On a mountain called English Knob some 4,000 feet high in the Appalachians of North Carolina sits a real life Castle offering 5 Star Luxury and some of the best High-End cuisines in the world. For many tourists and vacationers this experience is nothing short of magical. Inside this Scottish Castle a Michelin Star trained Chef Benjamin Epicure runs the kitchen. Ah but you see, it’s the kitchen that runs the estate at Smithmore. In fact, one look at their online reviews and you’ll quickly realize that this unique business model is unlike anything else in the world. A time capsule of sorts taking guests into what life was like during the aristocracy. It’s like living on the set of Downton Abbey, footmen, servers, nannies and all.
We should note that in America, typically the European standard of service and etiquette is not on par with say France or Germany but what Chef Benjamin and his staff have done is just that and maybe more. The Concierge department is professional and competent. White gloves, speaking multiple languages and directing guests effortlessly through the many amenities and activities on the Property.
The private restaurant at Smithmore Castle is likely America’s only hope of feeling like royalty while dining. The experience by reservation only, the ambiance levels above and the menu offering Duck, Rabbit, Chateaubriand, Elk, Lobster and Assorted Sashimi is simply addictive. In touring the estate with Chef Benjamin we got to learn what living off the land truly means. The Chef grows all his herbs, raises Chicken for eggs and slaughter, keeps fish in tanks and harvests Mushrooms & Truffle onsite. Giving the phrase fresh food a more honest meaning.
During my visit I saw the striking Chef courting a group of Castle guests. He’s a triple threat you see. Giving insightful tours of the estate, creating memorable dishes and even overseeing the marketing for Smithmore. The passion he exudes is evident by the way he describes the Castle, to the way he explains his artful food creations. During dinner service we saw guests oohing and aahing as each course was delivered by a team of white glove servers in pressed black uniforms. First dish was a Dragon Caprese Salad. Proportionally perfect, a colorful masterpiece with two dressings made in house. For the Second Course Chef Benjamin and his team prepared Chateaubriand with Albino Asparagus and Honey Glazed King Oyster Mushroom. The side of Potato Puree was made to look floral. His dessert, Pecan Tiramisu with Kiwi Puree and 24K Rose Gold Leaf.
There’s no denying that Chef Benjamin Epicure is bringing an authentic yet forgotten victorian experience to America. He’s created what seems to be a business which can not be replicated. When I asked the Chef how the Castle and his dining experiences faired during Covid he replied, “This is the place people come to escape the chaos of the world.” During Covid was a busy time at Smithmore, weddings which originally had 300 guests downsized to 80 or 100 and were taken in by Smithmore. The internet is flooded with photos of events taken from the beautiful estate.
Later on that week, students arrived to Smithmore to take part in a Cooking Class with Chef Benjamin. Six students wearing black aprons and ready to take orders, prepare a meal and learn the tricks of the trade. “We offer beginner and intermediate Cooking Classes for folks looking to expand their culinary skills, take part in a fun date night activity or even advanced classes for those seeking a Culinary Career,” said Chef Benjamin.
Smithmore Castle under the current management of Chef Benjamin Epicure is an exciting, whimsical yet sophisticated estate. There are places where a dreamlike work environment is evidently clear in the actions and faces of staff. Smithmore is that place, staff is well trained and it’s abundantly clear that they enjoy working the estate. “ We try our hardest to make sure that staff always puts in 100% of their skills each day,” says Jessica, Concierge Lead. “The Chef runs a strict operation with no room for error,” she continued.
Attention you foodies, you Castle seekers and mountain escape lovers. Look no further than this 126 Acre Private Estate sitting literally above the clouds. Serving cuisines straight from the Noble men and women of the aristocracy of times past.
Additional activities on the estate include, Massages, Guided Cave Hikes, Archery Lessons, Mountain Biking, Horse Back Riding, Fire Pit, Tea Times and Wine Tasting. Their gorgeous website will also be a great resource of information and bookings.