with tourists and downtown workers alike, embody all of today’s “foodie” fads. The roast beef is Angus, produce comes from local growers, a roast-turkey pileup is topped with a spunky cranberry mayo, and vegetarians get way more than one option.
But when it comes to her personal look, co-owner Carolyn Ruetecki insists that she “doesn’t follow the trends.” At age 49, she keeps her hair long, and her after-work clothes are fairly edgy. “I would call my style unique, but not bohemian,” she says.
She and her husband Dave opened Mountain Deli four years ago. The restaurant is cleverly integrated with an antique business. Its fashionable vintage décor can be purchased, same as the chipotle steak sub or the quinoa side dish. “You know how, when you walk into a place like Mast [General Store], and it’s decorated so nicely, but none of the display fixtures are for sale?
“Well, in our place, they are.”
Her taste is apparent, but a restaurant is a restaurant, and Ruetecki’s typical work outfit is jeans, a T-shirt, and a baseball cap. “That’s my uniform during the day,” she admits.
Revealing a set of killer legs, she uncloaked nicely for December partying with a form-fitting sweater minidress, flashy accessories, and sky-high pump stilettos that elevated her just shy of six feet tall.
How the Christmas of 1992 Transformed My Cultural Outlook
By Ashley English
Photo by Naomi Johnson
When I was 15 years old, the day after Christmas changed my life forever. I was newly relocated to WNC, living in a rented log cabin with my mother and brother in Montreat. A friend from school, Laura, had invited me over to make cookies and kick back, enjoying together our holiday interlude from the wilds of high school. I couldn’t possibly have known when I accepted her invitation just how life-altering our time together would be.
I knew that Laura’s family was considered “natural” and “earthy,” although I didn’t really know then what that meant. We were in several classes together and I knew from our academic interactions that she was smart and clever. She was also quite quirky, a good thing, in my book. She ate things like radish-and-butter sandwiches for lunch, with an entire lemon, peel and all, as her preferred piece of fruit. She wore rugged, made-for-romping-around-in-the-forest clothes. I’d never met anyone like her.
Laura’s mom was a nurse, her father a sculptor. They lived in a dear little log cabin on the Swannanoa River that her parents had patiently crafted by hand over the course of several years when she and her sister were very young. They kept chickens and a garden and ate tofu hot dogs. It was 1992 and I didn’t know anyone else engaged in anything even remotely close to this lifestyle.
As soon as Laura opened her front door that fateful December day, I knew that hers was no ordinary dwelling. The scent of unfamiliar herbs and spices permeated the air. There were strange, unidentifiable jars of whole grains burdening her family’s pantry shelves. There were candles flickering gently, and inviting throw blankets tossed languidly over worn-in armchairs. More than all of that, though, more than the scents and the fabrics and the quinoa and bulgur wheat, were the gifts.