The filming marked Hughes’ first visit to Charleston, and he chose Mike Lata’s newest restaurant — recently named one of the South’s best new restaurants by Southern Living – for his maiden meal. “Looking at the restaurant, I didn’t think it could be as good as I thought it was going to be,” he recalls. The restaurant surpassed his expectations, but since the shooting schedule couldn’t be adjusted, the Charleston-themed show doesn’t feature any Ordinary footage.
Still, Hughes found plenty to prepare and eat on air, including frogmore stew at Charleston Grill; a chorizo sandwich at Butcher & Bee; goat cheese doughnuts at Glazed and soft-shell crabs at The Grocery.
“Crab has a tendency to be deep-fried and smothered in spicy mayonnaise,” Hughes says. “We did it in a wood oven with salt and pepper. Why alter them so much?”
In Hughes’ estimation, Charleston chefs’ respect for local ingredients – and willingness to present them nearly unadorned – is what’s earned the city its culinary reputation.
“There’s an honesty in Charleston when it comes to food,” he says. “Nobody’s trying to hide. Instead of a three-tiered plate with fireworks, it’s real honest food.”
Hughes further believes the city’s enthusiastic embrace of plain dishes has helped unite its eaters.
“In so many places, food is a big class divider,” he says. “I get the feeling in Charleston that everybody’s eating the same stuff. Everybody’s eating the shrimp. There’s a sense of community greater than anywhere in the U.S.”
The Charleston episode of “Chuck’s Eat the Street” premieres next Thursday at 10 p.m.