Cherry Iocovozzi cooks in the East Fork kitchen, finds new path for East Fork to be a resource in our community, can be found on set at a great many shoots (you’ll recognize their arms and hands reaching out with pots filled with a vast array of photogenic dishes they cooked for the occasion) and every couple of weeks, talks alcoholic beverages and life with bartenders’ bartenders like Tiffanie Barriere and John deBary in our wildly popular Cherry Pops! video series. Who is this interesting person? Read on!
Hi, Cherry, what do you do here at East Fork?
I am the food systems manager at East Fork. I’m not sure why my title sounds so official/scientific but basically I cook lunch for everyone six meals a week, create food and beverage-related content with the marketing team, and work with our Culture and People department to find ways to be a resource in the Asheville community and to create a communal culture at work around meals.
What goes into building that culture? Why is it important to you and to East Fork to offer meals?
We talk a lot about how to build menus that toggle between being comforting, challenging, fantastical, homely, steeped in tradition, new age-y, healthful and indulgent. I’ve cooked congee, lasagna, kafta, fried chicken, japanese style curry, pozole….. I think the main reason we offer food for folks at work is to try to create a sense of community. Before covid, everyone ate at the same time, sitting around the long table or outside at picnic tables, it was a moment for everyone to slow down, enjoy something delicious, chat or just decompress. We still try to foster those feelings even when folks’ lunch breaks are staggered, and I’m hopeful that people feel the care and thought I put into meals to fuel them for the rest of their workday.
Where do you cook these feasts?
At the factory! We have a kitchen with commercial equipment and a garage door that looks out onto the office. I see folks from all over the factory over the course of the day coming in to make coffee, wash a dish or just say hi.
I wish I worked in the office more often so I could experience lunch. Can you describe your work with the Culture and People people, please?
When I collaborate with the folks on the C&P team, we’re often talking about how to make meals feel as inclusive and exciting for folks as possible. Sometimes my position feels a bit isolating, I’m the only person in the kitchen and don’t have anyone that reports to me. The folks in C&P help me take a pulse check of how meals are feeling for folks at work. I’m also working with them to think creatively about how we can offer the kitchen space to the larger Asheville community - for a little while, I was coming in on Saturday mornings to cook hot meals for the folks at Asheville Survival Program, and C&P is helping me think of actionable ways to use the kitchen for a good greater than family meal.
What were you doing before East Fork came into your life?
I have done many things, mostly food and beverage related. I lived in Brooklyn from 2010 to 2019 and studied postmodern dance, worked in restaurants, did childcare, landscaping, worked for an event florist, did catering, archived dance work, choreographed work, did drag…
I know you grew up in Savannah and went to the New School to study dance and queer theory. Can you tell us about that?
I loved growing up in the marsh: I was truly like a fish to water and got my boating license when I was 13 years old. My family had a little flat-bottomed Carolina Skiff with a bench seat that I loved to take out and just sit in the middle of the marsh and swim and eat a Publix sandwich. I studied dance in middle and high school and went to dance classes every day after school and on weekends that I wasn’t working as a host at a restaurant. I was convinced I was going to grow up to join Paul Taylor’s dance company, or go to New York City Ballet. When I graduated, I moved to Brooklyn and studied at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for a year and transferred to Eugene Lang College at The New School to get an undergraduate degree in dance with a minor in queer theory which kind of started in gender studies but shifted when I started reading people like Jose Esteban Munoz, Judith Butler, and Dean Spade. My experience of school was generally unlike most of my peers from Georgia. The dance department at school was really small, I was studying performance theory and organizing with activist groups on campus like the Feminist Collective, Students for Justice in Palestine, and Black Lives Matter aligned groups that took on many forms. I ended up making my thesis about the imagery/aesthetics of sex in pop culture and the online subcultures of sexuality that were more prevalent in the early aughts. I kept making dances and working with choreographers after school but took a break from dance in my mid 20s when I was having some identity crises about being perceived as a cis person. I’m just now getting back into some movement practices, I really miss the physical awareness I had when I was dancing every day.
How did you decide to leave New York? Was Asheville your first stop?
About three years ago I met my now partner, Silver, who has lived in Asheville for about nine years. We fell in love and did a long-distance thing for about six months when I decided to sublet my apartment in New York and stay with them for a month. Right before I left I found out my apartment building had a pretty gnarly bed bug infestation so I broke my lease, came to Asheville and never really looked back.
What do you like about Asheville? How would you describe life here?
My favorite thing about Asheville is how absolutely breathtaking the mountains are. I love hiking year-round and seeing all the biodiversity as the seasons change. Spring ephemera in WNC is bonkers!!! Earlier this spring I went on a hike with my best friend Ren and we saw this really beautiful rare wild orchid called a showy orchid and it blew my mind. On the same walk we saw wild irises, lady slipper orchids, lily of the valley, jack in the pulpit, trillium, may apples and a million other things I’m forgetting. I love finding (and eating) wild mushrooms, swimming in rivers and streams, and just enjoying the beauty of the world around me (I’m a Libra...beauty just gets me!). It’s much slower here than in New York, which I appreciate. Less urgency and a lot more simplicity. I feel really lucky to have a house with a yard, live with my partner and work on really fun cooking projects together, drink wine as the sun sets, and laugh and sing with friends around a fire. Silver is such an inspiration to me, we never miss an opportunity to have a good time or see something beautiful or eat something delicious, going on little fantastical escapades with them in Asheville and the surrounding areas is so fun and so necessary to my happiness.
What do you like about cooking for lots and lots of people? What isn’t so great?
Before working at East Fork, I was just a home cook, never cooked in a restaurant setting and certainly never cooked at this volume. I think what I like most about cooking for lots of people is how shocked I am every time I manage to put up a meal and feed everyone. The next best part is when they sit down to eat and I hear little murmurs of “mmmm” and “yummmm.” The best days are when folks like the food so much they ask me for the recipe, then later tell me they actually tried it at home. It can be complicated juggling everyone’s dietary restrictions, allergies, and preferences and making sure everyone is satisfied, but I’ve had a lot of fun figuring out how to modify dishes I make to be vegan and gluten free.
You have quite a following for your Cherry Pops! video series. How did that come about? And how would you describe Cherry Pops! to someone who has never seen it?
I have a little (read: big) obsession with wine—specifically low-intervention, biodynamically/organically grown, wines that are made in centuries-old traditions of using wine to represent a snapshot of a time and a place. Wine is magical because all you really need are grapes to make it, yeasts occur naturally, fermentation happens spontaneously, and grape juice turns to exceptionally delicious alcohol. Here in Asheville I moonlight at a shop called Crocodile Wine and we only carry these kinds of “natural wines.” I think Cherry Pops! came about because I missed the experience of drinking and tasting wine with other people and wanted to bring it virtual. Since the first couple episodes we’ve expanded to amaro, sake, spiked seltzer and absinthe with martinis on the horizon. It’s been a pleasure to learn from some experts in other fields. I love my Cherry Pops! Stans because they are all into nerdy processes like I am!
What are your five objects?
This has been the toughest question for me so far! When I was a kid, my mom wasn’t very sentimental about objects or material things, and I think that kind of backfired on me and led me to keeping like every little thing I could get my paws on in the name of “sentimentality.” Things like receipts and napkins with notes on them or t-shirts that I didn’t even like that much. The past few years I’ve been working on LETTING GO and trying to figure out what’s really important and what isn’t…that doesn’t mean I don’t own like 30 stuffed animals and have drawers full of scraps of paper but it’s a start. So here goes my 5 very precious things:
My copy of Howl’s Moving Castle that was gifted to me by my younger sibling—this book has been through it! I’ve read it a few times myself and loaned it out to others as well. I don’t think my sibling knew they were giving me something so important when they picked it out at a used book store. My best friend passed away 3 years ago and reading that book basically gave me the escape from real life that I needed to cope.
Speaking of my friend who passed, I was also able to keep a few really important items of their clothing after they passed away, particularly a cropped tank top from NYC Slutwalk in 2012 and some of their chest binders that I wore for about 2 years after they passed.
I’m gonna copy Emilija and say my cat Crash is absolutely one of my 5 objects. He’s been with me about eight years and sometimes I feel like he’s the only person who truly knows me.
A book of coca-cola matches and a red birthday candle that was gifted to me by my partner Silver on my birthday a few weeks after we met. As far as cash value, this is the least valuable thing my partner has ever given me but it is absolutely priceless in my heart. Now it sits on my altar with a few other beloved objects. The poetics of the gift just felt so perfect, a match and a candle, a flame waiting to be lit. I dont think I’ll ever burn the candle but I love to look at it. Plus, “Having a Coke With You” by Frank O’Hara is probably my favorite poem about love and I’m from Georgia the birthplace of Coca-Cola so it feels just right.
My best friend Ronika gave me this painting for my birthday this year. Ronika moved to Athens, Georgia, about a year ago for a grad program at UGA. She, like me, is interested in wine and found this liquor store called 5 Points with a secretly great selection of natural wines. In the shop there are paintings hung everywhere signed by Svetlana, who we later found out is the wine buyer for the shop. We became kind of obsessed with this mysterious person who paints and curates wine for this unexpected shop in a small college town in north west Georgia. Ron surprised me with the painting and I almost fell over with excitement. I’m planning on putting it in a gilded frame soon.