Chefs of the Mountains: Restaurants and Recipes from Western North Carolina
William S. Dissen
The Market Place
20 Wall Street
Asheville, NC 28801
William S. Dissen is originally from Charleston, West Virginia. He started working in restaurants at age 15 at a country club in the area, washing dishes, then as a prep cook, eventually as a line cook.
After graduating from West Virginia University with a double major in English and French, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where he graduated with honors. He returned to West Virginia in the Culinary Apprenticeship Program at The Greenbrier Resort. Working with Certified Master Chef Peter Timmins taught him the discipline of a refined kitchen.
From there he moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where he worked under Chefs Donald Barickman of Magnolia’s and James Beard nominated Chef Craig Deihl of Cypress. As the sous chef at Cypress, he learned to manage a large kitchen team and to understand the importance of proper ordering and inventory. Sustainability was also an underlying aspect of this restaurant. “We used whole animals and butchered them in order to utilize every part. Charcuterie was integral to this process as well.”
He returned to formal education at the University of South Carolina, earning a Master of Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management degree.
He moved to California in 2002, where he worked at the San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, cooking under Chef Jamie West as a possionier (fish chef). This is where he learned the importance of farm to table cuisine. The Ranch has an organic orchard and garden, and Chef Dissen picked fresh produce daily for the kitchen. He also learned to use local and sustainable seafood and “understand that making the right choice about what to order can affect our oceans and our planet.”
While cooking at the San Ysidro Ranch, he cooked with Julia Child at the Santa Barbara Food and Wine Festival. “I remember how tall she was and how charismatic and genuine she was,” he recalls. “I will always remember the dish. We cooked red wine braised beef short ribs with gorgonzola polenta. Even as an older woman, she still floated around the kitchen and was gracious with the festival guests. It was an honor to have spent time with such an icon and legend.”
Chef was recognized in “40 Chefs Under 40” by the Mother Nature Network in 2010 and was honored as a “Seafood Watch Ambassador” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking For Solutions Gala.
Chef Dissen moved to Asheville during the summer of 2009. After traveling around the U.S. for work and school, he was looking for a place to settle down. “I grew up in the mountains of Appalachia in West Virginia and moving here really felt like home.”
When not on duty at his restaurant, he likes to eat at local “hole in the wall” ethnic restaurants. “I want to walk in to a place where I can’t understand the language and have a meal made with great ingredients with techniques and recipes that I have never seen before. I am married to a beautiful Indian woman, so I eat a lot of spicy Indian cuisine.”
The Market Place has been operating in Asheville for 32 years. Chef Dissen has owned the restaurant since 2009. The interior is painted in shades of gray, decorated with original, colorful, mostly abstract art. The ambience is fairly casual, with orientation toward accessibility and affordability. A community table lines the center of the bar area. Tables are unclothed. Much of the cooking is done on a wood fired grill and rotisserie.
Standard tapas/starters on the menu include Mac and Cheese with herb infused bread crumb crust, green peas, and aged ham; and Edamame with chili soy glaze and sea salt. Entrees change often, with few repeats.
The Market Place is a farm to table restaurant. “We try to source all of our ingredients from within 100 miles. We utilize the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project as a resource to find artisanal farmers and unique ingredients for our menus.”
The Market Place is also a sustainable and “green” restaurant. Eight thermal solar panels heat all the hot water, the space was recently renovated using recycled and local materials, the staff uses green cleaning products and recycles and composts organic waste.
With regard to designing the menu, Chef Dissen vows, “My philosophy begins with farm fresh ingredients. I look at it this way; my cuisine is always going to be best with fresh ingredients. For example, an ear of corn when ripe on the stalk is the freshest, sweetest and most colorful when it is still part of a growing plant. As soon as the ear of corn is picked, it begins to convert its natural sugars to starches, losing its flavor, color and most importantly taste. So, farm-to-table is where is all begins. It is also about finding people who have a love for food, because, just like my grandmother, cooking great food is always a labor of love. When we put our all into our work, it truly shines through. My style is simple cuisine with explosive flavors.”
Samples menu starters: Rabbit Terrine with Benton's bacon, local grain mustard, cornichons, arugula, and grilled crostini; Wood Grilled Flatbread with arugula pesto, smoked gouda, and Parmesano-Reggiano cheese; Smoked Chicken Spring Roll with brown ale collards, smoked cheddar, an sweet chili sauce; "Mac and Cheese" with Benton's prosciutto, peas, cheddar mornay sauce, herb crust , spinach and ricotta fritters, and Romesco sauce. Sample menu entrees: Wood Grilled Pork Shoulder in cider reduction with rosemary bacon potatoes, and braised collard greens; Roasted Beet Ravioli with local goat cheese, crispy sweetbreads, Brussel sprouts, and preserved lemon vinaigrette; Pan Roasted Duck Breast with 5 spice kale, shiitake mushrooms, duck confit and kimchi dumplings, and pomegranate sauce; Winter Squash Gnocchi with sage and walnut pesto, roasted oyster mushrooms, Parmesano-Reggiano cheese, and harissa sauce; Bourbon Glazed Beef Short Rib with roasted celeriac puree, braised greens, and pan sauce; Sunburst Farms Trout with beluga lentils, smoked bacon, and confit tomato vinaigrette; and Pan Roasted Mahi Mahi with Vietnamese spring rolls, pickled shrimp, and green curry sauce.