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Local sourcing in culinary scene isn’t all that new

Hospitality and Tourism
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Dick Elliott, the founder of Maverick Southern Kitchens, talks with Patrick Bryant (left) about the formative years of Charleston’s culinary scene. (Photo/Andy Owens)

Dick Elliott, the founder of Maverick Southern Kitchens, says it’s a popular misconception that Charleston’s locally sourced culinary goodness began in the past few years.

Elliott talked about the formative years of Charleston’s culinary scene during an Entrepreneur Studio interview with Patrick Bryant, the co-founder of The Harbor Entrepreneur Center, this month. Maverick was sold to Hall Management Group last year.

Before such restaurants as Slightly North of Broad, Magnolias, High Cotton and Blossom popped up, restaurant-goers in Charleston were served cans of vegetables that were heated up, Elliott said.

In the late 1980s, a handful of restaurants — including the Colony House, which later became the Harbour Club — started a trend of serving good, fresh food that wasn’t too fussy.

Elliott said that when Tom Parsell started Magnolias he ascribed to the same kind of approach as he did with Maverick Southern Kitchens properties.

“They were, along with the people I was working with, instrumental in focusing on a new type of restaurant, a restaurant that was fine dining but not with all the formalities of city-formal fine dining,” Elliott said.

He said that was when the shift began toward using local, fresh vegetables, fresh meat and fresh fish to serve to restaurant-goers.

“I am sometimes just baffled by the focus today on our current chefs, many of whom are wonderful — but the media act like local food sourcing started five years ago,” he said.

Elliott recounted the first time he met Frank Lee, who became his executive chef at the company.

“He parked his pickup truck in that dirt lot across from the Colony House and reached in the back and got the biggest arm load of collard greens you’ve ever seen, and he just got back from Johns Island or Wadmalaw where they were grown,” he said.

“A lot of local things were happening back then; it’s not just these wonderful new chefs that are doing it,” Elliott said.

Read more about Dick Elliott’s interview with the Entrepreneur Studio in the March 21 edition of the Charleston Regional Business Journal.

Reach Andy Owens at 843-849-3142.

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