Yesterday was a culinary memory I will never forget. I was invited to be a volunteer for Cook It Raw’s finale food fest, BBQ Perspectives at Bowen’s Island representing Les Dames d’ Escoffier and The Spice and Tea Exchange.. For those of you who do not know about Cook it Raw, it is a Chef’s Only week of discovery and learning about a region and its food that involves most of the truly important culinary luminaries in the world. The word “Raw” implies on the edge, not uncooked. So, from all corners of the world, the chefs came, they learned, they tasted and then they cooked. They cooked for each other and for the first time in the history of the event, they cooked for the public. It is difficult to put the experience completely into words, but in general I would say that it was one of the supreme dining experiences of my life, and I have eaten all over the world and in much fancier places than outdoors on the river with the briny smells of the marsh and happy music playing. At every turn there was amazing interesting food created with local ingredients and using creative wood fired methods.
The man at the helm of Cook it Raw Charleston was Chef Sean Brock, a true visionary when it comes to the food of the South. The local chef community who have been committed to the renaissance of Lowcountry cuisine for almost 20 years; Frank Lee – Slightly North of Broad; Mike Lata – FIG & The Ordinary; Chris Stewart and Sarah O’Kelley – The Glass Onion; Michelle Weaver – The Charleston Grill; Craig Deihl – Cypress Restaurant; Ken Vedrinski – Coda del Pesce and Trattoria Lucca; Robert Stehling – The Hominy Grill; Jeremiah Bacon – The Macintosh & The Oak Steakhouse; Jacques Larson – Wild Olive Restaurant; Bob Carter – Carter’s Kitchen and Rutledge Cab Company; Josh Keeler – Two Boroughs Larder.
It was a smoke filled event with over 12 open wood pits and about 15 smoker “rigs” set up. The larger of the rigs belonged to South Carolina’s premiere BBQ team, Rodney Scott’s Whole Pig BBQ, which had just returned from a stint in New York City. People waited for the pig to be lifted and pulled from the bone, mixed with the sauce and served up with chitlins and white bread in traditional South Carolina style.
“Tradition” stopped right there. Every other team created a whole new perspective. on BBQ. While there was a lot of truly innovative and delicious food using our Low Country ingredients.
The team that totally blew my mind came from Toronto of all places. Team Canada made plates from slices of birch and from salt and hay. They made a beef tongue BBQ with sea horn berries, pecans puff grains, beans all mixed with a killer sauce. They also baked salmon in clay and made packets of grape leaves with Carolina sticky rice, quinoa, bison sausage, peanuts, maple syrup and quince. Good eh?
- Bertrand Alépée, The Tempered Chef, Toronto
- Tedd Corrado, The Drake Hotel Toronto
- Alexandria Feswick, Samuel J. Moore Toronto
- Marc Lepine, Atelier, Toronto
- Nick Lau, Gwai Lo, Toronto
- Matty Matheson, Parts and Labour, Toronto
And then there was Brandon Baltzley (from Chicago) who lead the Irish Team’s concept of Low Country Boil with grilled pig heads, corn, fingerlings and head on local shrimp.
The International Chefs came from all over the world:
- Albert Adria, Tickets, 41° Experience, Barcelona, Spain
- Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns,
- Brandon Baltzley TMIP, Indiana
- Chef April Bloomfield is the executive chef and co-owner of New York City’s The Spotted Pig, The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, The John Dory Oyster Bar and Salvation Taco as well as Tosca Cafe in San Francisco, opening this fall.
- Jeremy Charles, Raymonds St. John’s, Newfoundland
- Andre Chang of Restaurant Andre, Singapore.
- Connie DeSousa and John Jackson CHARCUT Roast House
- Matt Jennings Farmstead, Inc. Providence, Rhode Island
- Sasu Laukkonen Chef & Sommelier Restaurant, Helsinki
- James Lowe, of The Young Turks, London
- JP McMahon, Aniar, EAT Gastropub, Cava Bodega in Galway, Ireland.
- Enrique Olvera, Pujol, México City
- Alejandro Ruiz, Casa Oaxaca, México
- Ben Shewry, Attica, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
- Roberto Solis, Néctar Mérida, Mexico
- Alex Stupak, Empellón Taqueria, Empellón Cocina, New York City
- Jair Tellez, Laja, MeroToro, México
- Eric Werner, Hartwood, Tulum, México
- Phil Wood, Rockpool, Sydney, Australia
More to come in part 2, like the event, there is just too much to consume at once!