From the salty waters of the marshlands to the rich soils of the farmlands, South Carolina offers a bounty of flavors for every season. Get to know the 2022 South Carolina Chef Ambassadors, whose close relationships with local farmers allow for the freshest ingredients to grace their seasonal menus.
The Mermaid’s Kiss Crafted by Chef John Ondo
As the executive chef of The Atlantic Room at the luxurious Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Chef John Ondo refines the culinary traditions of the Lowcountry and showcases the freshest ingredients sourced from local farmers and fishers. “I worship the sea and the salt and the marshes—anything that comes out of there,” says Ondo. “To be able to put that on a menu now, and to represent South Carolina, I think it’s a duty.”
His close-knit culinary partnerships are put on display with his tantalizing appetizer, The Mermaid’s Kiss: a sublime bite of raw oyster, zingy mignonette and a touch of caviar. Ondo turns to Lowcountry Oyster Co. to procure their signature Lowcountry Cups, known for deep cups and rich flavor.
“The ecosystem here traps a lot of unbelievable nutrients, flavor and salt in this marsh grass, which we grow our oysters next to,” says Trey McMillan, founder of Lowcountry Oyster Co.
The mignonette is made with finely diced sea beans from Heron Farms, as well as cucumber, shallot, Champagne vinegar and black pepper. “These oysters have kind of a melon-y, cucumber flavor so that will pair well with the mignonette,” says Ondo. “A little bit of vegetal flavor, briny, salty, crunchy and the vinegar just kind of cleans everything up. This is just a bright, fun little dish.”
Croissant Bread Pudding Crafted by Chef Williams
The new location of Roy’s Grille in Irmo may have opened only last fall, but Chef Chris Williams has garnered a devoted following from his previous locale, housed in an unassuming gas station. His commitment to seasonal ingredients and time-honored techniques elevates comfort food into culinary delights. “Local produce is near and dear to my heart because not only am I in touch with what I’m giving my customers, I can also build that relationship with that farmer,” says Williams.
For his decadent croissant bread pudding, Williams uses croissants from a local bakery, which are then baked in a mixture of spices and half and half; topped with tender peaches and a candied pecan crust; then finished with a cinnamon bourbon glaze and a dollop of whipped cream.
For that ideal Southern peach— sweet with some “twang” and a yellow-gold color with a hint of pink—Williams turns to nearby Titan Farms, which grows 58 varieties of peaches from May through September. “Having that chef-to-farmer relationship is a great opportunity to showcase what is in season,” says Jason Rodgers, vice president of operations for Titan Farms. Thankfully, Roy’s Grille is an ideal place to see what is in season at any given time.
Beet Salad Crafted by Chef Haydn Shaak
Nestled at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hotel Domestique in Travelers Rest is surrounded by picturesque countryside and rolling farmland. This is where Chef Haydn Shaak helms Restaurant 17, which features seasonal ingredients sourced directly from the Upstate—particularly Stage 22 Farms.
“Our relationship is unique,” says Craig Weiner of Stage 22 Farms. “We’re basically connected to the hotel, so we’re an amenity for the hotel and we’re also an amenity for Chef Haydn. We’re less than 2 miles down the road.” This translates to beautiful dishes composed of just-picked produce, each season unveiling a new crop of flavors. “The idea is to have everything tied in with the hotel and the farm,” Shaak says. “I’m able to work directly with my farmer. We’re planning our entire year out.”
One artful example is the visually stunning Beet Salad. And “salad” is an understatement. Shaak starts with candy-striped Chioggia beets and sweet golden beets that are roasted and tossed in an orange, honey and horseradish dressing. He spoons this over a bed of ricotta cheese and tops it all with orange supreme, paper-thin beet chips, hazelnuts, microgreens and fresh herbs. The result is a dish that looks as incredible as it tastes.
Fresh Finds at Farmers Markets
Revel in the bounty of South Carolina’s rich farmlands when you shop these local markets.
South Carolina State Farmers Market Each season offers a new harvest at this warehouse-style market in West Columbia, open daily, year-round. Expect bins of giant watermelons and cantaloupe in the summer and pumpkins in the fall—plus flowers, fruits and vegetables galore.
TD Saturday Market Greenville’s Main Street is transformed into a bustling farmers market every Saturday from May through October. Wander more than 75 vendor stalls, listen to live music, watch chef demonstrations and bring the kids for fun activities.
Summerville Farmers Market Located in the First Citizens Bank parking lot behind Town Hall every Saturday from April through November, this pop-up event showcases locally grown produce, plus goods like small-batch salsa, fresh-squeezed lemonade and pickled snacks.
Pee Dee State Farmers Market Open Monday through Saturday all year long, this sprawling market is located on U.S. Highway 52 between Florence and Darlington. Meander through rows of blooming flowers and plants, baskets of juicy peaches and fruits, local specialties like boiled peanuts and stone-ground grits, and seasonal decor such as Christmas trees.