Exceptional everything - that's what Chef Curry Martin aims to deliver at his Myrtle Beach restaurant, Aspen Grille. From the cuisine to the wine to the ambiance, his vision was to distinguish his establishment from an area teeming with dining options. The result is an elegant, chef-driven dining experience, with Martin's personal touch apparent throughout.
A balanced focus on flavor, freshness and imaginative enhancements drives the treatment Martin applies to each dish he creates. He strives to allow the essence of locally sourced ingredients shine forth in all its natural glory. Think Southern with an upscale twist - classic dishes that honor rustic roots while embodying a sublime culinary sophistication to make them Martin's own. Think fresh-from-the-dock grouper with Carolina white rice, field pea and corn succotash, and a lime tarragon creme fraiche - definitely not your typical fish platter.
"My approach in the kitchen is pretty simple, but that doesn't mean easy," he said. "Find the best products possible and put them on the plate without too much manipulation. Seasoned well and cooked properly, a piece of trigger fish landed on the docks at Georgetown or Murrells Inlet doesn't need much else. Let the product speak for itself. There is not a better place, as far as I am concerned, than South Carolina to do this."
Graduating from Johnson & Wales in 1996 was only the beginning of culinary adventures for the Winston Salem native. A first step toward becoming a top chef was taken at Noble's Restaurant in North Carolina, where his "fresh and flavorful" aesthetic was deeply ingrained. But Martin had an urge for more comprehensive insights. In 1997, he headed to Napa Valley and worked at both Domaine Chandon and Beringer Vineyards. There, he learned the intricacies of how wine contributes to the overall experience of dining. He answered the call to return to Noble's as sous chef in 1998, and subsequently assisted in the relocation of Restaurant J. Basul Noble in High Point. His culinary adventures eventually led him across the ocean to France, where he joined the staff of two exceptional restaurants: Restaurant Pierre Orsi in Lyon and Restaurant Michel Rostang in Paris. Then, it was back to North Carolina to serve as sous chef at Charlotte's Sonoma Bistro and learn the business side of wine at Prestige Wines. It was a well-rounded, confident chef who finally headed to the Grand Strand in 2009 to assume the proprietorship of Aspen Grille. But it was those early years spent flipping burgers at a North Carolina country club that planted the seed for a robust career to come.
"Watching the chefs and all the cool products coming in the door made something click," Martin said. "A year later I was applying to culinary schools. I came to love not just the kitchen, but the whole atmosphere of a busy restaurant."