From the helm of one of Charleston’s most storied kitchens, Michelle Weaver not only created a culinary legacy, but earned herself the title of South Carolina Chef Ambassador for 2018, an initiative started by former Gov. Nikki Haley. Each year four chefs from across the state are selected to promote South Carolina’s culinary heritage and local food culture through cooking demonstrations, guest appearances and educational programs.
As executive chef of Charleston Grill, Weaver’s culinary aesthetic courses through a menu offering four themed options, each one like a tributary beckoning diners to branch out toward new exploits: Cosmopolitan, Southern, Pure and Lush. Stick with a single direction or meander from one taste experience to the other – either way, you’re in for an elegant, unforgettable dining adventure.
Chef Weaver’s distinctive approach to food was built upon a convergence of pathways taken as she navigated her way to executive chef-hood. A native of Decatur, Alabama, she was raised on the iron-skillet Southern cooking of her mother and, as an adult, mentored by Chef Bob Waggoner during his time in Nashville. Weaver followed him to Charleston Grill in 1997, where she assisted in the kitchen for 11 years, learning the nuances of French-influenced cuisine while developing a love for Lowcountry ingredients. When Waggoner left to pursue other opportunities in 2009, she assumed the position of executive chef.
Here, Weaver shares some insights about herself and her chef philosophies:
Q: Where did you get your inspiration to pursue a career in the culinary arts?
A: “I had been working in some capacity in food and beverage since I was 18. But it wasn't until my mid-20s, when a friend came home from the Culinary Institute of America and opened a restaurant, that I realized I could go to school and pursue a career. So, I packed up my little red Chevalier and moved to Vermont to go to the New England Culinary Institute. The rest is history.”
Q: What's the most important rule in your kitchen?
A: “Communication. Communication. Communication. Good communication is the backbone of a successful team.”
Q: What makes being a chef in South Carolina such a special experience?
A: “Working with the BOUNTY of beautiful products that South Carolina provides, from the farmers to the fisherman and everyone in between. It's a chest filled with toys made for a chef's heart.”
Q: What South Carolina ingredients do you value the most and why?
A: “Whatever is in season at the time. I especially love the beautiful fish and shellfish that comes out of our waterways.”
Q: What are your goals as a South Carolina Chef Ambassador?
A: “I look forward to exploring other parts of the state and meeting new people who are growing and creating products. I hope I can help connect more farmers to chefs and/or consumers. If more people would ask for local products, more grocery stores would stock fresh, seasonal and local. “