Citizens of the Triad 2016

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Jay Pierce: The wandering chef

Jay Pierce credit Jordan GreenLives in: High Point 

Works in: Greensboro

When Jay Pierce moved with his wife and two children to Greensboro in 2006 so he could take the job of executive chef at Lucky 32, they looked at houses in the Lake Daniel and Sunset Hills neighborhoods.

They wanted to live in an old, established community with large trees, but they found themselves priced out of the market in Greensboro.

Ultimately, they found what they were looking for in Emerywood, High Point’s elite, old-money neighborhood.

“I like to tell people I have the smallest house in the nicest neighborhood in High Point,” said Pierce, who now holds the position of executive chef at Marshall Free House. “I chose it for the neighborhood. I chose it for the street. We have pecan trees in the front yard, so I’m constantly picking up kindling. My dad tells me it’s the biggest pecan tree he’s ever seen.”

Having previously lived in Orlando, Fla. and New Orleans, where hour-long commutes are common, the drive from High Point to Greensboro didn’t seem daunting.

“It takes you 30 minutes to drive to work,” he said. “The hours I work, I don’t drive in rush hour. I listen to loud music and get amped up. At the end of the day I get to check out and leave work behind.”

The tradeoff is that he misses out on the opportunity to hang out at places like the Green Bean and Crafted in downtown Greensboro.

It should come as no surprise that as a chef, a lot of Pierce’s experience of High Point’s cultural life centers around food.

“I love to eat at any of Paul Riggan’s restaurants,” he said. “Blue Rock Pizza is my favorite. You can get pizza and beer, and there are vegetarian options. A friend of mine just took over as executive chef at Blue Water Grille who used to work for me at Lucky 32. Paul Riggan is the shining light of High Point. Roma Pizza is really good. It’s a decent walk, but my son and I have walked to the Dog House. The Dog House is a really cool hidden gem.”

He acknowledged that a couple times a year he considers moving to Greensboro. Both of his children attend schools in Greensboro, and he wants them to be able to hang out with their friends more easily.

And yet, as a self-proclaimed “citizen of the Triad,” Pierce sees engagement with the region expanding rather than contracting.

“High Point is the sleeping giant,” he said. “I could just as easily be working in Winston-Salem; I can get from my home to downtown Winston-Salem quicker than Greensboro. Since it’s a different county, it doesn’t have quite the same pull on my kids. My son takes trumpet lessons n Winston-Salem. On Sundays, my wife and I go to Winston-Salem. As the kids get older, I think we’ll be in three cities more than two cities.”

— JG

Morgan South: Commuting for fashion

Morgan_SouthWorks in: Winston-Salem 

Plays in: Greensboro

Her fashion career began in Greensboro, where she studied apparel and marketing at UNCG and managed a store for Ivy & Leo boutique. It was at Ivy & Leo, Morgan South said, that she got her first big break.

“The guys from Greensboro Fashion Week came into the store, and they asked how we could be a part of Fashion Week,” she remembered. “And I asked them how I could be a part of Fashion Week.”

Now, after two productions, South is the administrative coordinator for the Gate City’s autumn event, which kept her in town until she took a job at Hanesbrands in Winston-Salem and moved to Forsyth County.

“I was a Greensboro girl,” she said. “I never went to Winston-Salem. Literally never. I had no idea about anything. I would go to Raleigh or Durham all the time, but I never came to Winston-Salem.”

She’s lived outside the city since May and is still finding her feet.

“I still don’t know anything about Winston,” she said. “Every place I’ve heard about, I’ve learned through work functions and lunches.”

She likes the Porch Cantina, she said, and everything else in the West End Mill Works. Her daughter Chloe, 2, likes the children’s museum. And she liked downtown from the moment she saw it.

“I feel like Winston-Salem’s downtown is a little more advanced than Greensboro’s downtown,” she said. “It’s more unique and artsy.”

Even so, old habits die hard. She’s in Greensboro several days a month for Fashion Week, and finds that her social life has not moved across the Triad with her.

“It’s weird,” she said. “When I’m looking for something to do I automatically look for Greensboro. That’s what happened on the Fourth of July.

“All of my friends are in Greensboro,” she continued, “and it’s like I don’t know how to make friends in Winston-Salem.”

— BC

Justin Catanoso: One good journalist

Justin_CatanosoLives in: Greensboro

Works in: Winston-Salem

Justin Catanoso is doing what he’s always wanted to do. He’s a foreign correspondent on the climate-change beat and the director of journalism at Wake Forest University.

With support from the school, he’s covered the two most recent UN Climate Summits in Lima and Paris, and every summer he takes students to Rome for a course in travel journalism. And Catanoso said that it was only possible because he stayed in the Triad.

When he moved to Greensboro with his wife in 1987, Catanoso had no intention of staying. The young reporter wanted to make it big in Washington, New York or Philadelphia. But he knew he had to start out small so he took a reporter’s job at the News & Record, which assigned him to its Winston-Salem bureau.

“When we moved to the Triad in 1987, both downtowns were dead,” Catanoso said. “They were scary dead… There were no businesses, it was unbelievable.”

He covered the first layoffs at RJ Reynolds Tobacco, among other stories relecting the city’s painful transition from manufacturing. It was a far cry from Philadelphia or any of the places where he truly wanted to be. But as Catanoso made sense of the city through storytelling, he realized that what the Triad needed as much as anything was a good journalist.

In 1999, Catanoso assumed the position of the Triad Business Journal’s first executive editor, and moved to Greensboro’s Westerwood neighborhood.

As his résumé grew, so did the cities around him. Investors were taking chances on downtown businesses and coalitions were formed in both Winston-Salem and Greensboro to urbanize their respective downtowns. And now that he was raising children, the once ready-to-leave Catanoso realized that the Triad might be a more comfortable place to live than Philadelphia.

He continued to work two jobs — at the Triad Business Journal and as an adjunct professor at Wake Forest — before he assumed the role of director of journalism at the university. It was there that he met a tropical biologist who took him to Peru and persuaded him to write about climate change.

Catanoso said that staying in the Triad and building meaningful connections were more important to his success than being where many of the nation’s esteemed journalists were.

“I loved the stories that I got to tell as a journalist in the Triad,” Catanoso said. “I loved them and I thought they were just as important as they were in any city in America… We believe in the place we live. Every community needs a good journalist.”

Follow Justin Catanoso’s coverage of the issues affecting climate change at Mongabay.com.

— DW