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