Sweet Potatoes Take Center Stage at The Dinner Lab

Charlotte chef Chris Coleman prepared a dinner highlighting the tuber

Aaron Hutcherson

Sweet potato was worked into every dish. 

Recently, chef Chris Coleman of The Asbury restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, partnered with the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission to highlight a few of the different ways to use sweet potatoes outside of the marshmallow-topped dish with which everyone is already familiar. And though we are most likely only accustomed to the orange-fleshed variety, sweet potatoes can also be white or purple, and they offer a range of textures and flavors. As chef Coleman proved, the sweet potato is great for everything from salads and soups to desserts — and even cocktails.

The dinner was held in a raw loft space in lower Manhattan that had been transformed into a kitchen and dining room by the New Orleans-based dinner club Dinner Lab. Dinner Lab hosts a series of one-night-only events across the country that seek to highlight the next guard of top chefs. These up-and-coming culinary talents flex their skills and push their palates with the opportunity to create any menu of their choosing.

The night's menu featured a salad with sweet potatoes and a caramelized yogurt, a sweet potato and tomato gazpacho, and a riff on chicken and rice. My favorite dish of the evening was the sweet potato spoonbread with sorghum pork belly, celery butter, and caramelized white chocolate. Some of the other novel ways of featuring the sweet potato were in a bourbon cocktail and candied in cheesecake. I left satiated and inspired to grab a few sweet potatoes and head to my own kitchen to see what new recipes I could create — perhaps now you'd like to do the same.

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