Durham, N.C. — Chef Garret Fleming has a neck knife. An actual knife that hangs from his neck.
"I saw this and I knew something spoke to me because many times in a day I wonder, ‘Where is a knife?I need a knife,' whether you are stabbing something or slicing something," Fleming said of the Murray Carter blade. "When you forget to put it on, you notice it. It's very useful. No joke. You really use it for so many more things than you would ever imagine."
The former Bravo TV "Top Chef" contestant took over as Chef de Cuisine at Motto, 604 W. Main St., late last year. The restaurant had only been open a couple of months and featured an Italian menu. Fleming had been a chef in Washington D.C. for nearly a decade.
"As a chef you kind of get used to moving around," he said, noting that you also have to start looking at where you want to end up. "You have to think about growing up and setting down roots.”
Fleming was visiting his sister in Chapel Hill when she told him about Durham's food scene.
"It is exciting," Fleming said. "I went to Asheville and Charlotte (too). North Carolina as a whole has a very exciting food scene."
With Motto looking to make a change and Fleming looking to put his stamp in the Carolinas, the decision was easy.
"At this point in my life I’m not super excited about taking over someone else’s restaurant," Fleming said. "When I came on, I felt it like it was really important to put the focus on making stuff in house."
Fleming wanted to energize the kitchen and the community with an ever-evolving menu featuring the best products that can be sourced daily.
"I'm focusing on intriguing people with what we are doing, but at the same time, giving them something to come back to," Fleming said.
That something is a strong Charcuterie program from sustainable farmers and fresh pasta made and cut by hand in house daily. Bread is also made in house.
Even Fleming's wood-fired grilling method is a daily process featuring old bricks.
"It looks disastrous, but it is fun and we get the flavor of wood," Fleming said, pointing to the crushed wood and bricks on the stainless steel grill.
The grill isn't only heat source Motto is using, there are also smokers and a large stone pizza oven. Fleming said he fell in love with fellow Bull City restaurant Pizzeria Toro's pizza and said the focus is to create something that good or better.