Wadmalaw Island Hog Farmer Gives British Critic a Mouthful

When Giles Coren’s producers asked Tank Jackson to appear on “Million Dollar Critic,” they envisioned the Holy City Hogs farmer adding a splash of South Carolina color to their restaurant reality show. But Jackson ended up making the BBC America host the star of his own personal “Punk’d.”

BBC America’s “Million Dollar Critic” last month visited Charleston to shoot an episode for its first season. Although the show centers on local restaurants – Coren, The Times of London’s famously hotheaded reviewer, eats multiple meals and then declares which one he likes best – it’s apparently not worth crossing the pond unless there are guaranteed shots of stereotypical Southern culture. After initially asking to see Jackson’s pigs, the producers expressed interest in his guns.

“I could see where things were going,” Jackson says. “I may have fallen off the turnip truck, but I didn’t get run over: They wanted to make me into a backward hick.”

“I don’t need any help doing that,” he adds, laughing. Continue reading

“Million Dollar Critic” Finishes Charleston Restaurant Shoot

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Million Dollar Critic,” which is now wrapping up filming in Charleston, is a television show. But host Giles Coren, The Times of London’s restaurant critic since 1993, says the BBC America series is supposed to celebrate print journalism (a declaration that’s sure to win him the viewing loyalty of the few dozen or so full-time newspaper restaurant critics left in the U.S.)

“The idea is it puts reviewing back at the heart of the story,” Coren says of the series, which will air its Charleston episode in September.

In each show, Coren will dine at five restaurants, one of which he’ll choose to review; the conceit is Coren’s endorsement is worth $1 million dollars. The money shot is of the restaurant owners eagerly opening their hometown paper to discover whether their meal merited a write-up.

“In many ways, it’s about journalism,” Coren says.  “I have this dream of these kids watching because it’s a mouthy critic, then going out and seeing someone on a bike tossing a newspaper” – and presumably chasing after it. Continue reading

Cooking Channel Looks to Improve Food at Local Dive Bars

“Belly Up,” a new Cooking Channel show devoted to elevating the food menus of dive bars, is now scouring Charleston for makeover subjects. Presumably, Big John’s Tavern isn’t planning to apply.

Big John’s owner Ryan Condon last month tossed out tenant Cory Burke of Roti Rolls, in part because the inventive chef’s Ethiopian-influenced cooking was too far removed from the pickled eggs and coldcut sandwiches he associated with the Big John’s of his youth. But “Belly Up”’s casting director Danya Berman believes “new, innovative, enticing bar foods that won’t break the budget” can help save struggling dive bars.

I’m super excited about the possibility of a South Carolina episode — Charleston seems to be a foodie town,” Berman writes. “Hopefully there is a dive bar that wants to remain a dive joint, but with a really delicious bar menu.” Continue reading

Taste of Charleston Iron Chef Pits Men Against Women

bildeIt’s unimaginable that a friendly competition would divide chefs by religion, race or ethnic background. But the gender war format is exceedingly popular in culinary circles: When Top Chef went to Texas, it pitted men against women in Restaurant Wars, and MasterChef Australia built an entire season around the conceit.

And next weekend, Taste of Charleston is basing its Iron Chef event around the “men vs. women” theme, following up on the gender allegiances which naturally rippled through the crowd at last year’s Charleston Wine + Food Festival when Michelle Weaver and Mike Lata met in the Waffle House Smackdown.

At Taste of Charleston, the showdown features Drew Hedlund (Fleet Landing) and Brandon Buck (Middleton Place) taking on Jael Allen (Mosaic) and Eva Broyles (Eli’s Table).

So what happens if the women win? Does a victory advance the cause of kitchen equality? Or does it reinforce the idea that men and women cook differently? Continue reading