Dancing Bear Lodge and Appalachian Bistro Logo

Bacon at the Bear

Part of Our 3-Day Appalachian Experience: Vittles and Fiddles. Secure your tickets now at Brown Paper Tickets! You can get tickets for the 3-day event in its entirety or just the Bacon at The Bear event.

Saturday, August 3rd


Presented by New Hope: Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center

  • A one-of-a-kind collaborative gathering with 13 Renowned Appalachian Chefs
  • Farm-to-Table food stations featuring unique dishes steeped in Appalachian roots
  • Artisan & Farmer’s Exhibits on the Dancing Bear Lawn
  • Wine & Bourbon Samplings by Knox Beverage
  • Silent Auction benefiting New Hope Children’s Advocacy of Blount County
  • Live Music By Humble Bob & the Engineers


Ashley Capps
Ashley Capps

Ashley is a North Carolina native.  She has traveled to work, eat, and cook from age seventeen and will continue this journey until she is very old.  Ashley has planted roots in the mountains of Asheville, creating a community in this region since 2002.  Places that shifted her perspective and laid the path that she walks today have been: Restaurant Five & Ten, Farm and Sparrow Bakery, Eleven Madison Park, MG Road Bar and Lounge, Rhubarb, Buxton Hall Barbecue and teaching at Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College.  

Her dedication to pastry work is serious, obsessive, blended with a humble disposition. She always gives credit to the people she works alongside.  She has been apart of teams that received national acclaim including Bon Appetit’s Top 50 Best New Restaurants, Southern Living’s 100 Best New Restaurants Southeast, Bon Appetit’s Top 10 Best New Restaurants 2016, Southern Living’s Best Restaurants 2016.  In February 2019, Ashley was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as a semifinalist for the Outstanding Pastry Chef category and also joined the board for the Appalachian Food Summit. 

Ashley’s values are woven into her work.  Supporting small farms, connecting to producers, and using seasonal ingredients are important to her.  She finds fulfillment in teaching and creative collaboration.

Mike Costello Amy Dawson
Mike Costello & Amy Dawson

Based at Lost Creek Farm in north central West Virginia, Chef Mike Costello and his partner Amy Dawson share story-rich regional cuisine in Appalachia and across the eastern U.S. Both West Virginia natives with strong connections to family farms and traditional foodways, Mike and Amy offer a creative take on menus that include heritage foods such as Spanish charcuterie, salt-rising bread, wild harvested ingredients, and a variety of heirloom crops grown on their 180 acre farm. In 2018, Mike and Amy–along with their vinegar pie, Logan Giant pole beans, and Bloody Butcher corn–were featured on CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.


Travis Milton
Travis Milton 

Hailing from rural Southwestern Virginia, Travis Milton spent his childhood in a true Appalachian kitchen, learning the proper method for shucking beans, preserving produce through canning, and planting gardens—all under the tutelage of his great (and great-great) grandparents. A reverence for the traditions and heritage of Southern cooking was instilled in Milton from his earliest days spent behind the counter of the Village, a restaurant in Castlewood, Virginia, owned by his great grandparents. Milton moved to Richmond to attend school and started cooking on his own in his early teens, initially just as a way to make money doing something familiar. Soon, jobs in the kitchen became more than just income, and before long Milton was staging in kitchens across the country, like Todd Gray’s Equinox in D.C. and Chris Cosentino’s Incanto in San Francisco. When Milton joined his friend and fellow Virginian Jason Alley to work as chef de cuisine at Comfort in Richmond, he realized his ability to combine the memories of his family’s kitchen with the techniques of his mentors, creating composed and modern Appalachian dishes. It was with these two culinary traditions in mind that Milton left Comfort and embarked on his dream of a genuine Appalachian restaurant. His first Appalachian-centric restaurant, Milton’s at the Western Front, opened in February 2018 as a meat-and-three. The menu includes not only staunchly Appalachian items such as Chili Buns and Pepperoni Rolls, but will also feature dishes like Hungarian Goulash, reflecting the rich food culture of the Eastern European immigrants who settled in Southwestern Virginia. Hickory at Nicewander Farm, opening in late 2018 and early 2019 respectively, will represent both aspects of Milton’s background (“both sides of my brain,” as he puts it) by showcasing a modern take on the comforting foods of his youth, while also serving a more rustic take on those traditions as well. Rare Heirloom fruits and vegetables will be at the forefront of all the menus, from more 65 different varieties of indigenous beans (his favorite being greasy beans) to rare varieties of squash, originally cultivated by Native Americans will be grown, served and preserved on site. Outside his restaurants, Milton is at the forefront of the grassroots effort working to preserve the heritage of the Appalachia kitchen. A conversation among fellow Appalachian chefs on a Facebook thread turned into the creation of the Appalachian Food Summit, for which Milton serves on the board of directors. He also works to highlight the rich history of the area in conjunction with the Central Appalachian Food Heritage Project, the Clinch River Valley Initiative, and the Virginia Food Heritage Project. Milton spends much of his free time traveling to Virginia farms and fostering relationships with purveyors across the state. When not in the kitchen, his favorite place to be is sitting on his front porch, enjoying his whiskey collection and listening to 90’s R&B records.

Ryan Kline
Ryan Kline & Catherine Kline

Ryan is a Yankee transplant to Asheville, NC hailing from Hastings, PA.  After graduating with high honors from Indiana University of Pennsylvania Academy of Culinary Arts Ryan completed his externship at the prestigious Biltmore Estate in Asheville.  Ryan continued on at the Biltmore for 2 years before accepting the Sous Chef Position at Storm Rhum Bar and Bistro in downtown Asheville.  During his time at Storm, Ryan was named a Rising Culinary Star by the Asheville Citizen-Times.  Multiple collaborations with Blind Pig, and staging throughout some of the Southeast’s Best restaurants led Ryan to be named Executive Chef/General Manager of Buffalo Nickel in West Asheville at age 25.  Ryan served his post for two years before moving on to become the Chef at Adam Bannasch’s Zambra in downtown Asheville.  Ryan now showcases his farm-to-table eclectic global cuisine and heads the culinary team at Zambra.   Zambra has recently been named the most romantic restaurant in North Carolina by the USA today, and has been consistently been named most romantic and best wine list by the Mountain Express of Asheville, NC.  Outside of work Ryan enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife Catherine and their pit bull Blueberry. 

Catherine Kline attended the Culinary School at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Chef Kent Graham
Kent Graham — Chef, Pit Master, Consultant

Deeply rooted in Southern tradition with a contemporary approach to locally sourced ingredients, Chef Kent Graham brings an honest approach to food that is otherwise lost in technique. Classically trained, he started at his mother’s apron strings in Memphis, Tennessee. With both Father and Mother having a heavy appreciation for the arts, Kent’s youth was spent enriched with culture and education. Creating beauty and bringing it to life was a pastime in the Graham home. Following his love of food, Kent studied at the hands of very talented mentors across the country. He has cooked in France, Spain, Scotland, New York City, Napa Valley, Jackson Hole, Atlanta, and throughout the South with. He now makes his home in Atlanta, Georgia. A Chef, a farmer, a huntsman; Kent introduces diversity to classic southern offerings. With a heavy concentration on locally sourced and crafted foods, he uses naturally raised or grown ingredients to highlight the cornerstone of his culinary philosophy – “Keep it local; Keep it fresh; Keep it simple.” Moving forward, Kent hopes to break the mundane, over cooked, tired thoughts of Southern food over saturated with butter and all too commercial ideals with his new projects. As a Southern Foodways Alliance member and grass roots Southern boy, he looks to bring the heritage… history… stories…memories… back to Southern dining. Kent has been featured in magazines and one television throughout the South. He has been a repeat participant Charleston Wine + Food, Euphoria and a guest chef at Popup dinners and supper clubs. He gives his time to cook with St. Jude and other organizations on fundraising events. He is proud to be partnering with KaTom.

Erik Hoover
Erik Hoover

Erik Hoover is the Executive Chef and owner of Cockeye BBQ in Warren, Ohio. A graduate of Johnson and Wales in Charleston, South Carolina, Erik has spent 20 years as a BBQ pitmaster traveling and cooking with some of the nation’s foremost BBQ legends. Erik and his wife Stacey opened their flagship restaurant Cockeye BBQ in 2015 as a testament to the alchemy that blends BBQ, regional styles and heritage ingredients. Never far from his midwestern roots, in 2019 they will be launching Cockeye Creamery, their homage to Ohio dairy and Mahoning Valley farmers.  




Chris Huerta
Christopher Huerta

Born and raised in Aiken, South Carolina, Chef Christopher Huerta’s passion for food stems from watching his Grandmother prepare traditional southern dishes. At the age of 15 he took his first job in a local coffee shop and bakery where he was responsible for all the daily baking. In 2000 at the age of 17 Chris was given an amazing opportunity to work with renowned Chef, Guenter Seeger as a prep cook. Chef Seeger partnered with The Garrett Hotel Group to open Seeger’s at The Willcox, in one of Aiken’s Historic Hotels. Under Chef Seeger’s direction Chris embraced his passion for cooking and developed a wealth of culinary knowledge, skill and discipline. It was here he learned the emphasis of cooking with only the finest and freshest ingredients. During his time working under Chef Seeger, Chris was given the opportunity to spend two summers working for the Garrett Hotel Groups famed Relais & Châteaux’s, Lake Placid Lodge and The Point in the Adirondacks of New York where he worked his way through all aspects of the kitchen. Working for these boutique hotels furthered his interest in guest awareness of the quality of food that they are receiving. In 2004 Chris moved to Atlanta to work and train directly under Guenter Seeger in his Mobil Five Star, AAA Five Diamond, Relais & Châteaux’s flagship restaurant, Seeger’s. Chris found his experience working for Guenter to be life changing. When Seeger’s closed its doors in 2006, Chris discovered the beautiful mountains of Highlands, NC. He took on the position of Sous Chef at Madison’s Restaurant at Old Edwards Inn and Spa. When joined a couple of years later by Executive Chef Johannes Klapdohr, their respective philosophies and techniques grew stronger and became a unified vision. In 2011, Chef Huerta and Chef Klapdohr started Madison’s Organic Garden at The Farm at Old Edwards. Chef Huerta was promoted to Chef de Cuisine shortly after, and then to Executive Chef of Old Edwards Hospitality Group upon Klapdohr’s departure in November 2015. Chef Huerta is passionate about carefully crafting all aspects of the dining experience, beginning with agricultural practices and carrying through to the presentation and guest experience.

Renee Merritt
Renee Merritt

Renee Merritt started her career as an artist, working as a graphic designer for ten years, leading her to receive her BFA in Fine Arts and Sculpture where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, Ole Miss, 1999. In taking a mindful break before graduate school, Renee began working as a sauté cook at a small local restaurant. She discovered food as another medium of art and made the decision to attend Culinard, The Culinary Institute of Virginia College, Birmingham, Alabama to further develop her passion for food and cooking where she graduated with honors as part of the 2002 inaugural class. Chef Renee has a strong passion and appreciation for foods of all kinds and believes it doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. Keep it simple, creative and clean, all the while believing that respect and integrity are paramount in her culinary preparations. She was influenced greatly by her two grandmothers that grew up in an era where you cook what you have available and make an amazing, nourishing meal. Fill it with love and care. Her focus is on all the senses, delivering an experience in taste, texture, flavor, eye appeal and aroma. Renee is currently the Executive Chef at Cork and Cleaver Gastropub. 

Alex G
Alex Gass

Alex Gass grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where his late mother and nanny owned and operated a catering company, which Gass was forced to help with as a child. While he despised it then as a boy, working closely with food throughout his life has taught him the importance of local farms and tending the land. “People want to be connected back to where their food originated,” Gass says. 

He carries with him the lessons and techniques he acquired from his family into his culinary career, which started as a teenager at Big Ed’s Pizza. He worked for several restaurants in the area before finding his dream job. “My first passion in life was music, but true passion is making people happy,” Gass says. He combined his love of music and cooking for years on the road, cooking for musicians on tour. From Widespread Panic to Elton John, and Van Halen to Chris Stapleton, Gass was able to cook custom meals for a variety of artists, and was in bliss. Being on the road for several months out of the year was hard on Gass and his wife and children, so he decided to work closer to home while keeping connected to both music and cooking. 

He helped open the Knoxville Babalu, and through facilitating secret pop-up dinners around the region, he was introduced to Aubrey’s Inc. and worked at Bistro By the Tracks. While Gass has been with The Walnut Kitchen since 2017, he has been the executive chef since March 2019. He continues to keep relationships with local farmers a priority, and those ingredients drive the seasonal menu at The Walnut Kitchen. “I want to have The Walnut Kitchen be as sustainable and wholesome as possible. Chef tasting experiences are a great way to highlight who we are.”

Shelley Cooper 2017
Shelley Cooper

Shelley Cooper was born in Memphis, Tennessee, into a family that revolved around a bountiful table always filled with farm fresh Southern cuisine. Her maternal family hails from the Mississippi Delta, and her father from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. She credits this combination with providing her Southern culinary roots. Both families placed a high regard for fresh, seasonal, and ‘made from scratch’ foods, as well as instilling the appreciation of pure simple ingredients. Shelley could not help but to be positively affected by such inherent passion. She was professionally trained at Johnson and Wales Culinary Institute in Charleston, South Carolina and The San Francisco Baking Institute. Chef Shelley honed her craft at Belfair Club in Hilton Head, South Carolina, 30° Blue at Bay Point Resort in Florida, Craggy Range Winery in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, First and Hope Supper Club in Los Angeles, Alaska Expedition on the Gulf of Alaska, Monettes Artisan Seafood on the big island of Hawaii, and TerraMáe Appalachian Bistro in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Now she is tapping into her true roots and fully embracing her heritage at Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro in Townsend, Tennessee. The culmination of her life travels and culinary passion have merged to create her unique version of highbrow Appalachian fare. Some of her career highlights include: • Recipe testing / editing Great Chefs of the South Cookbook series on PBS • Recipe testing / editing Charleston Cuisine Cookbook • Cover of Bon Appetite in 1997 featured in ‘Pastry Chefs at Play’ • Food Arts spotlight story September 1998, ‘New Digs in Old Charleston • Good Housekeeping Magazine, June 2005, ‘Grill Girls’ • Food and Wine Magazine, September 2010 ‘Where to Go Next: Southern’ • Youngest board member of Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA) • Formerly the Chef at TerraMáe while it was named “…one of Chattanooga’s buzziest new restaurants” – Travel + Leisure 2013 • TerraMáe cited by The New York Times magazine as “where to eat” in the “outdoorsy” and “cool” Chattanooga. • Mentioned in Fodors “A Foodie’s Guide to Chattanooga” 2013 • Featured article, Appalachian Lunchables” in The Local Palate September 2015 • Featured Guest Chef at the second annual Appalachia Food Summit, September 26, 2015 at Heartwood in Abingdon, Virginia • Published in “Victuals; An Appalachian Journey – with Recipes” by Ronni Lundy August, 2016. James Beard award for Cookbook of the Year – 2017 • Featured Guest Chef at the Memphis Food and Wine Festival October 2016 • The Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise” show, featured airing “Hotel Hot Spots” Premier November 5, 2017 • The Cooking Channel “Southern and Hungry” Fall 2018 • Wall Street Journal September 20, 2018 – “Live a Little – Kill Your Greens” • Garden and Gun, July 2019 – “Ripe Ideas” Featuring the New Ambrosia Salad


The 4th annual Bacon at the Bear is proud to announce the addition of the Farmers and Artisan Cove! Enjoy these Artisan & Farmer’s exhibits on the Dancing Bear Lawn Saturday, August 3rd. 

Amy Campbell of The Tennessee Farm Table Podcast

Amy Campbell is a storyteller. Whether using a paintbrush or a microphone, she communicates the history of our region’s people and food. Amy is a Knoxville native, a professional artist, a podcast producer and a Bluegrass radio host. She created the podcast “The Tennessee Farm Table” which is rebroadcast Saturday mornings at 9:00 on 89.9 FM WDVX Radio station in Knoxville. “The Tennessee Farm Table” podcast serves as a promotional vehicle for the people of our Appalachian community who produce, preserve and prepare our regional foods. Mary Constantine, Retired Food Writer for the Knoxville News Sentinel is a bi-weekly contributor to the show along with Appalachian Food historian Fred Sauceman.

More information on her podcast at:  www.TennesseeFarmTable.com

This photographic portrait was taken of Amy and her donkey Ruby by professional photographer Laura Pierpont for her Farm Folk series.
More information on her work at: http://lcpierpontphotography.com/garden