With Beaufort Bay as an exhilarating backdrop, Chef Brian Waters has put Saltus River Grill on the map in an area where fresh-off-the-boat seafood and locally grown produce is the rule rather than the exception. A native of nearby Savannah, Waters has carved out a niche for himself in Beaufort, a town known for its Southern charm, breathtaking water views and, thanks in part to Saltus’ stellar reputation, growing status as a culinary destination. In 2014, he was named a South Carolina Chef Ambassador, an honor bestowed annually on four South Carolina chefs who’ve made their mark on the state’s culinary scene.
When you have amazing access to the bounty of both land and sea, the kitchen is your oyster, and Waters uses his to good advantage. Here is a chef who didn’t find an approach per se, but whose approach found him.
“Saltus is a restaurant that overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway and finds much of its inspiration there,” he said. “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.”
Waters came to Beaufort at age 8 when his father was assigned to US Marine Corp duty at Parris Island. As a young man, he took a side job at Saltus’ sister restaurant, Plums, and that’s where he seriously caught the cooking bug. His affinity for fine food led him to Saltus (named for 18th century Beaufort shipbuilder John Francis Saltus) where he worked under the tutelage of Chef James Spratling. It wasn’t long before Waters’ natural kitchen talents caught the eye of his mentor, who encouraged the aspiring chef to work hard and master his cooking skills. By the time Spratling was ready to move on to other opportunities, Waters’ grooming was complete and he was amply prepared to assume the helm of the Saltus River Grill kitchen. Today, diners come from far and wide to experience his seafood-centric dishes and Lowcountry cuisine in a setting situated along Beaufort’s gorgeous waterfront park.