When Chef Rocco Whalen brought his successful Cleveland, Ohio-based Fahrenheit to Charlotte, it became one of the city’s hottest restaurants. The renowned chef splits his time between the two cities but has immersed himself in Charlotte’s growing dining scene.
You’re new to Charlotte. What has it been like?
Charlotte has embraced us completely. The food scene attracted me, and that’s why I decided I wanted to open a restaurant here. I’m just really excited to be a part of the puzzle.
What do you like about the local food scene?
We have such an affluent crowd of people, from all different walks of life. They can be NASCAR fans, they can be foodies, or people who like adventure. And there are a lot of chefs that support local agriculture and the farm-to-table movement that really is all of Charlotte. It’s a culinary crowd, and it’s backed up by a great school in Johnson & Wales.
You seem to have built relationships with other prominent chefs in the city. Would you say so?
On a Friday night, I know Jamie Lynch (5Church) is in his kitchen, I know Bruce Moffett (Barrington’s) is in his kitchen. So when we do get together in a social aspect, we talk food because that’s truly what our lives are all about.
Some critics say Charlotte doesn’t have a food identity. What do you think?
With the food here, there’s an option to have just about anything you want—barbecue, biscuits. ... I think we’re defining who we are on a daily basis in Charlotte. I’m excited about where Charlotte is, but I’m more excited about where Charlotte is going.
My Perfect Day
6 am: Up and at It
My first appointment is with my trainer. A few years ago, I did a weight-loss show on The Food Network called “Fat Chef,” and I’ve stuck to the regimen.
I’d head over to Toast in Dilworth and get some egg whites, scrambled.
Noon: Green Peace
For lunch, I like The Liberty. They do a really nice job with burgers. I’d round out the day by enjoying some of the green space or driving up to Latta Plantation.
3 pm: Howdy, Neighbor
I love the neighborhoods. I can be in Plaza Midwood or NoDa in a few minutes. Whether I’m in NoDa, going to The Blind Pig or Cabo Fish Taco, neighborhoods are such a big part of this city. If I had my nieces in tow, we’d run over to Discovery Place.
5:30 pm: Market Report
I’d head over to 7th Street Public Market and grab a sandwich from Local Loaf.
8 pm: City Scene
I’d catch the sunset, maybe on the roof of my building. Or enjoy an event at the Spectrum Center, then chocolate from Bar Cocoa at The Ritz-Carlton.