It’s no secret that Charleston, S.C., has become a notable food destination, grabbing the kind of national attention usually given to larger cities, such as San Francisco or Boston. The Holy City, with a population of about 130,000, is clearly redefining itself on the culinary map, with restaurants opening at lightning speed, vibrant farmers’ markets filled with local food artisans, bakers, and growers, small-batch distilleries and breweries popping up, and an exploding food truck scene.
One of the driving forces in Charleston’s recent food revolution is James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock, the man behind the restaurants Husk and McCrady’s, and a guest chef on one of our Moveable Feast episodes this season. Sean is known for sourcing heritage breeds and using heirloom Southern ingredients in his cooking, like James Island red corn in his signature shrimp and grits and cornbread. He honors the Lowcountry’s diverse cooking styles with a reverence and a level of research that’s not often seen.
For this Charleston feast, Sean is joined by host Pete Evans and caterer and personal chef Benjamin “B.J.” Dennis. Born and raised in Charleston, B.J. is renowned for his pop-up dinners, where his food pays homage to the African roots of the Lowcountry’s Gullah Geechee culture. B.J. and Sean are good friends, bonding over a common dedication to preserving Southern foodways and focusing on in-season, locally sourced vegetables, meats, and seafood; their mutual admiration is evident.
As guests gather at McCrady’s, housed in a building with over two centuries of history in Charleston (George Washington reportedly drank his fill of ale here), they are treated to an incredible array of dishes. Sean slowly roasts a heritage pig over glowing coals and serves it with stewed greens and his unique take on succotash made with rye berries.
B.J. simmers a flavorful stew made with short ribs and brisket, which is perfect over classic grits. And Pete whips up a herb salad, featuring pistachios, raisins, and a lemony tahini dressing. Add some cast-iron cornbread and a buttermilk pie topped with charred cream, and it’s a meal that acknowledges Southern tradition, but serves as a reminder that there’s a new breed of chefs manning the stoves.