Amid street musicians and restaurants, Asheville food buskers cook for tips

The Facebook page of Teaufood Culinary Busking in Asheville
The Facebook page of Teaufood Culinary Busking in Asheville

Touristy Asheville, which is known for its sidewalk musicians and restaurants, has spawned a mashup of both: food busking.

“It's food talent for tips,” Teau Frederic, known locally as the godfather of culinary busking, tells the mountain city’s Citizen-Times.

Buskers set up grills in busy places, such as bars, feed folks for free and accept whatever money they offer. Cooking, as with street music, becomes a performance.

“It's kind of like being at a food competition every day, but you’re the only competitor,” Frederic says. “It really keeps you on your toes.”

Frederic will stage a buskers’ cook-off Saturday at Asheville’s Burger Bar, which doesn’t actually sell burgers other than what buskers or food trucks offer.

Bar owners like the idea because buskers eliminate the expense of food operations while still offering food for drinkers.

Salt & Smoke, now the house restaurant for Burial Beer Co. near downtown, started by hosting pay-what-you-want food events at the taproom.

“We took an opportunity that was presented to us, and figured it would be a great way to get our names out there and test the product,” co-owner Shannon McGaughey told the Citizen-Times.

The menu has included smoked bone marrow, smelts, house-cured salmon and pork sandwiches with pickled mushrooms.

“Most of the time people were looking at the chalkboard and saying, ‘My god, what’s happening here?’ ” McGaughey said. “Most of the time, that’s a good thing.”

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender