Stu Helm Asheville Food Updates and Stuff: Stoobies, Pizza, Mac & More!


FUUUUUUUCK it feels good to write for Ashvegas. I’ve been lucky enough to rustle-up a couple of other writing gigs here in town, and I love ’em, but I’ll tell you what, ain’t nobody lets me express myself like Ashvegas. Thank you, Jason.

Now, brace yourselves, Folks, because, they’s about to be a whole lotta swears, and we’ve got some catching up to do, so maybe order a sandwich, and get comfy.

First of all, you might be wondering, “So, who won all the fuckin’ Stoobie Awards, Stu!?!” Yeah, yeah, I know. I kinda just let Jason make his posts about the live ceremony, and announce all the winners and stuff here on Ashvegas, while I posted about it mostly on Facebook. Sorry about that, and just in case you missed it…

Before anything else started, I gave Sunny Point Cafe a much deserved Lifetime Achievement award for their incredible take on Shrimp ‘n’ Grits. If you haven’t had the shrimp ‘n’ grits at Sunny Point, do yourself a favor and get the fuck over there right now. Here are the rest of the 2018 Stoobie Award winners…


The amazing little venue in the River Arts District, Vivian won in two categories, and they were both big ones: Best New Restaurant, and Restaurant of the motherfuckin’ Year! Woooooooo! They were super-psyched to receive the awards, and they deserve both of them very much for their classic French and Northern European dishes, sans hipster twist, executed and served with pure skill, care, thoughtfulness, and aptitude. Everything I’ve ever eaten at Vivian has been stellar.

Chef Ashley Capps from Buxton Hall Barbecue was my Chef of the Year winner! It was also recently announced that Chef Capps is a finalist for a James Beard Award, so la-dee-fcukin’-dah, Y’all! She’s awesome, her pies are awesome, everything she touches is pure gold, and everyone knows it. Buxton also took home gold in the form of a Stoobie for Best Effing F.O.H. (aka front of the house) for their quick, efficient, homey service, and graciousness under pressure! It’s still my Favorite Restaurant in Asheville, for which I gave them a Stoobie Award in 2017.

Chef Meherwan Irani, who is Co-Owner of Buxton Hall, Chai Pani, MG Road, and several other restaurants and food related enterprises was my Restaurateur of the Year winner, and he is also a finalist for a James Beard award! I have such a good feeling about Meherwan, Ashley, and/or Chef Katie Button, the third of Asheville’s three James Beard Award semi-finalist, to bring that fuckin’ thing home!

Speaking of Chef Katie Button, I gave a Stoobie award for Most Consistently Excellent to Cúrate this year, which might sound a little boring, but consistency is actually the key to success in all areas of life, so I bow to Cúrate for showing us exactly how it’s done for many years!

My Cook of the Year winner was a great guy and staunch kitchen master, Matt Kovitch, whom I met while he was working at Mojo Kitchen & Lounge. My Food Person of the Year was Jane Anderson, of Asheville Independent Restaurants (AIR) who has been the fucking GLUE that holds this indie food scene together in it’s contemporary incarnation for many years. As I said on the night of the awards ceremony itself, “All Hail Jane!”

No Evil Foods was my Food Maker of the Year, with their excellent vegan plant meat products, and Historic Biltmore Village won my Fancy Dinner of the Year award for their “Dining Under the Stars” dinner, which was elegant, delicious, unique, and out-classed me, but remained fun none-the-less! Look for it in the Fall.

The rest of the Stoobies were for specific food items and went like this…

Burger of the Year went to the Oysterhouse Burger at Oysterhouse Brewing Company. Yes it has oysters on it. Yes, it’s fucking awesome.

Sandwich of the Year went to the Ma! Meatloaf sandwich at the Underground Cafe. Please go eat this sandwich, and tell me how much you fucking love it, because I fucking love it and I want the world to know.

The Fried Chicken Fight Winner was 67 Biltmore Ave. When they ask if you want fried chicken with your biscuits ‘n’ gravy, say yes.

The Reuben Rumble Winner was The Continental Lounge. who are currently closed, and I’m having massive anxiety they’re not gonna open back up, FOOD PANIC!!!!

And finally, the winner of my Pizza of the Year Stoobie Award was the smoked artichoke heart and fresh tomato pizza at Manicomio. They are also the 2017 Best Pizza in Asheville Stoobie Awards holders, and they recently placed third with five judges at the recent Asheville Pizza Fight.

And that’s that! There were 15 categories, plus a lifetime achievement award, all given out from the podium. I made the announcements myself, with envelopes to open and everything, and Jason Sandford stood beside me handing the actual, physical awards to the winners. The whole night was was fun as fuck, and all props to my partners in production Shay Brown Events who crushed it like a bug, and made the small idea that Jason and I brought to her into a BIG fucking deal! Of course, huge thanks to all who attended, and to all of the sponsors, food vendors, mixologists, photographers & videographers, tech people, designers, entertainers, and everyone else who made this all come together.

I have to add, that the food at the 2018 Stoobie Awrds was spectacular. Why? Because, duh, it was all being prepared and presented by past and present Stoobie Award winners and nominees! The best of the best in this guy’s opinion. Thank you to all those who make the Asheville food scene so fucking good, by being so fucking great!

Okay, so, next year’s Stoobie Awards are already in the works, and there are going to be a few changes. First of all, let me introduce you to…

Stu Helm’s Asheville Food Fan Awards is the rebrand and rename that will transition these awards into next year, and propel and sustain them into the future. You can still call them the Stoobies if you want, but they will officially be known as the Food Fan Awards from now on. It became clear to me this year, with all of the fanfare and excitement of the live ceremony and cocktail party, that the awards themselves have totally outgrown me, and the inside joke of naming them for myself, way back when literally nobody cared about them, just wasn’t working anymore. Honestly, it’s kind of embarrassing to have these things named after me, now that people do care. So, new name, but don’t worry, it will remain the same old concept. Kinda…

Starting in 2019, and going forward from now on, I will be working with a secret “academy” of hard-core eaters and fellow food fans to compile, and arrive at the nominees for each year. As I said, the awards have outgrown me, and I want them to continue growing, just like the food scene itself keeps on growing. At this point, the scene has exapanded to the point that it’s literally impossible for me to eat and drink at all of the venues offering food and beverages in Asheville, even over the course of an entire year. Working with a small, diverse, hand-picked pool of trusted eaters gives me more eyes, ears, and taste buds on the ground.

I’m a well-known denizen of downtown, and my awards have traditionally focused on that area, along with the South Slope, The River Arts District, and West Asheville all to a lesser degree. I’m interested in expanding the geographical, as well as culinary parameters of the awards. Back when I started the Stoobies, it was fine for me to focus on a limited number of mostly downtown venues, as I’ve always made it clear that I base my awards strictly on my own personal experiences, of which I can only have so many.

The Academy of Eaters will all be different eaters than me, with different habits, haunts, penchants, tastes, and tics. This will help the awards to be more inclusive, with a larger pool of potential nominees.

In addition to the geographical imitations I’ve already mentioned about myself, I’m also pretty fixated on specific genres of food: American fare, dude food, ‘fat kid food,’ French and Northern European cooking. Deep fried things, burgers, brunch, and sandwiches. With the academy of eaters that I’ve assembled, more different kinds of food will be eaten, so more different kinds of food will be up for awards. Maybe sushi will win something? It should at least have a fucking chance, right? I eat sushi, like, twice a year. Although, I’m attempting to add variety to my own dining habits as well.

Just to reassure any of my long-time loyal readers that are still out there, I will be the final decision maker for the newly branded Food Fan Awards, and I promise they won’t ever become a fucking popularity contest, but will always remain a tightly curated selection of the very best that Asheville’s food and hospitality scenes have to offer. No turds. No tanks. No bullshit.

Next Question?

Who won the fuckin’ Pizza Fight, and why was it such a nightmare trying to get a fuckin’ slice of pizza that day?!? Wellllll…

TRUE CONFESSIONS: After the Pizza Fight was over, Shay Brown and I just stared at each other with eyes as wide as saucers and were basically,like, “WTF just happened?!?”

We expected maybe a maximum of about 60 people to show up to what was meant to be a quiet little contest in the middle of the day. When it was all over, and the dust had settled, we estimated that maybe 300 people actually showed up. Needless to say, we were completely overwhelmed! We did the very best we could to manage the enormous crowd with exactly 5 of us running the show. Of course, we ran out of pizza waaaaay before we ran out of people who wanted it, so a lot of folks went home disappointed, and we apologize for that. We did manage to get close to 400 pieces of pizza to an estimated 175 people, and we raised a lot of money for the theater restorations, so thank you to everyone for helping us do that!

But, yeah, let’s not have that shit show happen again! Ha ha! My little monthly contests are not meant to be a huge ordeal for everyone involved, and are in no way meant to be like the annual Wing War, or The Battle of the Burger, or any of the other major food competitions that Kelly Denson produces with All American Food Fights. These lunch-time contests are meant to be quick, fun, and pretty low impact on the competitors, as well as organizers.

Anyhoo, my entire being smelled like pizza after the Pizza Fight ended. I personally served 110 pieces of pizza to the judges, and amazingly,, the Amazing Pizza Co. won! They are the official Pizza Champs of Asheville, and they’re located in HENDERSONVILLE! That’s gotta sting. Our Asheville pizza makers will have a chance to win it back next year.

One of the oldest pizza joints in town, Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria came in second place, while my friends (and my personal fave) Manicomio came in third.

Thanks to the pizza judges! Davaion Bristol, Aisha Johnson Adams, Luis Carlos Serapio, David Cohen, and Laura Hackett, they were TROOPERS!

All praise to Shay Brown Events! Together, Shay and I, and ALL of the aforementioned winners, as well as Pizza Mind, Favillas New York Pizza, East Village Grille, Tin Can Pizzeria, Galactic Pizza, Fresh West, Strada Italiano, and Gastro Pub at Hopey, who very generously donated several pies each, along with every person who paid for pizza, raised $840 for the restoration and preservation of The Asheville Masonic Temple’s historic hand-painted theater back-drops! Hehhhlllll yes. Good job, Asheville… and Hendersonville. 😀 And finally, thanks to Firewalker Hot Sauce and WPVM 103.7 Community radio featuring the arts & culture of Asheville for their support

SOOOOOOOOOOO… the next event that Shay and I are doing is The 2019 Asheville Mac ‘n’ Cheese Challenge on Wednesday March 20th.


We have a very limited number of free tickets available, and we are prepared to feed 40 people samples of all 10 competitors. This is meant to keep things reasonable for us all. Please set your expectations accordingly.

The list of competitors is exceptional, with…

2018 Winners Mojo Kitchen & Lounge • 2018 2nd Place & People’s Choice Winners Foggy Mountain Brewpub • 2018 3rd Place Winners OysterHouseBrewing CompanyEarly Girl Eatery67 Biltmore Downtown Eatery + CateringDoc Brown’s BBQSand Hill KitchenStorm Rhum Bar and BistroHomeGrownThe Lobster Trap

The 6 person judges’ panel is going to be made up of 3 “Meemaws” and 3 kids. So far we have two celebrity judges: Belinda “Grammy” Raab, founder and co-owner of Sunny Point Café and Chef Hanan Shabazz, legend, activist, & consulting chef at Benne on Eagle! We have the 3 kids too, but I’m not announcing their names, because, duh, they’re kids!  As of this writing, I’m still scouting one more “meemaw!” TBA!!!

This competition is produced by me, Stu Helm: Food Fan and Shay Brown Events, with support from Takeout Central, Dig Local Asheville, Firewalker Hot Sauce, and WPVM 103.7 Community radio featuring the arts & culture of Asheville. It is a benefit to raise money and awareness for The Asheville Masonic Temple‘s historic hand-painted theater backdrops, which are in need of restoration and preservations. All money from the sales of Mac ‘n’ Cheese will be donated.

Okay, that’s more than enough outta me for now, I’ll be back in a little bit with more swears words, and some fuckin’ food reviews, Yo! I feel like it’s been forever since I just sat down and wrote some reviews, but I’ve been eating the SHIT out of everything, so I can’t wait to tell all y’all all about all of it!

~ END ~

From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O'SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM

From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O’SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM

Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.





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