Most eating challenges are meant to test the diner, but Asheville chef Steven Goff saw a visit from competitive eater Raina Huang as a way to test himself in the kitchen. His restaurant Tastee Diner (575 Haywood Road) didn’t have a food challenge on the menu when Huang’s producer called, but Goff wanted to see what he and his team could throw together. “I want the place to be fun and non-pretentious,” he says, “So we said yes and tried to cook the best we can.”
Tastee Diner is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so Goff chose two items from each menu for Huang to eat. He served roasted bone marrow with okonomivaki, a bacon cheeseburger, Carolina Reaper chicken wings, a giant egg sandwich, and a pork congee bowl — the star of the spread was the smoked crispy pig’s head. Goff smoked half of a hog head for five to six hours, confited it, and then fried it. “It’s so crunchy that you have to shatter the cheek skin with your spoon to get into all that fat and meat,” he says. The head was served with naan and banchan, which included pickled items, coleslaw, and potato salad. After Huang’s TikTok video of the challenge launched, Goff says that demand for pig’s head is up, but he says to call ahead so he has time to reserve a few from Hickory Nut Gap Farm.