Chef Tina Harget stirs up yummy alternatives
Chef TINA HARGET’S zest for creating recipes stems from her quest for a healthier way of dining. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Harget found her way to Asheville and worked in prestigious kitchens such as Cedric’s Tavern and at the Biltmore Estate. Absorbing creative culinary twists and the importance of fresh ingredients, Harget decided to dedicate her skills to a more personalized approach to cooking.
“I have a genetic disposition toward high cholesterol,” says Harget, “and it’s been an issue most of my life. Unfortunately, when I started eating refrigerated and frozen veggie burger products, I didn’t take note of the high sodium content.”
Upon developing hyperthyroidism, she eliminated all fake meat products. And then, she remembered her skillset: “I thought to myself, ‘I’m a chef. I can do better!’”
Harget experimented with roasted vegetables, quinoa, eggs, and breadcrumbs, in hopes of creating a healthier veggie burger. “As soon as I perfected my recipe, I knew I needed a vegan option,” she adds. Hence, sweet potato, black bean, jasmine rice and almond flour burger was born; her gluten-free vegan burger brought it all together. Next came zucchini cakes, a gluten-free veggie burger, and a career-changing segway into the world of farmer’s markets.
At the urging of a friend, Harget sampled the farmers market scene and found the perfect venue for her small-batch burger art. “I met a variety of folks, from vendors to customers, each with their own inspiring story. The overwhelming reception and interest in a wholesome veggie burger surprised me. I decided to make that my main focus!” As well, says Harget, her hyperthyroidism went into remission.
A COVID-era redirection led Harget and her husband to Burgaw, where they settled into a new home and community, and a more coastal market for Harget’s signature creations.
Devoid of soy, and fillers, and replete with protein, Chef Tina’s recipes have found their way to various local spots like Tidal Creek Co-op, Legends Seafood & Produce in Burgaw, Pender’s Community Market, and the soon-to-be Burgaw Brewing. “I am honored that when Burgaw Brewing opens it will be the first restaurant to serve my veggie burger patties. It has been a great pleasure to work with the owners, Kevin and Emmaline Kozak.”
There’s also a website, cheftinaharget.com, where orders can be placed; items may be delivered locally or picked up.
Recommendations for eating healthier at home? Chef Tina recommends a gradual transition to new food choices. “Slowly start incorporating more vegetables and then replace some starch items with quinoa, Farro, and brown rice,” she suggests. “Cook more at home and try different recipes. Instead of eating meat every day, substitute it with a vegetarian chili, chicken and/or fish dishes!”
Future creations include mushroom gravy, falafel crumble, antipasto salad, mango salsa, and homemade hummus, with goal of expanding to retail stores and restaurants.
“I believe that we all have options,” says Harget. “Basically, I want to make healthy alternative options. I am inspired both by different recipes I come across and food that tastes delicious.”
To view more of photographer Daria Amato’s work, go to dariaphoto.com.
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