The Copper Door delights the chef in us all
By CARLA BECK
Imagine a weekend getaway filled with gourmet treats to soothe your foodie soul. Located in the heart of Hayesville, NC, The Copper Door restaurant stands as an unexpected upscale dining destination on the historic town square. Chef Dennis Barber personally renovated the former service station, transforming it into an elegant, inviting dining room surrounding a massive stone double-sided fireplace. At its core, The Copper Door is a modern American steakhouse with a New Orleans flair. Originally opened in 2007, The Copper Door’s reputation for fresh seafood, fine meats, and signature Louisiana-inspired dishes sparked not one, but two additional expansions in the coming years. Designated as one of “The 100 Best Restaurants in America” by OpenTable in 2014, The Copper Door provides the perfect culinary retreat experience as Chef Dennis offers guests the rare opportunity to “come into his kitchen” for personal cooking lessons.
Chef Dennis hosts cooking classes in a nearby commercial kitchen workspace where he demonstrates classic French techniques while dispensing tips and tricks to “hone your skills in the kitchen.” The popular two-hour classes are limited to eight people and are often sold out within days of becoming available for online registration. Although the classes are mostly demos with limited hands-on activity, Chef Dennis leads with warmth and wit that invites engaging and interactive participation. In fact, many people find that taking one class is just not enough. Local resident Sheba Brown signed up for one class and quickly registered for three more: “I took the Fish Cookery Class because my family loves fish, but I needed to learn some new tricks. This class did not disappoint. Chef Dennis taught us how to cook fish by sautéing, searing, grilling and even cooking in parchment paper. My favorite method was the parchment paper. He taught us a very cool way to fold the paper and even had us pass it around and practice the folds to make sure we got it right. He taught us how to make two fabulous sauces during this class: a delightful Asian pesto and a mouth-watering creamy salsa verde.” Chef Dennis says the Fish Cookery Class is the most sought-after class he offers, “I think some people are intimidated by cooking fish at home, and perhaps that is why the class is so popular.”
In a nod to his Louisiana roots, Chef Dennis’ class lineup always includes both a New
Orleans Classic Entrees Class and a separate class featuring “simple secrets to legendary ‘Big Easy’ desserts.” Brown, a WNC native, shared her excitement for an opportunity to step outside the ordinary boundaries of her pantry: “The New Orleans Cooking Class is a cultural experience that had a burst of new flavors for me. From a creole chicken and seafood gumbo with delicious andouille to crawfish etouffee that has some seafood magic in it, you won’t be disappointed.” Another popular class includes appetizers, such as crab cakes, Oysters Bienville and Rockefeller, Shrimp Kristine and baked brie. Chef Dennis shares that he intentionally looks for inspiration, researching ideas to provide class participants with unique and meaningful experiences. One of his more recent classes allows students to “discover the secret to perfect popovers and quick breads, complete with tasting and recommended compound butters.”
Perhaps the best part about cooking classes with Chef Dennis is sampling the delectable treats. As he prepares the food, explaining each step of the recipe, Chef Dennis also serves participants healthy-sized portions of each dish. Whether it is tender roasted pork tenderloin with Tuscan kale and pancetta, or a piece of his creamy lemon tart with a pine nut crust that melts in your mouth, you will want to run home and try your hand at recreating the flavorful magic of Chef Dennis’ menu. Fortunately, he provides detailed recipes for all guests to take home and plan the perfect date-night meal or new family favorite entree.
While many of Chef Dennis’ students reside locally, there are certainly others who travel from near and far to learn from the master chef. As the epicenter of Clay County, Hayesville offers visitors a walkable town square with quaint shops, including the historic Tiger’s Store and Chinquapin’s Ice Cream & Soda Bar, as well as more recent additions such as The Shoppe on the Square. Nearby accommodations include your choice of lakeside vacation homes or cozy mountain escapes. Chatuge Home Concierge owner Priscilla Stillwell Kendall manages some of the finest short-term rentals in the area. Known for attention to detail, high standards, and exceptional service, Chatuge Home Concierge is the top choice for planning your weekend culinary retreat. If you’re interested in an intimate romantic cabin, then the Stylish Mountain Escape for Two is ideal. Conveniently located near town, this custom-built cabin features thoughtful touches, such as plentiful snacks and a s’more kit for two. If you would rather share your getaway with a few friends, then the Vineyard House "Casa Tra Le Vigne" is the better option. With three bedrooms and three separate baths, the Vineyard House overlooks a private vineyard and offers beach access to Lake Chatuge. For larger groups and stunning lakefront views, the Great Lake Escape features extra space for entertaining multiple families.
After learning from Chef Dennis, exploring downtown Hayesville, and relaxing in your comfortable vacation home, end your weekend with a morning visit to BSG Coffee & Cafe. Founder and General Manager Zach Staggs opened BSG in May 2022 and quickly earned recognition as Rookie Business of the Year, shortly thereafter expanding to a larger space within Veterans Plaza. BSG’s original lines of coffee include Jake’s Classic, Brazilian Winds, Midnight Mountain, and Chamblee Cherry. For iced coffee lovers, BSG offers locally inspired favorites: Salted Chatuge and Tusquittee. BSG also partners with local bakeries to provide fresh pastries ranging from bear claws and banana bread to raspberry cream cheese danishes and twice-baked croissants. Take time to enjoy BSG’s cozy lounge and peruse the artisan’s wall featuring locally made artwork, jewelry, and crafts. For a travel-to-go snack, grab a Becca & Brie charcuterie box for your road trip home.
Whether you are an experienced cook searching for new inspiration or a beginner hoping to gain an improved understanding of kitchen tips and tricks, then The Copper Door cooking classes with Chef Dennis Barber should be on your to-do list. After registering for your favorite Friday afternoon class, go ahead and select the “reservations” button for Saturday night at The Copper Door where you can indulge your foodie heart with more of Chef Dennis’ delicacies. The hardest part will be deciding whether to order the Chef’s Tasting Menu or one of your favorite entrees from the à la carte options. Join The Copper Door Rewards program where you will earn points toward loyalty certificates. As a part of the program, you’ll also receive the latest updates for class offerings, as well as exclusive wine-paring dinners throughout the year.