Republic Abandons Culinary Ambitions; Declines to Hire Chef

pitarepublicTwo months after declaring “the culinary team is in flux,” Republic Reign has settled its chef challenges by downgrading its kitchen.

“Republic is moving forward with less of a spotlight on its kitchen and more of a focus on the overall experience,” writes Grace Newland, publicist for the concertedly swanky King Street lounge which opened this spring.

Republic’s opening chef, Ben Harris, in October left the restaurant for a chef position with SERG Restaurant Group’s forthcoming Poseidon Coastal Cuisine and Rooftop Bar in Hilton Head. The following month, Newland reported that Republic’s owners were conducting interviews for his replacement. Continue reading

StarChefs.com Assembles Carolina Culinary Talent for Awards Gala

Chicken Liver Pâté, Pickles, and Pistachio PestoStarChefs.com, an online magazine which stages regional parties to recognize “up-and-coming chefs and culinary professionals,” found nearly all of the talent for its Carolina Rising Stars gala in Asheville and Charleston: The cities are home to eight of the 11 chefs participating in a Dec. 11 tasting at Memminger Auditorium.

“In Charleston, we found a tight-knit community of chefs that sees itself as the keeper of what is one of the richest food traditions in America,” editor-in-chief Antoinette Bruno is quoted as saying in a release from the organization, which considered 100 chefs in 18 cities and towns for the honor. Bruno added that Asheville chefs have distinguished themselves by being “weird,” in keeping with the town’s unofficial slogan.

Charleston’s chef honorees are Husk’s Travis Grimes; Two Boroughs Larder’s Josh Keeler; FIG’s Jason Stanhope and Butcher & Bee’s Stuart Tracy. Charlestonians also made the cut in a number of additional categories: David Schnell of Brown’s Court Bakery was an ‘artisan’ winner; Aaron Siegel of Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ took the ‘concept’ prize; Social Restaurant + Wine Bar’s Brad Ball shared the ‘sommelier’ title with Maximilian Kast of Fearrington House and The Gin Joint’s Joe Raya claimed one of two ‘mixologist’ awards.

Attendees who buy $85 tickets (or $115 tickets, if they want VIP status and the caviar reception which accompanies it) will undoubtedly eat well. But it’s the few chefs who hail from beyond the Carolina powerhouses who may well emerge as the evening’s breakout stars. Continue reading

Warehouse Resignee Eva Keilty Not Sure Where She’s Headed Next

warehouseWith restaurants continuing to open in Charleston at a breakneck pace, it hopefully won’t be too long until former Warehouse chef Eva Keilty finds a job.

“I’m leaving without any future plans, so I’m looking for a project to get involved with,” Keilty says.

Keilty declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding her departure from the four-month old restaurant, which received tremendous acclaim for its food during her tenure. Keilty says she feels “blessed” by the media attention, which culminated this week with Warehouse earning a spot on Eater National’s list of “30 Hottest Cocktail Bars in America.” Keilty and three-time James Beard Foundation award finalist Naomi Pomeroy were the only chefs cited by name in the accompanying bar descriptions. Continue reading

Eva Keilty Leaving Warehouse; Sous Chef to Take Over

AR-130919839.jpg&q=80&MaxW=750&MaxH=350Eva Keilty, the Ted’s Butcherblock vet who made Warehouse an eating destination, is leaving the Spring Street bar next month.

Keilty will be replaced by sous chef Emily Haan, who has also held sous jobs at Carolina’s and Monza’s. According to spokesperson Angel Powell, the menu will not change when Haan takes over the kitchen in mid-November.

Powell didn’t have any information concerning Keilty’s future plans; Keilty did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Continue reading

Final Reflections on Cook It Raw

photo (65)The last of the Cook It Raw chefs are now flying home, marking the end of one of the more ambitious culinary events to choose Charleston as its venue. Having spent the week embedded in the program, this is probably the proper time (to use an adjective favored by the many UK-based participants) to assess the week’s success.

Overall, I think the program was successful, although perhaps not in the ways I initially imagined. Because the young organization is still wrestling with identity issues, it hasn’t yet hammered out a concise explanation of its purpose: Its representatives have a knack for using words like “collective” and “curation,” which don’t always resonate in the goal-oriented U.S. What I took from the very little information I was provided prior to the event was that Cook It Raw aimed to sequester an enormously talented group of chefs for a week of creative kitchen mayhem.

The chefs did spend the week together at Middleton Place, but nothing occurred which I’d classify as crazy. I’ve been approached by countless locals asking about the event’s backstory, and I assume they’re terribly disappointed when I tell them the chefs spent their off-hours drafting ingredient lists and getting to bed early. The world’s top chefs earn their status partly through consummate professionalism, and their approach to this trip was no exception. Covering Cook It Raw wasn’t too different from covering finals week at any respectable college. Continue reading

First Reflections on Cook It Raw

cirCook It Raw is now just past its midpoint, with its participating crew of 25 chefs from around the world having gathered the necessary ingredients for a 17-course dinner tonight at McCrady’s. They’re now at the restaurant, cooking and — quite possibly — fretting: The chefs are spread across two kitchens and a makeshift workspace, doing their best to flush genius from wild herbs they’ve never before encountered and collaborations with colleagues they’ve only just met.

Tonight’s meal is supposed to reflect what the visiting chefs have learned about the lowcountry, and food historian David Shields will be on hand to assess how well they’ve understood their subject. Since it’s a day devoted to taking stock, this morning seemed like an opportune time to share a few initial observations about the event, with which I’ve been embedded since Monday:

1. Great chefs aren’t necessarily snobs.

Folks who don’t eat for a living always expect me to scorn everyday food, which is hardly the case. Yet I made the same mistake by assuming participating chefs would be finicky about what they were fed. Impressively, they haven’t fussed about hotel-made fried chicken biscuits or Wild Olive ravioli, neither of which was garnished with foie gras. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that many of the humbler-seeming dishes have been exceptional, including Butcher & Bee’s sesame peanut butter and Hominy Grill’s pies. Continue reading

“Culinary Event of the Millennium” on Bowens Island is Sold Out

BBQ-Poster-Sold-OUt-edition-731x1024Got your ticket to BBQ Perspectives, the first-ever public component of Cook It Raw? If not, it’s now officially too late.

The last of the 550 tickets to the upcoming Bowens Island bonanza was sold earlier this week, according to an organization publicist.

Buzz about Cook It Raw has been relatively muted in national food media circles, perhaps because the supremely exclusive event doesn’t fit the standard food festival format. The event’s more analogous to the invite-only Renaissance Weekends beloved by Bill Clinton, where really smart folks gather to trade ideas and inspiration. Continue reading

Republic Reign’s Former Chef Bound for Hilton Head

pitarepublicIt’s indisputable that I had a really lousy meal last Monday at Republic Reign. What’s unclear is who was responsible for it.

Eater Charleston last Thursday reported that the razzle-dazzle watering hole, which looks like the backdrop for an MTV show shot in Miami, had lost its opening executive chef. But a publicist today was unable to say when Benjamin Harris left the five-month old lounge, meaning it’s impossible to know with certainty whether the poor quality of the food predicated his departure or resulted from it.

Online clues point to the latter explanation: According to a Saturday update on Harris’ Facebook page, the 26-year old chef – who previously worked at Poogan’s Porch – has accepted a position with SERG Restaurant Group and is relocating to Hilton Head on Thursday. Continue reading

John Currence Coming to Town

PP&W-CH-3-interior_thJohn Currence, whose City Grocery has functioned as a Southern Foodways Alliance clubhouse since the organization’s inception, is as indispensable to modern Southern cuisine as the pickles, pigs and whiskey celebrated by his debut cookbook’s title. Charlestonians who haven’t yet had the chance to dine at one of his four Oxford, Miss. restaurants can discover why next month, when Currence’s book tour alights on High Wire Distilling.

To celebrate the release of Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey, Jason Stanhope (FIG), Sean Brock (Husk, McCrady’s), Josh Keller (Two Boroughs Larder) and Stuart Tracy (Butcher & Bee) on Nov. 19 will be cooking up evening snacks inspired by Currence’s recipes. The $85 ticket price includes liquor from High Wire, with cocktail assistance from Bittermilk; wine from Grassroots Distributing and a “special brew” from Edmund’s Oast. Currence is making punch (quite possibly with all of the above; as he writes on the book’s first page: “I’d rather punch you in the mouth with fantastic flavors than poke you in the eye with fancy presentations.”)

Tickets are available through Eventbrite.