Sampling the South: Chefs put best dishes forward at Music to Your Mouth

jpaprocki@islandpacket.comNovember 9, 2011 

  • Many of the Music to your Mouth events sell out fast. But a few tickets still remain, including for the grand finale Culinary Festival on Nov. 19. Act quick to get a seat at the table.

    The Culinary Festival brings together chefs and vintners for an afternoon of culinary sampling and wine tasting. Bravo's "Top Chef" judge Gail Simmons hosts. Festivities run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Palmetto Bluff Village Green. Tickets are $225.

    The Whole Hog ticket package gets access to a week's worth of activities, including the Culinary Festival, post-fest oyster roast, and the weekend after-parties. Tickets are $825.


For about a week, Palmetto Bluff becomes a mecca of Southern culinary celebrity.

A who's who will venture to the Bluffton community at Music to Your Mouth from Nov. 15 to 20, culminating in the Culinary Festival on Nov. 19 in the Village Green. There, some of the South's best chefs cook up samples to taste. The eclectic group ranges from James Beard Award winners (the foodie equivalent of an Oscar) to cooking show stars.

If celeb chefs are as foreign to you as grits to a Yankee, read on for a primer on some of the big names.


  • Restaurant: McCrady's and Husk in Charleston

  • Accolades: four-time James Beard award nominee, 2010 winner James Beard Best Chef Southeast Award.

  • Bio: A graduate of Charleston's Johnson & Wales University, Brock returned to the Lowcountry about five years ago for the job at McCrady's. He later opened Husk, which Bon Appetit called the best new restaurant in the country this fall. Both restaurants have a heavy emphasis on Southern cooking with local ingredients. Brock himself even grows benne seed, rice peas, flint corn and other crops that once flourished in the South and incorporates them into the meals.

  • Fun Fact: Brock has a full-sleeve tattoo on his arm depicting his favorite vegetable -- Jimmy Red Corn.


  • Restaurant: Poole's Diner in Raleigh, N.C.

  • Accolades: Poole's was named "Best New Restaurant" by News & Observer, and Christensen was named Bon Appetit's "Female Chefs of the Next Generation" and The Independent Weekly's "Best Local Chef" the past four years

  • Bio: The North Carolina native reinvented the Raleigh diner in 2001. In a previous life, it served as a pie shop and luncheonette. The retro-chic spot is French-inspired down-home cuisine, such as the Burgundy Braised Beef Short Ribs with Caramelized Cauliflower.

  • Fun Fact: Christensen took on Bobby Flay in a recent episode of "Iron Chef America" but lost.


  • Restaurant: FIG Restaurant in Charleston

  • Accolades: Winner 2009 James Beard Award Best Chef Southeast

  • Bio: Lata came from New England but placed roots in Charleston, starting as executive chef at Anson, where he hosted the first out-of-house James Beard event in South Carolina. He started farm-to-table restaurant FIG in 2003, featuring a rotating menu based on what ingredients are available that day.

  • Fun Fact: Due to his zeal for fresh produce, he once got the nickname "Veggie Boy" among Charleston chefs.


  • Restaurant: Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Accolades: Smith is a two-time nominee James Beard Award Best Chef Southeast; Crook's Corner was a 2010 nominee Best Restaurant nationwide; New York Times Notable and Food & Wine Best of the Best cookbook for "Seasoned in the South"

  • Bio: The North Carolina native not only serves up Southern cuisine at Crook's Corner, he dishes about it too. Crook's Corner has continued to garner national fame under Smith, while the chef himself is an accomplished cookbook author and essayist. His latest release is "Immigrants in the Kitchen," a mix of recipes and social commentary from his travels to visit former staffers.

  • Fun Fact: Fellow Music to Your Mouth guest and Beard Award winner Robert Stehling of Charleston's Hominy Grill worked at Crook's Corner under the tutelage of former chef Bill Neal.


  • Restaurant: Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Ala.

  • Accolades: Chris was a nominee for Best Chef South in 2007; they've made appearances on The Food Network's "Best Of," NBC's "Roker on the Road," "The Martha Stewart Show"

  • Bio: Chef Chris and his wife, Idie, an accomplished pastry chef, opened Hot and Hot Fish Club in 1995. The menu combines the best of their skills: Chris' Shrimp and Grits with Country Ham, Thyme, Tomatoes and Ver Jus for dinner and Idie's Chocolate Souffle with Creme Anglaise and Whipped Cream for dessert, for example.

  • Fun Fact: Chris credits his love of cooking to his childhood visits to Pawleys Island, where meals consisted of fresh-picked produce and crabs or fish straight from the sea.



  • Johannes Klapdohr, Old Edwards Inn

  • New Orleans

  • Tory McPhail, Commander's Palace

  • Kiawah Island

  • Nathan Thurston, The Ocean Room

  • Savannah

  • Matthew Roher, Cha Bella

  • Minette Rushing, Custom Cakes

  • Chris Nason, Sapphire Grill

  • Hilton Head Island/Bluffton

  • Orchid Paulmeier, One Hot Mama's

  • Matt Jording, Sage Room

  • David Young, Roastfish and Cornbread

  • Ted Huffman, Bluffton BBQ

  • Atlanta

  • Kevin Gillespie, Woodfire Grill

  • Ford Fry, JCT. Kitchen

  • Drew Belline, No. 246

  • Charleston

  • Jeremiah Bacon, Oak Steakhouse

  • Frank Lee, Slightly North of Broad
  • Music to your Mouth

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