Meet the Chef
CHEF CARSON JEWELL
"I've always been a cook in the making," explains Wilmington native and Executive Chef of manna, Carson Jewell. "It all started with my family grouped around the table at my grandmother's house. She was a great cook. And my grandad used to take us out into the marsh to harvest crabs and clams, and we would eat oysters straight out of the mud. My dad taught me fried chicken. My mom taught me about bread and olive oil, and Diana, my stepmother, made the most beautiful salads. Food is what brought us together."
What makes manna unique?
There is a lot that is unique about manna. Owner Billy Mellon has created a level of service and an unmatched wine list in our area. Fred Flynn, the Bar Manager and Mixologist works hard to make an amazing bar experience, and my team in the back is always working hard to bring fun and exciting food that is unlike any other restaurant.
How would you describe the type of food you like to cook?
I would describe my food as honest and thoughtful. I cook food that reminds me of my family and of places I've been. I always try to listen to what the food wants, and I treat it differently according to what it wants to be. We don't waste anything.
What motivates and inspires you as a chef?
As a chef, I'm motivated by many things. But above all, I would say that romance is my biggest motivator. I think about the stories behind our produce, the fishermen and fisherwomen who catch our fish, and the people who raise the animals we serve. Every day I talk to the waitstaff about the night's menu and where the food comes from to pass some of these little stories to our guests.
What might diners not know about you?
I have a band with my twin brother Jesse, called No Dollar Shoes.
Current favorite dish the manna menu.
Our menu is constantly evolving. Everything doesn't change every day, but it might. So, it's tough to say what my favorite thing on the menu is. But I think today my favorite menu item is our pasta dish. It's Cavatelli with spring mushrooms, peas, and egg yolk. I think it sums up Springtime very nicely.
Favorite local produce and how do you use it?
Definitely the oyster. We buy wild-caught oysters from Ana Shellem or cultivated ones from Middle Sound Mariculture. Usually, we serve them raw with mignonette and sorbet.
Best foodie city?
Portland Maine. I think they do seafood better than anyplace else.
What’s your all-time best comfort food?
I don't really think of any food as "comfort food." It's just not how I feel about it. I believe food should be exciting - an adventure. It should take us out of our comfort zone. It should spark a little love. I don't think it should make us want to sink into the couch.
Describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten.
I've eaten many great meals in award-winning restaurants, but I'd give anything to sit around my grandmother's table again and eat with my grandma and grandad. The food was always great. It was Southern food inspired by growing up during the Great Depression. Stewed meats, rice, and gravy, green beans. Stuff like that. But always seasoned with good conversation and stories from the past.
Three songs on your current playlist?
I listen to all types of music, and I don't really have a playlist, but if I did, it would be mostly songwriter stuff such as Neil Young, Townes, and Kris Kristofferson. I like lyrics.
If there’s one important piece of advice you might have for cooks, what might that be?
If I could give advice to other cooks, it would be this: BE HUMBLE! Cooking might be a talent, but it is primarily a craft. It takes a lot of hard work and time, and dedication. It's not a glamorous job like on T.V. It's not about being a shining star. It is much more like building a skyscraper. Start at the bottom and work your way up.
Described as American cooking rooted in survival: manna is rugged, wild and somehow elegant.
Tuesday – Saturday: 5:30pm-until closed
123 Princess St, Wilmington, NC