At this year's Music to Your Mouth festival, Southern food phenom Sean Brock is playing with the idea of eating trash.
His Gullah fish head stew, which he'll be making at Nov. 20's James Beard Chef Dinner, uses ingredients once relegated to poor cooks who had to use what others would normally throw out.
Brock learned how to cook the dish on a visit to Africa earlier this year, where he went to research the roots and origins of Lowcountry cooking brought over on the slave trade.
"I'm fascinated with trying to understand things as much as possible," Brock said. "Where jambalaya started. Where black-eyed pea fritters began. Really what their pantry is and what their base flavors are."
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The executive chef at Husk and McCrady's Restaurant in Charleston, Brock is a strong adherent of the farm-to-table movement.
His restaurants only serve food indigenous to the South. Everything is cooked daily in-house, so the menu is continuously changing.
The fresh produce comes in each morning and after that, "everything is an adventure," Brock said.
"It's really important to become friends with the producers. Not just to buy from them but to get to know them. Once you become friends with someone, the relationship changes and you support one another on a different level," he said. "We really want to support people that understand the importance of taking care of the land."
As the 2010 James Beard winner of "Best Chef Southeast," Brock is heralded as a farm-to-table visionary and an authentic Southern chef who many strive to emulate. And while farm-to-table cooking is the new "it" thing in the culinary world, Brock is adamant that for him it was never a marketing concept. It is a way of life.
"You're expected to do it," he said. "If you don't, you're lazy and you're not cooking good food and you're not supporting the community."
Brock said he sees the next phase of the food movement as chefs growing their own crops and working with breeders to custom grow things that have significance to that particular restaurant or chef.
"People are realizing what a positive effect it has on guests, producers, restaurants," he said.
"It's doing the right thing."
Follow Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.