History of Birchwood Hall
In 1884 the mineral waters of the White Sulphur Springs Hotel had become famous, the railroad had stretched across the country and into the mountains, and people were flocking to Waynesville by the hundreds. It was a time of tourism and prosperity for the small mountain hamlet of Waynesville, NC.
Captain Alden Howell, Sr. had become one of Waynesville’s most prominent businessmen. In 1889 he formed the Bank of Waynesville, Waynesville’s first bank. As the bank flourished, new opportunities presented themselves for Captain Howell. Capt. Howell’s Victorian residence sat on Main Street, directly across from the Presbyterian Church. As Waynesville was struggling to house its ever-increasing influx of tourists, Capt. Howell seized this opportunity and began enlarging his home to accommodate guests. The Hotel Gordon would eventually hold 200 guests and become popular all over the southeast as “the very best the mountains has to offer”.
After using his current residence to build The Hotel Gordon, Captain Howell built a new residence adjoining the hotel property. He spared no expense on this expansion; only the finest “old growth” lumber was used in its construction and Waynesville’s best carpenters and craftsmen were enlisted for the staircase, wainscoting and elaborate woodwork. To complete his new home, custom furniture was crafted in Hazelwood and ornate Italian mantles were imported. He named the new residence Birchwood Hall. It was here that he housed his most distinguished guests during their stay in Waynesville.
Captain Howell passed in 1947 and the grand old house was sold to the Blackwell family. They continued to run Birchwood Hall as a tourist home into the 1950’s. Today we honor Birchwood Hall’s legacy and Southern hospitality with tantalizing cuisine in a warm and traditional ambiance.
~ B. Alex McKay / Waynesville Historian
Nicolas Peek brings fifteen years of restaurant experience to Birchwood Hall Southern Kitchen. He has studied under several celebrated chefs in the industry such as Scott Conant (“Chopped” judge and famed restauranteur) and Eric Levine (named one of the “Top Ten Chefs in America.”) Chef Peek began his apprenticeship at a young age under the award winning and highly acclaimed Chef Jean Claude Mille. After completing his apprenticeship, he ventured out as an executive sous chef at a premier resort where he learned and worked in every area of the restaurant industry. He continued his education becoming a member of the American Culinary Federation. His creativity and passion are deeply rooted in his experience and his upbringing.
Born and raised in Fairview, NC, Chef Peek grew up cooking with his parents. His passion for farm-to-table dining began while working at his grandfather’s farm, raising chickens, cows, bees, and growing an extensive vegetable garden. A fond memory of his childhood is watching PBS cooking shows with his parents, and learning home cooking. These humble beginnings launched a lifelong passion for food and a philosophy of keeping every ingredient fresh and local.
With his vast amount of experience and education, he turned his focus to refined food, proper preparation, and the restaurant business. As executive chef to several foremost restaurants, he has been instrumental in growing businesses to dining destination experiences and has won several culinary awards during his tenure.
Chef Peek’s self-professed most celebrated accomplishments lie in his two incredible children, Aaron and Chloe Peek. His leadership, experience and passion extend to his family, staff and his customers.
His newest adventure, Birchwood Hall Southern Kitchen, is an eclectic accumulation of his experience and his belief of keeping ingredients local, while showcasing the talent and necessity of local farmers. At Birchwood Hall, every ingredient is crafted and prepared completely in house, showing the true pride of heirloom recipes. He works with several local and regional farms to offer the very best proteins and preparations. Preparing proteins and ingredients from farms such as Joyce Farms (a family owned Heritage poultry farm, Winston-Salem, NC) and Anson Mills (owned by Glenn Roberts, a farm that is working towards bringing back heirloom grains such as Carolina Gold rice and Benne, Columbia, SC.) Chef Peek is passionately working towards keeping the simplicity and pride of great Southern food, and telling the farmer’s story. As chef and owner of Birchwood Hall, Chef Nicolas Peek is proud to bring traditional Southern cuisine to Waynesville, NC.