Brandon Sharp, the new chef at The Carolina Inn, is certainly not new to Chapel Hill. Growing up, the Greensboro-native’s grandparents, Evelyn and Albert Graham, lived here and would take Brandon and his brother to The Carolina Inn – of all places – on occasion. “I have fond memories of that,” Brandon says. His mother, Jane Graham Sharp, and father, Trevor Sharp, met at Chapel Hill High School, and Brandon himself even attended UNC for undergrad, working at Weathervane part-time. “I always thought of [Chapel Hill] as a second home,” he says.
After UNC, Brandon headed to The Culinary Institute of America – “Once I got out of college, as a philosophy major, the only thing I knew how to do was cook,” he says. And after settling in Napa Valley for a while – and helping to earn and maintain a Michelin star for the restaurant Solbar where he served as chef – Brandon left late in 2016 for North Carolina.
Now, he is flexing his award-winning skills at Crossroads Chapel Hill, having done a full turn on all the menus – breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. “For breakfast, the buffet is definitely the way to go,” Brandon recommends – between the build-your-own grits, rotating hot delicacies and a host of pastries, it will leave you satisfied.
For lunch, Brandon is all about the banh mi, utilizing hot and cold pork elements with Crossroads’ own pickled veggies.
And for dinner? “My favorite entrée uses Guilford Mills grits, finished with smoked cheddar and braised Tuscan kale with confit pork shoulder,” he says. “It has all the elements of breakfast in North Carolina, but turns it into an entrée.”
Moving into spring, look forward to field peas, asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries to hit the menu. “And I’m crossing my fingers for a good stone fruit season,” Brandon says. “It requires a certain discipline and honesty to cook seasonally no matter where you are, but I’m excited to find what’s great here and feature it,” he adds.
And the excitement spills out into daily life, too. Brandon, wife Elizabeth and children William, 9, Charles, 7, and Mary- Evelyn, 3, are happy to be rooting on the Tar Heels. “Man, they’ve got Carolina fever,” Brandon says.
Crossroads Chapel Hill will be one of the participants at the Grand TASTE on Thursday, April 20. Enjoy the “culinary experience of the year,” as one attendee described it. Spend the evening with hundreds of guests savoring tastes of dishes created by 30 of the best chefs in the area. Also on hand will be local beverage makers, producing outstanding craft beer, soda, coffees and spirits, and we’ve rounded up our chefs’ favorite distributors to bring you wine from around the world to educate your palate. You can view the full TASTE schedule and purchase tickets for events by visiting the event website.