Chef Sean Brock
Executive Chef of McCrady's Restaurant & Husk, Charleston
Many chefs have their first exposure to cooking at a young age. For Sean Brock, who was born and raised in rural Virginia, it was the experience of his family growing their own food that left a deep impression. “This was a coal-field town with no restaurants or stoplights,” he explains. “You grew and cooked your own food, so I really saw food in its true form. You cook all day, and when you’re not cooking, you’re preserving.” These were the building blocks that Brock would not forget as he began building his career as a chef.
Rather than rely on others to fulfill the voluminous needs of the kitchen and the demands of an increasingly sophisticated food community, Chef Brock wanted to create a true field-to-table experience, not only for his guests, but for his staff through the development of a farm on Wadmalaw Island. Today, Brock maintains a 1.5-acre parcel of land on Thornhill Farm in McClellanville, SC, where he continues to plant heirloom seeds and cultivate new crops. Thornhill is also the home of a 100-acre farm utilized by Our Local Foods and Adaptive Gardens of the Lowcountry, which are run by Maria Baldwin and supply fresh, local, organic produce to the public and some restaurants via its community-supported agriculture program. “The majority of the produce we cook at McCrady’s comes from this farm,” Brock notes.
Working with local purveyors and vendors has had a great impact on Brock’s cooking. “Gone are the days of a chef sitting in the kitchen creating recipes and then picking up the phone to order food from wherever it needs to come from,” he says.
His knowledge of curing meats comes courtesy of time spent with the likes of Allan Benton of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams. His affection for heirloom produce spawns from memories of his family table in Virginia. Glenn Roberts (of Columbia, SC, based Anson Mills) has partnered with Chef Brock on saving the James Island Red Corn strain (a.k.a. Jimmy Red). The strain corn is at risk of extinction due to cross pollination and previous over harvesting of the delicate Lowcountry soil as a cash crop for ethanol.
When he is not in the kitchen or on the farm, Chef Brock spends time with his wife and three dogs or writes on his blog: www.seanbrock.wordpress.com.