In the Kitchen with Chef Blake Fairies

By:Gwen Fowler


Chef Blake Fairies of Saluda's in Columbia, South Carolina
Chef Blake Fairies of Saluda's in Columbia

The executive chef at Saluda’s in Columbia describes his restaurant as “a fine dining restaurant that is not pretentious.’’

Chef Blake Fairies said: “We strive to have the best food and service in town. There are a lot of great restaurants in Columbia so we always do our best to take care of our guests. Our menu is a mix of French and Southern cuisine using local products, but our daily specials revolve around what inspires us that day.’’

The restaurant is in the Five Points section of the city in a building built after World War I as a VFW officers club. It opened as Saluda’s in 1996 after six years of renovation.

Q: What are your favorite ingredients?
Any type of seafood. Freshly Grown Farms arugula.

Q: What are you cooking these days that excites you the most?
I think our pasta is really amazing. But I enjoy using Agar Agar to make liquid fluid gels and meat glue (transglutaminase) to bind proteins together.

Q: Which chefs inspire you?
Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, Grant Achatz, Wylie Dufresne, to name a few.

Q: Which three cooking gadgets or tools are your favorites?
Immersion circulator, pasta roller, smoking gun.

Q: What was your first job in food? What did you learn?
My first job was at a restaurant in Clinton, Miss., called Rooster's. It was a burger and barbecue restaurant. The food was simple but done the right way. Rooster's was scratch kitchen where we made almost everything in house. There I learned how to work a grill, make bread, and most importantly, to always taste the food I was preparing.

Q: What was your worst kitchen disaster?
We had a kitchen fire not too long ago. No one was injured, but it was the first time in my life that I had to use a fire extinguisher on a gas line. The flame was about 6 feet high. Finally, after the fire extinguisher ran out we had to use the ansul system to put the fire out. It was a rush, but I would rather not have to experience that again.

Q: What would your dream meal be?
It is really a toss up, but I would love to go to the French Laundry and eat the tasting menu of the day. Or to experience the first bagel I ever had again. I've been trying to recreate the dish for over 15 years. It was made by my grandmother, and it was perfectly done. I think it was because how she cared so much about me, and she put so much love in her food.

Q: What’s the best tip you can give a home cook?
When searing fish in a saute pan, let the oil lightly smoke before you add your protein. Give the pan a light shake, and it shouldn't stick to the pan. Also, season with salt and pepper, and taste what you are making.

Q: What music plays in your kitchen?
It is a mix of music. On Tuesdays we usually listen to the Temptations Pandora station. But when I am by myself prepping for dinner I usually listen to bands like Wilco, The Stooges, Lost Sounds, Television, Arcade Fire; this list could go on for awhile so we can just say rock n' roll.

Q: Is there a food you simply refuse to eat?
Chitlins. I had a bad experience with them one day when I was playing hooky from school.

Q: Even chefs don’t eat gourmet every night. What is your ultimate comfort food or quick meal?
A grilled cheese sandwich, or some Chef Boyardee.

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