By Sherrie Norris
Sheri Castle is known throughout the south and beyond as an award-winning professional food writer, cook, recipe developer, cooking instructor, public speaker and story teller — and one who easily captivates her audiences, regardless of the setting.
In her hometown of Boone, Castle is known for all the above—and so much more. Those who know her will soon have an opportunity to reconnect with her— and the ones anxious to meet her will have the chance to do so during her guest appearance at the 64th annual Farm City Banquet on Thursday, Nov. 7.
The annual Farm City celebration in Watauga County has stood the test of time, and thanks to Castle’s participation, in addition to other special guests, a great meal and awards presentation, this year’s event promises to be an evening to remember for all involved.
Who is Sheri Castle?
Born and raised in Boone, Castle is known for blending storytelling, culinary expertise and humor. She not only writes her own features that frequently appear in some of the country’s most reputable publications, she also edits, collaborates, consults and ghostwrites for other writers, chefs and clients.
She teaches classes, helps others learn to cook with confidence and enthusiasm, and also develops and tests recipes for cookbooks, magazines and other media, both for her own titles and for clients.
She writes books, magazine articles, guest blog posts, and is always open to “unusual assignments,” she said.
As a multi-award winner, Castle admits the awards are nice, but the highest accolades come from readers who tell her that her words matter, both written and spoken.
A resident of Pittsboro, Castle was just this year named among Twenty Living Legends of Southern Food by the Southern Foodways Alliance. She has been described as “The Storyteller” and “one who has revealed herself to be our best advocate for the rich history of Southern home cooking.”
Most of her stories are about food she said, —” from recipes to essays on the roles that our foodways play in our families, lives, history and culture.”
Castle is the author of several books, which include the following:
- “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Recipes for Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands and CSA Boxes,” (The University of North Carolina Press, 2011.) Accolades for this book include the 2012 Cookbook of the Year by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance;
- “The Southern Living Community Cookbook: Celebrating Food and Fellowship in the American South,” (2014 by Oxmoor House with foreword by Matt Lee and Ted Lee). This book was a finalist for a 2014 International Association of Culinary Professionals excellence award.
- “Rhubarb, Short Stack Editions, 2016.” Short Stack is a series of small-format cookbooks authored by America’s top culinary talents, each edition a collectible, single-subject booklet packed with recipes that offer ingenious new ways to cook our favorite ingredients.
- “Instantly Southern: 75 Fresh Takes on Southern Favorites Using Your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker, and Instant Pot.” (Clarkson-Potter, Fall 2018). This book distinguished itself from among the crowded field on this topic and appeared on several Best of the Year lists for 2018.
Castle is the writer and recipe editor for “Le Creuset: A Collection of Recipes from Our French Table,” the official cookbook of Le Creuset cookware, October 2017. She has also developed the recipes for “Sugar, Butter, Flour: The Waitress Pie Book, “ (Pam Krauss/Avery, 2017), This is the official “tie-in,” we’re told, to the cult classic movie turned Broadway hit musical, Waitress.
Castle is the co-author and recipe tester for “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook,” ( The University of Georgia Press, 2010), a finalist for a 2009 International Association of Culinary Professionals excellence award.
In early 2015, Castle served as senior food editor for Southern Living, and continues today as a contributing editor to the well-known magazine. Her work has also appeared in numerous other publications, including Better Homes and Gardens, NPR’s Kitchen Window, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Times- Picayune, The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Garden and Gun, The Local Palate, Epicurious, Taste of the South, Food Republic, The Daily, Our State, WNC Magazine, Living in Style, Cornbread Nation 3 and 4, and other magazines and cookbook anthologies, syndicated newspaper columns, websites and blogs.
Castle has tested and developed recipes and provided editorial content and consulting for several award-winning cookbooks and has worked as a ghostwriter for several celebrity cookbooks.
Known as a popular speaker at culinary and literary festivals — from high-profile events to community gatherings — Castle was the subject of five short documentaries on Southern food produced by A Spoken Dish. She was also a featured guest on the PBS nationally syndicated The Chef and The Farmer. She was the culinary producer on a set of 20 instructional videos for Yahoo Food and is a popular guest on the Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family.
Recognized as one of the most popular and experienced cooking teachers in avocational schools across the south, Castle teaches regularly in Chapel Hill.
In 2015, Castle was one of seven writers in the country accepted to the inaugural session of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s nonfiction writing workshop at the Rivendell Writers’ Colony. She won the 2011 AIWF Foundation Scholarship for Recipe Writing, presented in honor of Julia Child. She was on the Gilt Taste team that won the 2012 Bert Green Journalism New Media Award for instructive food articles with recipes from the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
She is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and Les Dames d’Escoffier International.
One journalist said about her, “Sheri Castle is one of the most brilliant recipe developers I know, a terrific writer — and her cooking classes are equal parts crucial info and laugh-until-you-drop trenchant observation.”
Enjoying a diverse career that requires her to juggle multiple projects, Castle shares that her favorite opportunities include those for public speaking — personal appearances, cooking classes and media work. Her style? “Casual, credible, fun and informative.”
Most recently, and of local interest, especially, many of us have enjoyed her latest feature in the October issue of Our State Magazine, “An Afternoon & A Tank of Gas: Highway 221 South.” It’s a fascinating and personally satisfying read for those of us familiar to that stretch of mountain road.
“The winding, scenic route through Linville may not be a long drive — it’s only about 20 miles — but it becomes a journey when you stop to shop, eat, and see the sights,” she wrote.
Coming Back where it all Began
Those behind the scenes at this year’s Farm City Banquet are delighted that Castle has agreed to come home for this historic gathering.
A 1978 graduate of Watauga High School, Castle left her beloved mountain home and family to earn a bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies.
Castle never intended to become a professional cook, she told High Country Press in an interview on Monday. “But, I did always want to be a writer. Actually, I intended to become an English professor who wrote novels and short stories on the side.”
Combining her love for writing and cooking into one profession evolved through time, she said; it actually started when, at the age of 4, she wrote her first original recipe, drew a picture of it and mailed it to Betty Feezor, known to many southern homemakers as the television personality/cook/decorator on WBTV from the 1950s through the ‘70s.
When asked about her early inspirations, Castle didn’t hesitate one minute to tell us about growing up in the shadows of her paternal grandmother, Madge Reece Castle from Zionville.
“ I was blessed to have had one of those great southern grandmothers who was known in her community and church as a wonderful cook,” she said. “I didn’t know, at the time, that I was being inspired for a future career, but in hindsight, it became clear, that under her feet while she was getting stuff done in the kitchen, I was learning so much from her.”
Growing up, Castle said, she loved to cook, “on the side, as a hobby.”
She loved preparing specialties as a student for events at Watauga High School, and even in college, she often made meals for her friends who craved home cooking or simply needed a break from the school cafeteria and nearest fast food joint.
“I always seemed to have a knack for cooking – I enjoyed it, and was pretty good at it,” she said.
Castle didn’t “go pro” until 1998, after leaving the corporate world of writing and training in professional cooking.
Corroborating what she already knew, “and emboldened by it,” she said, one thing led to another and eventually it all became one career.
“After taking the professional training, I realized I had a knack for cooking. I was good at explaining things and just decided that this is what I was meant to do. I was naïve to think I knew what I was getting myself into.”
There was never a “grand plan,” she insists, but one that just built on itself. “And it still is, in many ways.”
She’s very grateful, she admitted, for the opportunities that have come her way; there’s never two days a like and nothing “typical” about it. “But that’s part of what I enjoy about having my own business,” she added. “Some weeks I’m in the kitchen developing recipes, other weeks I’m on the road presenting at special events, and some weeks, I’m in front of my computer working on a book or magazine article.”
And about coming home to Boone? “I’ll take any chance to do that,” she said. “I don’t’ spend nearly as much time there as I’d like to do. I’m humbled, excited and gratified that I would have a chance to tell my story back in those beloved mountains where it all began, and to share with people there how my career has turned out. It’s been 41 years since I left, and my daddy still thinks it’s a phase that I’ll outgrow.”
Castle has a deep respect for her home and family, as well as the farm-city concept; she hopes her audience on Nov. 7 will leave with a fresh look at the farm-city life and realize how lucky each of them is to live in such a beautiful place.
“Not until I moved away, did I develop my perspective and begin to appreciate how special that place is . . . and how delicious the food is that grows there — and how important that there are still caretakers of our land who love it the way they do,” she explained. “Every time I get a chance to brag about where I’m from, I do – and to be there with people who appreciate the same things I do – is a great gift. We’re all loving the same things – we just look at it from slightly different points of view.”
And yes, there are times when she comes back to relax. “Just because I need some time in my dad’s backyard.”
The daughter of Lynn and Treva Castle, she said she would like to ultimately settle back in the mountains one day. “My dream is to play the final inning on home field, whether it be in Watauga County or somewhere nearby. I never had any doubt that my path would circle back around to bring me home.”
Even her daughter, who has never technically lived in the mountains, having grown up in the Chapel Hill area, says she, too, is from the mountains.
If she had it all to do over again, we asked Castle, would she change anything?
“I wouldn’t really say I’d change anything. It’s all lined up the right way. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have turned out the way that it did. I don’t need to move those parts around,” she said. “But, I’d probably develop better skill sets, maybe become a better photographer and just get better at what I do.”
Those behind the scenes at this year’s Farm City Banquet are delighted that Castle has agreed to come home for this historic gathering. To learn more about her, visit www.shericastle.com.
She is represented by Sarah Smith of the David Black Agency.
More About the 64th Annual Farm City Banquet
It all happens on Thursday, November 7, 6 – 9 p.m. at Boone United Methodist Church.
This year’s theme, “High Country Grown: Who’s Your Farmer?” will celebrate Watauga County’s farmers and the community and town folk that support them.
The annual longstanding banquet and awards ceremony is hosted by the Town of Boone, ASU, and N.C. Cooperative Extension of Watauga County. Special guests, in addition to Castle, includes local singer and songwriter, Will Willis.
Following a delicious “old-fashioned supper” prepared by Lost Province with foods supplied from local farms, awards will be presented to those in the farming, civic and business community who have made significant contributions to the agricultural economy.
In recognition of achievements in community development, The Tuckwiller Award will be presented again by The Boone Chamber of Commerce, to honor the memory of the late Lake Ernest Tuckwiller, past Watauga County Farm Agent.
Always a highlight of the event is the introduction of the Watauga Soil and Water District’s Farm Family of the Year.
Ticket holders will once again have a chance at numerous door prizes, including baskets filled with locally produced foods and goods. As has become a much-anticipated custom, an original painting by acclaimed local artist Richard Tumbleston will be given away to a lucky winner as the final prize of the evening.
The Watauga County Farm Bureau is the Platinum Sponsor this year. Gold sponsors are Mast General Store, New River Building Supply and Lumber Co. and Southern Ag; silver sponsors are Hollar & Greene Produce Co., Carolina Farm Credit, BREMCO; bronze sponsors are the Watauga County Christmas Tree Association, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture and PHARMN.
The Farm City committee members, which work hard year-round to make this event possible, would like to thank their sponsors for their support and all who attend.
Tickets are now on sale at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Watauga County Center, 971 W King St. in Boone: $10 for adults; $5 for children 6-12; children 5 and under eat free. Ticket sales are limited to the first 250, so get yours today. No tickets will be sold at the door.
Boone United Methodist Church is located at 471 New Market Blvd, Boone.
For more information, call, 828-264-3061.