Clark Barlowe '09: Putting Down Culinary Roots


After his graduation, Clark Barlowe ’09 worked inside some of the world’s top restaurants, including Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry and the celebrated El Bulli in Barcelona. But when this seventh-generation North Carolinian decided to open his own restaurant, his roots pulled him home.

At Barlowe’s farm-to-fork restaurant Heirloom in Charlotte, he sources all ingredients and products locally — even the liquor, wine, salt and the soap in the restroom. An experienced forager, he often uses wild ingredients in his menu: “It forces us to innovate because there’s really no research on it, and not a lot of recipes for foraged ingredients.”

His menu is a far cry from the fried food or stews and braises that many associate with Southern food.

I describe Heirloom’s food as ‘locally sourced, globally inspired.’ The ingredients really dictate what we do. CLARK BARLOWE '09

“I describe the food as ‘locally sourced, globally inspired,’” he says. “We do very traditional Korean dishes, Middle Eastern dishes, African, German and South American dishes. The ingredients really dictate what we do. This was partly from my education at Johnson & Wales and partly from the experience I gained after graduation, when I traveled and worked at a lot of really great restaurants.”

Since its opening, Heirloom has earned many regional and national accolades, appearing on several “best of” lists in Charlotte Magazine and in 2015, was named by OpenTable.com as one of the 100 Best Restaurants for Foodies in America.

Given his strong community ties, it’s no surprise that Barlowe includes the people he works with in his definition of success: “If the restaurant is sustainable, provides a good quality of life for the employees and myself, and we’re able to support all these great partners that we work with, from the winemakers to brewers to farmers, that’s the most important thing for me.”

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