In the Kitchen with Chef Angela Bell

By:Gwen Fowler


Chef Angela Bell at Beyond the Bull in Central, South Carolina
Chef Angela Bell

Even though Chef Angela Bell calls Beyon​d the Bull in Cen​tral an “eat smart kitchen,” she doesn’t want you to think she serves tasteless health food.

“It is, however, healthy food that tastes really, really good without refined grains or added sugar, but is still satisfying. With few exceptions like olives and crushed tomatoes, nothing is from a box, bag, can or bottle. I turned to game for protein because Americans expect the center of the plate to be protein. And, not to disappoint, I turned to game, which if it is not fed by mankind, is a better choice than beef or pork in terms of longevity and wellness (of humans, that is). And so the name Beyond the Bull.

“BTB offers fine dining selections in a fast, casual setting on disposable plates. Just because you are not using fine china, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality, flavor, originality or fine dining menu choices, which is why we have recently introduced ceviche and gazpacho, two starters not generally found in “fast and casual.” And it is why we go the extra mile to do things like storing our self-serve red wines in a chiller at a perfect 50 degrees.”

Q: What are you cooking these days that excites you the most?
Game, game and more game! I like surprising my guests with new cuts and preparing them with old methods like rabbit “wings.” Yes, I know rabbits don’t fly, but calling them bunny paws would be a hard sell, especially at Easter time.

Q: What five things are always in your refrigerator?
Personally? At home I always have cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh herbs, goat cheese and eggplant. All vegetables, no? (Except the goat cheese of course!) Even at home I try to eat “smart.” My all time favorite vegetable is eggplant, and my favorite way to eat it is hot off the grill, with a drizzle of olive oil and my own proprietary BTB seasoning blend.

Q: What restaurants do you like to eat at when you’re not working?
In the golden corner of South Carolina, I will go anywhere that serves fresh vegetable sides (which sadly, is hard to find). But honestly? Both my husband and I love to cook at home. It is recreational for us. It is the only time we have a conversation that lasts more than a minute. Food was at the center of every special event and holiday in my family and still is. Both of my parents were excellent cooks and loved cooking together in the kitchen alongside their kids. It was around the dining table that our family united every evening, and with extended family and friends on holidays, so tradition carries on. Fortunately, I am married to a man who looks really good in an apron!

Q: Who is the best American chef?
I really can’t say there is just one because when comparing chef to chef, it is never apples to apples. I can say that the top four for me are Julia Child, Jacques Pepin and more recently Alice Waters for her impact on the “farm to table” concept and Mario Batali for his originality and fusions with Mediterranean cuisine.

Q: How important is presentation?
Do you know why Asian cuisine is so popular in America? It is not because of the nutrition or familiarity of ingredient choices. When was the last time you purposely chose Bok Choy at the grocery store? It is because every dish has eye appeal. I once worked side by side with a Chinese chef who told me that every entrée he prepares must have five colors: red, green, white, yellow and orange. What are the colors that stimulate the appetite the most? Red, yellow and orange! Fortunately for BTB, the Clemson Tig​er's color is orange as are the walls in our restaurant!

Q: What’s the best tip you can give a home cook?
Speaking of the importance of color, first, never serve anything blue. But seriously, the best tip is to use fresh ingredients and lots of herbs and seasoning. My guests seem to love the Brussels sprouts. It is number one in popularity. I had a guest leave last night before ordering because I had sold out of Brussels sprouts. Honestly, the only thing different about mine and yours is that mine are not overcooked and HIGHLY seasoned!

Q: Who in your life has most influenced your cooking?
My parents were both great cooks, one Scottish and one Italian. Although I learned how to be a chef by attending culinary school, I learned how to cook from my parents. They were soooooo much better with the use of optimum cooking methods and seasoning than any chef/instructor I have ever known.

Q: What was your favorite food as a kid? What was the dish or food you hated to eat the most?
Ice cream with potato chips. Yeah, I know! That is why I started to have age-related disease symptoms and switched to “smart” food. What I hated the most? Hmmm, anything green or raw. Now I can’t get enough!

Q: What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever done in a restaurant kitchen?

Q: If there was one item on your menu that you wished everyone reading could try, what would it be?
First, I wish everyone could try ALL the vegetable sides, especially those they have NEVER liked. I recently had a Clemson grad student tell me he hated Brussels sprouts. OK, hmmm, what a challenge. Being a good sport, he gave one a try. I know it is hard to believe, but he ordered them as a side and admitted that he was converted! I love it when I can turn someone on to food that is good for them. As far as ONE item, my husband says Brussels sprouts. Enough already! My choice would be our signature duck cakes caramel with peppery raisin sauce. They say everything there is to say about our choices of ingredients, preparation, nutrition, flavor and originality. I can’t say anything more!