As executive chef and owner of Rhubarb, chef John Fleer brings his impressive culinary reputation and more than two decades of experience to the burgeoning Asheville restaurant scene.
A native of Winston-Salem, N.C., Fleer’s inspiration began with his immersion into the food culture of Venice, Italy while studying abroad as a religion and philosophy major at Duke University. He began his culinary career humbly, working in kitchens to pay for graduate school at the University of North Carolina. His passion the restaurant industry ignited and he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America to further his education.
After graduation, chef Fleer worked at a CIA-run restaurant and also served as a personal chef to actress Mary Tyler Moore before joining the team at Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm where he served as executive chef from 1992 through 2007 and helped to establish the cooking style, “foothills cuisine.” Chef Fleer assisted in catapulting the resort to the honor of Relais Gourmand, the highest mark of culinary excellence within the Relais Chateaux organization. Under Fleer’s leadership, the Tennessee destination was honored by Zagat in 2003 and 2004, as number one small hotel and number two hotel dining in America.
In May of 2009, chef Fleer took his first step back across the Blue Ridge, opening Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley in Cashiers, N.C. The food at Canyon Kitchen is enhanced by a picturesque setting, sitting at the foot of the largest box canyon in the United States. Opening Rhubarb in October 2013 was the next step in his journey. Rhubarb aims to bring the relaxed atmosphere of his previous pastoral posts to Pack Square and to broaden his approach to freestyle American cuisine.
Chef Fleer has received many accolades and awards throughout the years including being named one of the “Rising Stars of the 21st Century” by the James Beard Foundation and being a four-time finalist for the James Beard Award’s “Best Chef in the Southeast”. He has also served on various high-profile boards such as the Board of Directors for the Southern Foodways Alliance from 2003 until 2009.
Chef Fleer’s most important job description is at home as a husband and father to three sons. He is an avid soccer player as well as fan and when he is not in the kitchen you can catch him taking in a game or even kicking around the soccer ball with his family.