John Fleer is owner and chef of Rhubarb in Asheville.
In his most important capacity, Fleer is a husband and a dad to three sons. He is an avid soccer player and fan, so if you cannot find him in the kitchen or with his family, he’s either watching or playing soccer.
A native of Winston-Salem, NC, Fleer was named one of the “Rising Stars of the 21st Century” by the James Beard Foundation and is a five-time finalist, most recently in 2017, for the James Beard “Best Chef in the Southeast” award.
Inspired by the “culture of food” he experienced in Italy while a Religion and Philosophy major at Duke University, John began his culinary career humbly, rolling pasta and baking black tie pie at Aurora Restaurant in Carrboro, as a way to pay for graduate school at UNC. His curiosity piqued, Fleer enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America. Following a fellowship at one of the CIA’s restaurants and a stint as personal chef to Mary Tyler Moore, Fleer joined Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, where he served as executive chef from 1992 until 2007.
The unique “foothills cuisine” he helped establish there wandered the line between refined and rugged, fancy and familiar. His cooking focused on interpreting the regional larder through classical and traditional techniques, eventually catapulting the resort to the honor of Relais Gourmand. Under Fleer’s leadership, the Tennessee destination was honored by Zagat Survey in 2003 and 2004 as #1 Small Hotel in America and #2 Hotel Dining in America.
In May of 2009, John took his first step back across the Blue Ridge from Tennessee, to open Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley in Cashiers, North Carolina, where his food was enhanced by one of the most beautiful restaurant settings in the country. Fleer left Canyon Kitchen in the summer of 2015 to devote his time to Rhubarb. At Rhubarb he brings the relaxed atmosphere of his previous pastoral posts to bustling Pack Square, broadening his approach with a freestyle American cuisine well suited for its location at Asheville’s vibrant crossroad. In 2016, The Rhu opened its doors, as Rhubarb’s companion bakery, cafe, and pantry.
Chef Fleer is actively engaged in creating community, both in Asheville and, more broadly, in the Southeast. He served as a member of the board of directors for the Southern Foodways Alliance from 2003 until 2009. Fleer serves on the advisory board for Chefs at Downtown Welcome Table, works with the City of Asheville on downtown development initiatives, and is a proud member of Asheville/Buncombe Adult Soccer Association’s Club Watershed.