Sunday’s Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted episode took Chef Gordon Ramsay into the Smoky Mountains, where he teams up with Chef William Dissen for his next big cook.
Chef Dissen, who not only cooks in the region but was also born there, spoke with Nerdophiles about how he didn’t originally believe the NatGeo series wanted him, how much he enjoyed working with Chef Ramsay, and the one dish viewers should order when they visit his restaurants, which include The Market Place in Asheville, North Carolina.
Get to meet him before you tune in to the “The Great Smoky Mountains” episode of Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on NatGeo.
Nerdophiles: How did you become involved in Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted initially? What made the series interesting to you?
Chef William Dissen: The producers reached out to me during the pandemic last year in April and May. Funny enough, I thought it was spam as we were in lockdown at that time. They eventually reached back out and I realized that the show was legitimate!
For me, it was a great show to be a part of as I was able to showcase the beauty of our region as well as the culinary heritage and culture of our delicious food and heirloom ingredients. Chef Ramsay was a blast to hang out with, and he is such a talented chef. It will be a highlight of my career to be able to work and cook alongside him.
NP: You grew up in West Virginia, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, and now have your restaurant in South Carolina. Is there anything from your roots that influenced your time in New York, or anything that you brought back from your own travels in your career?
WD: Being from West Virginia, I have Appalachian roots and I work to honor the region that I am from. My time in New York influenced my cooking style in my career as I was exposed to so many different types of cuisine. I believe that is the important part of a chef’s journey—to learn about other places and to learn about their culture through the food they prepare. I’ve grown so much in my career from my travels, and being able to be a part of a show like Uncharted was an opportunity to bring that philosophy full circle with Chef Ramsay.
NP: What does it mean to you to cook in the same part of the country that you grew up in?
WD: Appalachia, and the Smoky Mountains, get a bad reputation for being a poor, impoverished, and “redneck” part of the United States. Being able to bring Chef Ramsay to the region was a true career highlight. I believe he was enamored with our culture and heritage and the different cooking styles and ingredients we have here. Our region has a true “terrior” like Tuscany in Italy, and I am so proud to be able to showcase why our food is amongst some of the best in the world.
NP: So how would you describe the culinary scene of the Smoky Mountains to viewers? What about it inspires you?
WD: The food scene in North Carolina is one of the best in the United States. We are right in the middle of the East Coast and have amazing access to the coast, the piedmont region, and the mountain region of the state allowing us to access the best of both land and sea. The weather is temperate and we also have access to clean water, fertile soil, and wild food which is the perfect equation for sourcing the best of the best ingredients. It is like a true “foodtopia.”
NP: What did you learn from your experience working with Gordon Ramsay?
WD: Chef Gordon Ramsay is the most famous and lauded chef on the planet. He is certainly a celebrity, but also one of the most formidable chefs there is! I was honored to be able to cook with him and pick his brain about his restaurants, his cooking style, and what he’s learned in his career and travels. In our episode here in the Smoky Mountains, he spoke to me about his plans for growing his restaurants and how he had made some tough decisions to close down other locations during COVID-19. It was great to connect and hear his expertise and bounce around ideas as a business owner myself. I’m excited for the opportunity to connect again in the future and hope to get to cook together again soon.
NP: Now that restaurants are opening back up, what one dish should viewers order if they want to try your food in person?
WD: I love our Mac & Cheese. It’s a side dish at all three of our restaurants and uses locally sourced ingredients from the country ham to the cheese. It’s such a simple American staple that we all know and love, but the flavors showcase the taste of the region and of of who we are as local, farm-to-table restaurants. I think you can taste the care and love in our Mac & Cheese that we put into all of our cuisines.
Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted airs Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on NatGeo. Episodes also stream the next day on Disney+.