A native of Winston-Salem, NC, Fleer was named one of the “Rising Stars of the 21st Century” by the James Beard Foundation and is a three-time finalist for the James Beard “Best Chef in the Southeast” award.
Inspired by the “culture of food” he experienced in Venice while a Religion and Philosophy major at Duke University, John began his culinary career humbly, working in kitchens as a way to pay for graduate school in Religion and Culture at UNC. His passion ignited, Fleer enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America.
Following a fellowship at one of the CIA’s restaurants and a stint as personal chef to Mary Tyler Moore, Fleer joined Blackberry Farm, where he served as Executive Chef from 1992 until 2007.Chef Fleer transforms local ingredients into world-class dishes. The unique “foothills cuisine” he helped establish at Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm wandered the line between refined and rugged, fancy and familiar.
It focused on interpreting the regional larder through classical and traditional techniques, eventually catapulting the resort to the honor of Relais Gourmand. Under Fleer’s leadership, the Tennessee destination was honored by Zagat Survey in 2003 and 2004 as #1 Small Hotel in America and #2 Hotel Dining in America.
In May of 2009, John took his first step back across the Blue Ridge from Tennessee, to open Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley in Cashiers, NC where his food was enhanced by one of the most beautiful restaurant settings in the country. Fleer left Canyon Kitchen in the summer of 2015 to focus his time on Rhubarb.
Chef Fleer has served on various boards, most importantly as a member of the Board of Directors for the Southern Foodways Alliance from 2003 until 2009. Rhubarb is the next step in Fleer’s journey; he hopes to bring the relaxed atmosphere of his previous pastoral posts to Pack Square, broadening his approach with a freestyle American cuisine well suited for its location at Asheville’s vibrant crossroad.