SPBC Gets a Well Seasoned Chef
Southern Pines Brewing Company’s newest location in Carthage may still be marinating, but its new chef is ready to serve. Meet Emily Harris, who will be heading the kitchen at The Buggy Factory by Southern Pines Brewing Co. — and eventually Southern Pines Brewing on Hay in Fayetteville.
Emily has cooked in restaurants around the world, including Denmark, Norway, Italy, France, Slovenia, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Korea. One of those places was at a three-Michelin-star restaurant called Noma in Copenhagen, that has been ranked No. 1 in the world multiple times. “It’s so exciting to find someone with her background and talent and have her run with it,” says SPBC owner Micah Niebauer.
Emily says her career began with it being “just a job,” but she “stuck with it because I knew I could travel.”
Emily moved from Detroit to Portland in her early 20s, where she worked with professional chefs for the first time. Someone in the restaurant told her if she really wanted to be a professional, she needed to work at a Michelin star restaurant. “I applied to a one [Michelin] star in Chicago and up and moved there.” Once she was there, that chef told her if she really wanted to be a pro, she needed to work at a three-star restaurant. It snowballed from there.
“I got a three month internship at Noma and it was the first time I ever really traveled. First time to Europe. I decided once I was there, I was staying but didn’t really have the best plan or approach,” laughs Emily. During one of her ventures, she showed up to work in a French kitchen after applying to live and work there — even though she wasn’t sure if she had the job. “I went anyway. It was so hard because I didn’t know French at the time but they didn’t turn me away. I definitely learned a lot,” she says.
“One of the neatest things about her is her humility,” says Micah. “There are so few people that have pursued knowledge and discipline the way she has.”
After working in France for a while, Emily bounced around more. She ended up working for other prestigious restaurants like Eleven Madison Park and Nomad in New York. “I loved New York and was content there,” she says. Then, she got a message from an internship program in Tokyo that she applied for before ever getting to New York. “I assumed I wouldn’t get in because its very difficult to get in, especially as a female there. Japan is also very strict about tattoos and I have a ton.” She agreed to keep her tattoos wrapped and covered and worked for three months, which led to her working in Hong Kong.
“At that point, I had worked for a one, two and three star restaurant but I was never working at one while it was trying to earn a star,” says Emily. There was a restaurant in Norway she knew of that had two stars but was going for three. It earned the star in the two years she was working there.
“I did exactly what I went there to do. Then I was feeling lost and burnt out,” she says. Then her friend mentioned a woman who had a restaurant in Slovenia. “I had never heard of the place. I also never worked for a woman before, I thought that was cool,” she says. It was a small restaurant on the Italian-Slovenian border but what Emily didn’t know was right before she came to work, the restaurant, Hiša Franko, was filmed to be on the show Chef’s Table. “It aired after I started working and the place blew up,” says Emily.
At some point the chef, Ana Roš, asked Emily to accompany her on her travels to work. Emily was able to help her with her cookbook and then went on the world tour book. “In the two years working with her I had to get a new passport because mine filled up, it was crazy.”
By the time she was 30, she faced more burnout from the constant travel. “I already reached all of my goals,” she says.
“I always wanted to cook in Korea, because that’s where I was born and it’s my favorite food,” she says. “I figured out what I needed to do to get a green card there and everything fell into place. I had never focused on my personal life before then; I always just worked.”
She met her husband there who was stationed in Korea at the time. After he got orders back to Fort Bragg, they decided she would go with him.
Emily’s husband formerly worked on the canning line for SPBC after getting out of the military and happened to mention his wife’s cooking in passing. “I had to play a game of 20 questions to get there but when I heard she worked at Noma, I was like how do we get her on the team,” says Micah, “I had the opportunity to eat there once. Noma changed the way I thought about fermentation.”
“It’s cool to be joining the company as a chef and being able to sort of make my mark,” says Emily.
Emily has been in the area for around four years. Her zest for knowledge now expands beyond the kitchen; she is in the current class for the Moore County Leadership Institute.
What’s on the menu? “Funny enough, Micah already decided on Detroit-style pizza before I came on board, but that’s where I grew up. There were a lot of coincidences with me joining the team,” says Emily.
In addition to pizzas, you can also expect to see sandwiches and a strong lunch menu. You’ll also have the option to get pizza flights which will be individual sized Detroit-style pizzas. “I’m going to try to have some funky things as options. A lot of flavors I have planned for the menu are based on cities I’ve been to or lived in,” says Emily.
And the searing question: When will it open? We were told we can expect to see it open in the first quarter of 2024.