In the Kitchen with Chef Brian Waters

By:Gwen Fowler


South Carolina's ​Chef Brian Wate​rs of Saltus River Grill in Beaufort
​Chef Brian Wate​rs of Saltus River Grill in Beaufort

Chef Brian Waters of Saltus River Grill in Beaufort began his restaurant career as a side job in the kitchen of Plum’s. He soon discovered he had a talent and passion for the field. When Plum’s Inc. opened Saltus in 2003, he moved there and studied under the chef at the time, James Spratling, before being named chef himself.

Q: Describe your restaurant and what type of food you serve.
A: Saltus is a restaurant that overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway and finds much of its inspiration there. We focus on exceptionally fresh seafood, both in the kitchen and out at the Raw Bar. I often let the products that are unique to our area guide my focus in the kitchen. As a result, our menu reflects a contemporary, inspired approach to traditional Southern cuisine.

Q: What are you cooking these days that excites you the most?
Having just entered a South Carolina spring, I have been offered increasing numbers and varieties of both seafood and produce, both of which excite me greatly. I’ve been working closely with local farmers and getting some amazing products which seem to always pair perfectly with the freshest catch offered by the local fishermen.

Q: What is the last thing you cooked for yourself at home?
It’s really funny that I’m answering this question today, of all days. My wife and I had family over for dinner and spent much of the afternoon preparing the meal, beginning with driving up to a local You-Pick farm and picking strawberries for a strawberry shortcake dessert. (Actually – we started by preparing dough for fresh baked bread, which was rising while we picked the strawberries.)

Dinner itself was fettuccine with fresh, local shrimp, garlic, shallots, local Japanese turnips with their greens, and parmigiano reggiano. Fresh baked bread was served on the side, and we finished the meal with our strawberry shortcake that was made entirely from scratch.
Unfortunately, we do not often have the opportunity to spend such a large amount of time on an evening’s meal, but it is definitely gratifying when we do.

Q: What's the one ingredient you'd always splurge on?
While I don’t necessarily ‘splurge’ on anything – you won’t find truffles, foie gras or caviar in my personal kitchen – I do buy the best I can find of everything I do buy – from butter and bacon to seafood and produce.

Q: What would your dream meal be?
I’d have to say that meals like the one I had today are what I consider to be a dream meal -- a meal I spent a large portion of the day cooking with my wife and in the company of our family, that was thoroughly enjoyed by all who were involved. That said, I have long dreamed of dining at The French Laundry in Napa Valley, and – more recently – Alinea in Chicago.

Q: What five things are always in your refrigerator?
Plugra (butter), cheese, bacon, eggs and pickles. The cheese: multiple varieties ranging from parmigiano reggiano and gouda to cheddar and laughing cow. The bacon: all natural applewood smoked. The eggs: fresh and local if at all possible. The pickles: all things pickled – red onions, banana peppers, jalapeños, and of course, cucumbers.

Q: What was your favorite food as a kid? What was the dish or food you hated to eat the most?
My favorite food as a kid, hands down – my grandmother’s fried shrimp. I rarely got it, but when I did it was the best thing in the world. This is something I seem to have passed on to my own son, as he would likely tell you fried shrimp is his favorite food, too.

My most dreaded childhood food was tuna casserole, which was in regular rotation in my house. It was basically tuna salad, but served warm and with shell pasta, peas, Velveeta and cream of mushroom soup. It makes me cringe to this day. Sorry, Mom.

Q: What’s the best tip you can give a home cook?
My best tip for the home cook is to source local ingredients whenever possible. Everything tastes best at its freshest. Farmer’s Markets and local fishermen are any enlightened cook’s best friends.

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