Bringing Good Food Home to the High Country
Chef Garrison Wagoner moved back to Alleghany County to make a differenceBy Jacob Brooks
Howdy, Carolina Country readers. It’s your pal Jacob Brooks stopping by again. How are y’all? You say you’re trapped in the Twilight Zone? You say you’re longing for the days of kindness, community and humility? Yeah, me too.
In that case, let me introduce you to a young’un who has big plans and is making a difference up in my old stomping grounds of Alleghany County. Garrison Wagoner is what my Mamaw Carol would call a “pretty good egg.” Garrison and I go way back to the old firehouse at Glade Creek Elementary and the halls of Alleghany High. We even ran into each other a few times up at Appalachian State. Garrison paired a remarkable talent on the grill with his visionary business mind, and graduated with a degree in Hospitality & Tourism Management in 2015.
From Boone, Garrison headed to Westchester Country Club in New York. (I know! Not bad for a fella from Ennice, North Carolina.) While there, Garrison trained under renowned chefs and learned the ins and outs of creating a first-class dining experience. Approximately two years “on the line” at Westchester honed his culinary skills and abilities as a chef.
“When folks want to go out for a nice meal, I want this to be the first spot they consider.”
“It was a great job, great experience, great money,” he recollects with a deep Appalachian drawl. “I lived there for free, ate there for free — the people there really took care of their employees. And I had no living expenses.” A pause filled the air to deliver the last line coated with a chuckle and smirk: “So that was hard to leave.”
He would have stayed in New York, but his heart kept calling him home. “We hope you make it back to Alleghany one of these days,” wrote his Granny and Grand-Pawpaw in a Christmas card. And when the mountains (and grandparents) call, one must go.
His intuition paid off. Today, Garrison is a successful entrepreneur and restauranteur. As President of G.B. Wagoner Group, his team specializes in institutional catering services and operates Horizon Bistro, which is “in the old Smithey’s building” off Main Street in Sparta. Garrison is excited to announce the opening of North Flow Steakhouse and Tavern in April 2022, the name paying homage to the New River.
With App State’s mountain man, Yosef, on the wall, a mountainscape mural painted by local artist Meredith Walker, and hopes for a baby grand piano for light ambiance, the vision for North Flow is a good helpin’ of Blue Ridge Mountains with a dash of Westchester. Garrison is quick to emphasize his desire to attract clientele from the farms and the golf courses.
“I don’t want people to feel like they’ve got to put on a blazer to come in here. We want everybody to come,” he explains. “When folks want to go out for a nice meal, I want this to be the first spot they consider.”
The menu will feature burgers, sirloin, ribeye and other delicious eats. Other local businesses are in on the fun. Chilly Water Farms of Sparta will supply the beef. So, when y’all are out galavantin’ this spring, come on up the mountain and stop in at North Flow Steakhouse and see ol’ Garrison. (And tell him Jake Brooks sent you. He might just feed you, if’n you pay for it.)
And to Garrison: thanks for leading by example in rural North Carolina. I know your elders said it to you as mine said it to me: “Go far, but don’t ever forget where you come from.”
Your Grand-Pawpaw would be proud.
About the authorJacob Brooks, a 2010 Youth Tourist and YLC national spokesperson representing Blue Ridge Energy, documented his Youth Tour and college experiences in “Jacob’s Log.” Jacob returns to Carolina Country to highlight young people making a difference in the communities they call home.
More local influencers