Gwen Fowler



In the Kitchen with Chef Forrest Parker

Posted 12/29/2013 9:58:00 PM

The chef of Old Village Post House in Mount Pleasant, Parker also has been overseeing operations at High Cotton in Greenville recently. Both are Maverick Southern Kitchens restaurants.

“We source as much as we can from our Palmetto State providers, and have a lot of fun putting contemporary twists on traditional dishes,” he said. “Both restaurants offer a phenomenal brunch, which I'm passionate about, and both have tremendous offerings for private dining functions.”

You can also spend the night at Old Village Post House, which includes a six-room inn.

Parker grew up in Anderson, attended College of Charleston and worked with James Beard Chef Louis Osteen at Louis’s Restaurant on Meeting Street. He later was executive chef at Gaylord Opryland in Nashville before returning to Charleston.

Q: What are your favorite ingredients?
Anything local and seasonal. The weather is cold, so I'm looking forward to roots and greens. There's been such an explosion of grassroots distribution of our family farm partners here in South Carolina; as chefs, we're all so energized by this. But that said, I am a sucker for a perfect tomato.

Q: What are you cooking these days that excites you the most?
Local seafood. We're seeing tray oysters that are super clean and briny, and South Carolina mussels and sweetgrass scallops. We see local whelks and are hoping to see cockles and razor clams soon; the shells are all over the beaches, so it's just a matter of time before someone figures out a way to bring us up to speed with our Spanish and Italian cousins.

Q: If there were one item on your menu that you wished everyone reading could try, what would it be?
Any local fish or shellfish. Many folks don't realize that just like tomatoes, fish have seasons also. To have a perfectly seared piece of wreckfish from the Charleston bump, or a softshell crab from Kimberly's that came out of the shedding tank 15 minutes ago is an experience you can only have here in South Carolina. You can get those things elsewhere, but it only tastes like this when you're here in the Palmetto State!

Q: Which chefs inspire you?
For me, it has less to do with the chef than the Charleston scene. To have worked with Frank Lee and Louis Osteen has certainly been formative for me, but I continue to see (and taste) such wonderful cooking from Kevin Johnson, Jeremiah Bacon, Jacques Larsen and Craig Deihl. It's competition, sure, but it constantly inspires me to succeed, to push, to make things more delicious. And this is true at every level of dining in Charleston; look at what they're doing at Butcher and BeeXiao Bao Biscuit or Two Burroughs Larder.

I'm hearing about a chef from here with a tattoo sleeve and pugs who's doing awesome things, too....

Q: What was your first job in food? What did you learn?
I worked at an upscale juice bar and vegetarian restaurant. I learned how to make hummus like a champ.

Q: What was your worst kitchen disaster?
Digging out from the Nashville Flood of 2010 at Opryland. My whole restaurant was 15 feet under water. Trust me, you can't begin to imagine what a disaster that was. Surreal. While I would never want to repeat that experience, I would never trade that experience either. It's so easy to become jaded, but to see how really genuine people were helping one another will continue to inspire me for years. Humbling.

Q: What would your dream meal be?
Wow. Hard one. Probably more like a series of dinners from the kitchens of the chefs involved with Cook it Raw. (That would get me to Italy, Brazil, France, New York, Denmark, California, Japan). Tracing the great rice dishes across the globe? Noodle dishes and dumplings? The great meat and three's of the South? OK, now I'm going to have to write a bucket list...

Q: What music plays in your (restaurant) kitchen?
We have an open forum, so anyone can pick or veto. Chefs always listen to great music, so it's a great way of generating discussion. I listen to most everything - James Brown, Band of Horses, Dizzy Gillespie, Philip Glass, Miles Davis, Sunn O))), Johnny Cash, Susumu Yokota, Nick Cave, the Roots. Lots of Radiohead these days.

Q: Is there a food you simply refuse to eat?
Not really. Some things I'm less inclined toward, but if the right chef is cooking, I relax and enjoy the journey. It's great to be surprised like that.

Q: Even chefs don’t eat gourmet every night. What is your ultimate comfort food or quick meal?
Spaghetti Carbonara (preferably with Alan Benton's bacon!)