By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
USA Today recently named Lewisburg the best small town food scene in the nation. The quality and variety of local cuisine is impeccable. And it’s only getting better.
One example is this weekend’s pop-up kitchen at Hawk Knob Brewery, featuring authentic Pakistani food. Azfar Rizvi will be cooking and serving traditional makhni (butter chicken) with garlic naan, samosas, and saffron rice.
“This is a way for me to start a conversation and add a bit more flavor to the existing cuisine here,” Azfar says. “Being able to share food with West Virginians is a dream come true.”
From Pakistan to Canada to NYC to WV
Azfar, age 40, is new to the Greenbrier Valley. Originally from Pakistan, he previously lived and worked in Canada and then New York City.
In April of 2022, he moved to Lewisburg as part of the Ascend program. He works remotely for a company in New Jersey in the technology field.
“I arrived April 9, 2022, the day of the Chocolate Festival,” he remembers. “It snowed while people ate chocolate in the streets! I was mesmerized.”
Azfar came to West Virginia with a wealth of professional experience, working for CNN, BBC, and other media outlets doing longform storytelling in conflict zones. Since moving to Canada and the United States, his focus shifted to storytelling through technology. He worked for Google, helping to develop their early artificial intelligence tools. But for all that professional experience, none of it has been in the kitchen.
“I’m not a chef; I’m an aspirational chef,” he says. “It’s all about exposing people to the culture and the food.”
‘Fell in love with West Virginia’
Azfar bears that responsibility of exposing local West Virginians to Pakistani culture alone.
“There’s not a single Pakistani here in Lewisburg except me,” he says matter-of-factly. “There was a medical student here last year, but she left.”
He takes pride in sharing the customs of his culture with his new neighbors. “On the weekends,” he says, “I cook and invite people over. My friends told me West Virginians would like the food I cook, so we are giving it a try.”
From the moment he arrived in town Azfar says he, “Fell in love with West Virginia.” But it’s not just the beautiful landscapes and acclaimed food. For Azfar, it’s the people.
“Everyone is nice and kind and generous,” he gushes. “That’s the hidden secret about West Virginia. People are genuinely kind. I’m not used to people looking at you in the eye, smiling and waving even if they don’t know you. That doesn’t happen in New York CIty. This past year has been such a life-changer. When I go back to the city, I still smile and wave to people on the street, and my friends say I stick out like a sore thumb.”
Pop-Up Kitchen at Hawk Knob
Visit Azfar this Saturday, May 20, from 12:30pm until he sells out. The pop-up kitchen is being held at Hawk Knob Appalachian Hard Cider’s beautiful property west of Lewisburg.
You can dine in or carryout. Preorders are welcomed via Azvar’s Facebook page. You can also call Hawk Knob at 304-520-5477 for further information.
Several local restaurants are planning to host Azfar for special events in the coming months, so stay tuned for updates.