Interview: Chef Peter Pollay of Posana in Asheville, North Carolina

The upscale favorite showcases the best local and seasonable cuisine

I’ve just returned from a dinner at Posana in Asheville, North Carolina’s and had the opportunity to meet the restaurant’s executive chef, chef Peter Pollay, 48. I found him to be sincere, approachable, and very proud of his farm-to-table restaurant. Posana means “nourishment” in Sanskrit, and the word comes to life at this restaurant, which has been awarded the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its wine program.

Asheville is a fabulous food town, with many fine restaurants there. I’ve been eating my way through it. Excellence abounds, but it’s been dreadful for my diet.

Here’s my conversation with chef Pollay.

The Daily Meal: How did you get into cooking?
Chef Peter Polly: I first started cooking with my mother growing up. During my college years, I always lived in houses with a bunch of people. Since there were no good restaurants around campus I started cooking at home. That was the beginning of cooking for large groups of people. After graduation one thing gradually led to the next. At the request of my mother I ended up catering my father’s very large retirement party and before I knew it I was meeting my requirements to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. But it still took several years of working in kitchen with great chefs and restaurant operations before I decided to open my own place.

What keeps you in cooking?
Our guests keep me cooking. It really brings me great pleasure in providing great food to our customers. To delight them with the flavor combinations we come up with, to surprise the guests with our plate presentations, and to enhance their dining experience overall with our culinary creations.

Do you prefer a particular style of cooking?
I very much enjoy different Asian cuisines. The menu at Posana is focused on local, seasonal, and sustainable foods, so there are often very classic presentations. But I like to pull in Asian flavors and herbs that we grow in our garden. 

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What kind of atmosphere do you try to create in the kitchen?
A learning atmosphere.  I was brought up with the mentality that you are always learning and you are only as good as your last plate of food. I encourage each and every employee to find ways to become better every day. 

What do you look for when you hire other chefs to assist you in the kitchen?
Passion and an eagerness to learn and be the best you can be. I do not rest on my laurels. I push myself every day to get better. I expect each chef in the kitchen do to the same. There is always something to learn. To get better at. To move faster. Otherwise you are moving backwards. 

What is your favorite spice?  How do you use it?
I am going to cop out with salt. It is integral to bringing out the flavors of the dishes we compose. If you don’t use enough, the true potential of the combination of flavors is not there. If you use too much, the dish is ruined.  For every dish, there is just the right amount of salt needed.