The 2012 Chefs' Feast “The Irony of Eating for Hunger”
Charleston is blessed with an abundance of tastes cultivated from both land and sea. As they have found their way to our plates over the centuries, the uniqueness and variety of these tastes have given the Lowcountry its own distinct flavor. This very flavor alone beckons food lovers from around the world to Charleston and lures talented and aspiring chefs to our restaurants. It is sobering to learn that, in the midst of our culinary plentitude, one out of four children here in the Lowcountry go to bed hungry each night.
On Sunday, February 26th, the staff of EAT THIS! had the great pleasure of attending the 13th Annual Chefs’ Feast. The event is a collaboration among the Lowcountry Food Bank and 32 distinguished chefs, providing 32 delectable bites, both savory and sweet, for attendees to enjoy. The Embassy Suites Charleston Area Convention Center was transformed for the night into an elegant soiree - Statuesque ice sculptures and floral arrangements adorned a white tablecloth dining scene. The big band sounds of the Michael Ray Band would have had people tripping the light fantastic if not for the irresistible aromas wafting from the chefs’ tables skirting the perimeter of the room.
An evening of such sumptuous indulgence seems to fly in the face of an issue such as childhood hunger and yet what it achieves year after year it to keep hunger at bay in the Lowcountry. 95% of the proceeds from Chefs’ Feast go to supporting childhood hunger programs such as Kid’s Cafe and Backpack Buddies. To break it down even further, every $1 donation is the equivalent of ten meals for the needy in our community. The night’s event raised $150,000. If there was ever a justification for over-indulgence, Chefs’ Feast would be it.
Certainly the evening’s offerings were all stellar, but several tasting in the gastronomical smorgasbord stood out to us….
In the battle of the scallop - several of the chef chose this briny protein to work with - our favorite composed plate was that of Chef Daniel Doyle of Poogan’s Porch. The pan roasted diver scallop nested in a pork belly and English pea risotto that perfectly balanced sweet, caramelized notes of the scallop. Garnished with micro greens and drizzled with a South Carolina honey chili lemon vinaigrette, it was an amazing combination of sweetness, saltiness and acidity. Chef Patrick Owens of Langdon’s and Opal also had a fantastic scallop offering with a sweet corn polenta that married Southern and Italian traditions in a magical way.
Duck also seemed a popular protein among the chefs. Our fav of the fowl was the design of Chef Thomas McKinney-Stehr from Sea Island Grill at Wild Dunes Resort. The duck breast was smoky and moist, sliced and layered atop a peerless wild mushroom spoon bread. (We want the recipe!) Sitting in a pool of vanilla corn emulsification and finished with Sambuca micro greens, this dish makes you want to say “Please sir, may I have another?” Not to be overlooked though were Chef Nate Whiting of Tristan and his duck and foie gras meatballs on slider buns.
Other outstanding bites…
Magnolia’s Chef Donald Drake and his cup of creamy and complex flavored shellfish potlikker with seared tilefish, Mepkin Abbey Oyster Mushrooms and veggies.
Chef Travis Grimes of HUSK and his unbelievable puffed beef rind with Texas Waygu beef tartar, pickled West Virginia ramps and smoked mayonnaise.
Lana’s Chef John Ondo’s pillowy gnocchi and flawless pork confit.
Chef Lucas Weir of McCrady’s and his visually stunning octopus paired with the earthy components of fennel, parsnips, hazelnuts and black truffle.
And on the sweeter side of things…
You can’t beat the simple elegance and sophisticated flavors of Chef Frank Lee’s molasses apple cobbler topped with vanilla bean ice cream. In the Maverick Southern Kitchens, Chef Lee continues to “elevate the traditional.”
And not to be missed was Peninsula Grill’s Executive Pastry Chef Claire Chapman’s chocolate banana custard cake atop a layer of peanut butter crunch with bananas foster. Chocolate, rum, peanut butter, bananas… To die for!
It was a night to savor. Not just for the food, but also for the pride that we should all feel in our culinary leaders. The effort and the expense to create these brilliant bites for hundreds of people is no small feat. The contribution of their talent and their time reflects their sense of ownership in our community. Just as Charleston embraces them, these chefs embrace our city and the Lowcountry back. We are grateful indeed.
You can find out more about the Lowcountry Food Bank and ways in which you can be involved at lowcountryfoodbank.org.
by Antonia M. Krenza and Laney Roberts