Juneberry Ridge hires head chef

Seasonally-aligned cookery and connecting with nature are on the menu for Nicolas Daniels, who recently joined Juneberry Ridge as head chef.
The 750-acre regenerative farm and nature retreat is in Norwood, about an hour east of Charlotte. Founded more than 10 years ago, Juneberry Ridge has grown into an agritourism destination with wooded private cabins, event spaces for culinary and educational experiences and a 43,000-square-foot greenhouse.
“We are excited by the energy and experience Chef Nic brings to Juneberry Ridge,” says Suzanne Durkee, chief executive officer of Juneberry Ridge. “As a farm and kitchen team, we’re building a new idea of a working farm. There aren’t many places that can operate the way we do. Most farmers ship off their food to market and never get to see how it’s prepared or how it’s transformed into something flavorful, new, and unexpected.”
Drawing inspiration from his Chilean heritage and international travel, Daniels has spent the past 14 years in North Carolina, and he’s looking most forward to being involved at Juneberry from seed to plate.
“The Piedmont is an incredibly fertile growing region and it constantly inspires me to explore new connections with the food I make,” says Daniels, who has led kitchens for Imagine One Hospitality, The Capital Grille, Barcelona Wine Bar and Loft & Cellar, among others.
“Most chefs pick things off a delivery truck, but at Juneberry Ridge, I am in conversation with our farmers before anything is planted, exploring unique ingredients and their impact on the farm as a whole,” he says.
Daniels has stepped into a kitchen that draws the majority of its proteins and ingredients from the 750 acres that surround it. The farm employs aquaponics and hydroponics in the culinary greenhouse and regenerative farming, a process of restoring degraded soils using practices such as adaptive grazing, no-till planting and no pesticides to work with nature rather than against it.
“I’m excited to get so close to where food is grown,” he says. “I’m eager to spend the slow time it takes to rediscover it all for myself, too – to look at an unusual cut of meat or a commonly wasted food product like carrot tops and consider how to use that in crafting a new story on a plate.”
Already, Daniels says he has seen that regenerative farming has shown a proven impact on food quality.
“It’s really simple: healthier soil and healthier growing conditions lead to more flavorful, and more nutrient-rich food products,” he says. “We’re not just making good food, we’re making a good food process that starts in the soil way before the food lands on the plate.”
Daniels has been running the Juneberry Ridge culinary program for about a month now, and guests will have their first opportunity to try his monthly farm-to-fork menu at a four course dinner scheduled for 6 p.m. July 13. Tickets are $100 per person, with the option to add a wine pairing for $40 or craft beer pairing for $30.
For more information or to make a reservation, visit juneberry.com/events/.