Creative, comforting and oh-so-Southern, the dishes Chef Heidi Trull serves up at her destination restaurant in Belton reflect decades of experience. After a brief hiatus, she and husband, Joe, reopened their flagship enterprise, Grits and Groceries, in 2020 after taking on partners to run the business side of things.
This freed Trull to fully focus on the aspects of restaurant ownership she loves best: creating dishes in the kitchen and preparing her signature recipes in keeping with time-honored cooking traditions.
Her dedication to supporting local producers, aspiring chefs and community events earned her the honor of being named a South Carolina Chef Ambassador in 2015.
One of South Carolina's farm-to-table pioneers, Trull sources ingredients locally and looks to the seasons for reasons to create and serve her signature Southern dishes.
"My approach to cooking is ‘local first,' meaning we like to use locally sourced products when we can," she said. "We were farm-to-table before people knew what farm-to-table meant. We want our customers to feel like they are coming home for lunch."
The South Carolina farm where she was raised set the stage for Trull's career. A self-taught home cook, she spent hours of time in the family kitchen as a youth, then made a serious foray into the culinary world by enrolling at Johnson & Wales University. With kitchen skills sharpened under the tutelage of renowned chefs, Elizabeth Terry and Emeril Lagasse, she settled in New Orleans where she opened the acclaimed restaurant, Elizabeth's.
In time, she headed home to South Carolina with her husband, Joe, and opened the homey Grits and Groceries in 2005, catching the national eye of Food Network, PBS, The New York Times and CNN. Belton became a destination for culinarians eager to try Trull's Southern classics, such as her cheesy tomato pie and meat-and-three plates.
Trull's aim to satisfy is a lesson in reciprocity as her efforts bring much in the way of personal joy.
"I love the instant gratification of cooking and serving people," she said.
And she's on a mission to keep spreading the love, routinely taking time out to mentor teens seeking culinary careers and serving on the advisory boards for regional food festivals.