Wandering Chef: John Currence in Charleston, South Carolina
John Currence, chef/owner, of City Grocery Restaurant Group in Oxford, Mississippi was recently in Charleston, South Carolina to participate in the city’s annual Wine and Food Festival. Between his panel discussions on foraging and guest chefing at Husk, he had time to do some serious eating around the city. Here, he shares his impressions and favorite finds.
“What is happening in Charleston at this very moment is profound and important. There is a literal army of young, engaged, and extremely creative minds steering an expanding sea of beautiful little spaces and kitchens and they are watched over by an older generation of guys like chefs Mike Lata (FIG restaurant) and Sean Brock (McCrady’s and Husk restaurants) who could not be better examples of what excellence should be.
Pinch yourselves, Chucktown. You are the benefactors of a true culinary movement. I will return as soon as humanly possible to feast on the air that is inspiring these guys.”
Two Boroughs Larder
“Why can’t there simply be more places like this on the planet? The cooking is muscular yet playful. Precise execution and aggressive seasoning of everything I had there made for one of the most enjoyable and inspiring meals I have eaten in years. I will lie awake at night for the foreseeable future grinning about the goat posole.” 186 Coming St., (843) 637-3722, twoboroughslarder.com
Butcher and Bee
“I would walk back to Charleston to have this experience again. These guys take the sandwich very seriously. I quit the ubiquitous bánh mì years ago. It got to the point where you just couldn’t swing a dead cat without slapping a half dozen versions within arm’s reach. Chef Kelly English (Restaurant Iris), my Memphis-based partner in crime, was brave enough to take that dive here and the result was one of the best sandwiches I have ever enjoyed. A deft touch with some local Brussels sprouts and some wonderfully bright and crisp pickles made for a perfect celebration of the simple.” 654 King St., (843) 619-0202, butcherandbee.com
“Mike Lata is, perhaps, the most technically proficient chef I have ever known. And where many guys of his stripe take a hard right turn at flavor, Mike is equally good in that arena. His chicken liver pate has inspired odes from the likes of John T. Edge (director of the Southern Foodways Alliance and distinguished food writer). Countless chefs around the South have spent hours trying to mimic the subtleties and nuances of Mike’s cooking. He makes the finest gnudi I have ever had the pleasure of eating, and wears the smile of a man who revels in the pride of his abilities, but mostly because he gets to share joy through his food.” 232 Meeting St., (843) 805-5900, eatatfig.com
“I worked in the kitchen at Husk for two full days before my crew sat down to eat on our last night in Charleston. We had passed lots of whiskey at the bar during those nights and seen chef Sean Brock’s team working feverishly with the constant stream of local product arriving at the Husk production kitchen. It is not entirely uncommon for a meal/experience to suffer from psychological fatigue in these instances, but, as always, Sean Brock delivers on his promise. Husk is, quite simply, spectacular. Without any equivocation, everything that arrived at our table was exceptional, from perfectly salted local butter to his magnificently complex crispy pig ear lettuce wraps, dripping with some of the best BBQ sauce ever imagined.” 76 Queen St., (843) 577-2500, Huskrestaurant.com
Photo by Brandall Atkinson.