Words and photography by Kevin Fuller
Chef Elliot Moss spends a lot of time with pigs. It’s Thursday night, and Moss, a two-time James Beard nominee, is shoveling piping hot coals into a pit where he’ll lay a whole hog and watch it cook for 12 hours. A whole pig lays on a table behind him, where he’ll prep it before cooking. Ten feet from the table, diners feast on various barbecue plates. The restaurant, which was an old roller skating rink converted into a modern eatery, is nearly full. Moss, who is head chef/co-owner of Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville, North Carolina, along with fellow James Beard nominee Meherwan Irani, exhausts endless hours cooking the pasture-raised hogs to serve at the popular restaurant in the city’s South Slope neighborhood, which is relatively new to the scene. It opened last year, and is already receiving local, and national acclaim.
It’s not the acclaim Moss is looking for — it’s the suppers him and his family shared growing up.“I just missed barbeque,” Moss says, while plating a dish. The barbecue of North Carolina is the thing of legends. However, most of it is found in the eastern part of the state. Moss, who was born and raised in Florence, South Carolina, wanted to up the barbecue game in the mountains of western North Carolina, but instead looked south. “There’s just not deep barbecue roots in the mountains,” Moss says. When Moss moved to Asheville in 2007, he constantly thought of the large family meals he had growing up in South Carolina. His family did barbeque, South Carolina style. Moss explains that regional barbecue from Florence as pit barbecue with vinegar sauce. He puts his own spin on it, with a mustard-based sauce. “I just grew up on the mustard,” Moss says.
His hogs are mostly local pasture raised pigs from area farms. He even uses a farm from his hometown of Florence to provide pigs. “There’s not many people using pasture raised hogs,” he says. Moss chops and pulls the pork after it’s cooked. He tries to use every part of the hog, down to the lard from the pig, which he uses to season and is the base for most menu items. He’s efficient as he is creative. Moss is a pioneer in the up and coming Asheville food scene. He was the chef at the popular West Asheville restaurant The Admiral, where he had a cult following. If you know Asheville food, you know The Admiral. Moss is responsible for that.
He also had his hand in the Flying Pig Supper Club, which was a pop-up restaurant that set up shop at various restaurants and locations in Asheville, and was a communal entity, pairing chefs from all over the area. “We really built a community,” Moss says, which has shaped the Asheville restaurant scene. “I compete every day with the restaurants in this town, but we are all in it together.” Moss explains that everybody helps one another. When he’s out of something, he calls a competing restaurant. But he doesn’t look as them as a competitor. “Now, we’re all friends,” Moss says.