Celebrity chef

love-opera-victoria-bakerI often talk of Southern Cuisine and the groundbreaking chefs that are trailblazing a new path for the Southern way of cooking. But I have yet to pay tribute to the greatest Celebrity Chef in the Southern firmament: Chef Sean Brock.

He grew up in the coalfields of Virginia before working in Charleston, the city he would later return to and open the incredibly renowned restaurant: Husk. There’s a three month wait for a reservation at Husk and, yes, it’s worth the flight to Charleston as well as the wait.

Terroir is a French term originally used to differentiate wines by categorizing the environment, soil and climate in which grapes are grown and that give a wine its unique aroma and flavor. But the term has since come to encompass more than just grapes and wine and refers to all manner of produce.

Of course it usually refers to products grown on local lands that are imbibed with the flavor of the soil in which they have been grown. Chef Sean Brock is famous for bringing southern ingredients to the fore, to the exclusion of all others. His use of the Southern terroir is unparalleled.

He makes his own salt from South Carolina seawater. And in his quest to restore the glory of Southern food by reintroducing local ingredients not widely used since the 19th century: Carolina Gold rice, palmetto asparagus, and James Island red corn, he has planted Southern food firmly on the American culinary scene. Early on, Brock began the development of a 2.5-acre farm on Wadmalaw Island (near Charleston). He began growing crops that were at risk of extinction, such as those indigenous to that area pre-Civil war.

These experiments have led Brock to become a passionate advocate for seed preservation and he continues to grow a number of heirloom crops, including James Island Red Corn (aka “Jimmy Red”), from which he makes grits, Flint Corn, Benne Seed, Rice Peas, Sea Island Red Peas, and several varieties of Farro. Brock has worked closely with Dr. David Shields and Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills, studying 19th century Southern cookbooks (which Brock collects) to educate himself on Southern food history and discover new ways to resurrect antebellum cuisine.

He also cares deeply about the way animals are treated before they become food on the table and sources heritage breeds of livestock for his restaurants. He has even raised his own herd of pigs.

I’ve had the pleasure of eating at his restaurant Husk. It’s a thoroughly modern establishment with an Old World foundation. www.huskrestaurant.com. If you want to try innovative yet classic cuisine then go ahead and make that Husk reservation, their three month waitlist pays tribute to the restaurant’s popularity.

 

Victoria Baker, of Greenwich, is an opera singer. Winner of many prestigious competitions, she has performed and worked with distinguished artists all over the world (notably at Lincoln Center). Should you have any questions that deserve answers and may be in print please call 203-531-7499 or e-mail [email protected]

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