Chef Ramone Dickerson is changing the world one chicken wing at a time. Along with pal Corey Simmons, he launched a revolution in 2010 with a wild incarnation of the nation's favorite finger food. When the duo discovered a way to decadently stuff fried chicken wings, it boggled the minds of the tailgate crowd and set tongues a-wagging. It also created waves that radiated from South Carolina all the way to the national stage when the OWN network documented the pair's travails in a reality show.
The public's first flush of love for wings fattened with macaroni and cheese, jambalaya and other unlikely fillings has bloomed into a long-term romance. Dickerson and crew cater to the infatuated at his Columbia food truck, 2 Fat 2 Fly. The punchy name and the product are an apt reflection of Dickerson's approach to food, which he describes as "simple, fun and familiar."
In 2016, his innovative marriage of wings and comfort foods, finely honed kitchen chops and allegiance to local products earned him the title "Chef Ambassador." It's the second year for the program, which recognizes four chefs who promote and embrace South Carolina food traditions. The Chef Ambassadors serve as state and regional representatives for culinary and tourism functions.
So which duties does Dickerson look forward to most?
"Educating and letting people know how easy it is to cook fresh, amazing food at home," Dickerson said. "Oh, and being able to show other cities and states how we in South Carolina throw down in the kitchen!"
And there's nowhere Dickerson would rather be "throwing down" than in South Carolina.
"I think Southern food is kind of like the heartbeat of US cuisine," he said. "With such bold and rich flavors, from spicy fried chicken to your favorite cobbler, the South has it all. And it doesn't get much more Southern than South Carolina, so I'd say I'm pretty fortunate to be at arms' length of fresh berries, amazing greens - just the Southern food culture in general."
Helping children develop an appreciation for food that goes beyond "the prize in the kids' meal" is another aspiration for Dickerson, who has been tooling around in the kitchen since the tender age of five.
"I stayed in the kitchen with my granddad as he would cook his secret fried chicken," he remembered. "Mind you, he let no one else in, so I guess he saw the history of my chicken prowess long before I did."
When it comes to the food scene in South Carolina, there are certain things this funnyman would like culinary tourists to know.
"First of all, don't ask what fried okra is - just eat it and enjoy it," he quipped. "And while our traditional Southern food is beautiful and amazing, we're also doing a lot of things that big cities are doing on par with current culinary trends. We live slow, but cook big!"