The cloistered space of the kitchen is where Chef David Pell found his calling. Soft-spoken by nature and tough by design, the French-trained executive chef of Coast Bar & Grill in Charleston applies technique-driven principles to turn out some of the finest fish and seafood dishes in this coastal haven. Having embarked on a culinary career as a youth, it wasn’t long before he discovered his personality was best suited for back-of-house tasks. Ultimately, that epiphany led him to pursue a chef’s life.
Following proper technique is job one for Pell, who always has consistency in mind. The way he sees it, his most important function is to ensure a dish is spot on each time it’s served. “It’s not easy because you have two of the most inconsistent things in the world – people and food – and you’ve got to try to make them into a consistent product,” Pell said. “That’s the challenge.”
A Spartanburg native, Pell snagged his first restaurant job at age 15 at a family-owned operation. But he fell rather flat when it came to the social aspects of working front of house and was relegated to dishwasher duty – and he liked it. After graduating from the University of South Carolina, he became a serious culinary student, trekking across the ocean to Paris to study at L’École Grégoire-Ferrandi/L’École Supérieure de la Cuisine Française. After graduating top in his class, he sought invaluable hands-on experience in some of France’s best dining establishments, working under Chef Christian Constant and Chef Yann Plassard. Three years later, he was back in South Carolina and headed for Charleston where he displayed his French technique at 39 Rue de Jean. Eventually, Pell accepted the position of Chef de Cuisine at sister restaurant Coast, and in 2008 was made executive chef. His kitchen leadership and menu development have made this restaurant a Charleston classic, known for consistently fresh and flavorful seafood.
“There is a way of doing everything,” Pell said, “and if you do that properly, you don’t have to do too much else to have a good product.”