Gwen Fowler



Outstanding in the Field Dinner coming to Thornhill

Posted 8/26/2010 12:57:00 PM

Lots of people think Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s in Charleston and Thornhill farmer Maria Baldwin are outstanding in their field.

Now a traveling culinary event called Outstanding in the Field Farm Dinner is coming to Thornhill in McClellanville to make it official.

Tickets are sold out for the Sept. 26 event, where Baldwin will provide ingredients fresh from the farm for Brock’s menu.

The Outstanding in the Field staff covers the country on a bus, making stops along the way to bring recognition to farmers. The idea behind the event is “to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it,” according to the group’s web site. It was begun in 1999 by Jim Deneven, a chef who is also an artist who creates drawings in sand.

At each dinner stop, a large table – usually enough to seat about 150 people – is set up in the middle of the field.

“What a great concept,” said Brock, the 2010 James Beard Best Chef Southeast. “What a great experience for the guests.”

The dinner at Thornhill is the only one set for South Carolina this season. Tickets, which are $180 per person, sold out about three months ago.

“It's been a couple of years since we were in Pawleys Island, and when planning our 2010 season we thought it would be great to return,” said Leah Scafe of Outstanding in the Field. “We wanted to do something in and around Charleston and have heard and read great things about Sean Brock. From reading about his food and his philosophy, we knew he'd be a great fit. Once we were in touch with Sean, he, of course, suggested we do the event at Thornhill Farm.”

Outstanding in the Field made a stop in Pawleys Island in 2008, with Louis Osteen as guest chef. Osteen, who owned Louis’s at Pawleys and the Fish Camp Bar, was unable to participate at the last minute because of an emergency, and Osteen’s executive chef, Michael Keough, filled in. On that trip, the group’s bus broke down on the way to Pawleys Island and they spent some extra time on the coast.

Brock said the table will be set up on the backside of the heirloom garden where he’s been working at restoring pre-Civil war Southern seeds that were at risk of being extinct. Most of his summer crop has been harvested, and he’ll be planting fall crops, including root vegetables, herbs and lots of lettuces.

These days he goes to Thornhill two or three days a week, rather than almost every day as he did in the spring. He’s getting help from a couple of interns this summer who asked to work at McCrady’s just to work in the garden.

The interns are getting “covered in dirt and loving it,” he said. “That says that we are headed in the right direction and our next generation is learning from the mistakes of everybody in the past and we’ll get back to understanding where food comes from.”

Brock has been pulled away from the garden to help prepare for the opening of a new restaurant, Husk, which is on track to open at 76 Queen St. by Nov. 1. Only Southern foods and ingredients will be used.