From SC Chef Ambassador Chris Williams with Peaches from Titan Farms
Growing up in the small town of Olar in rural Bamberg County, opportunities were few and far between, so when an opportunity presented itself, Chef Chris Williams learned early to make sure he was ready for it—and ready to work.
“It taught me not to wait, not to hesitate,” explained Williams. “And it instilled a very deep work ethic.”
Williams’ work ethic can also be attributed to his grandparents, who taught him the value of locally grown food and community.
“I grew up cooking what was coming out the garden that day, that week,” says Williams. “My grandparents weren’t professional cooks, but they were amazing home cooks. I named my restaurant, Roy’s Grille, after my grandfather, Leroy Carter. I got my work ethic from him. He taught me to work hard and how to take care of and provide for my family. I saw the pride he put into his work and the joy that it brought him to harvest the produce he grew and be able to not only feed us but members of the community.”
Roy's Grille started out small—inside of a gas station small. Despite having limited seating and an early perception that this was “gas station food,” Roy’s Grille has grown to have a dedicated and diverse customer base.
“Growing up, some of the best food in smaller towns was in gas stations, smaller mom and pop operations, so when I got the opportunity to open this, being in a gas station didn’t deter me—it sent me back to my childhood,” says Williams. “I knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but I love making great food, and I love sharing it with awesome people even more. I'm able to connect with just about anybody because food is the equalizer. Your race, color, creed, nationality—none of it matters. We all like to eat and we all appreciate and enjoy good food.”
After eight years, Williams recently made the decision to move to a new location in Irmo—just a 15-minute drive away—and is working on plans to resume business in Lexington in some form in the near future.
Established in 2000, Titan Farms is the premier grower, packer and shipper of peaches on the East Coast. They grow 57 varieties of peaches, which ripen from the first of May to early September, giving them an almost 16-week window where they offer fresh peaches to consumers.
“We harvest all of our peaches by hand,” says farmer and VP of Operations Jason Rogers. “Hand harvesting gives us the opportunity to look at that peach and analyze it and make sure it’s truly ripe.”
In addition to working directly with chefs like Chris Williams, Titan Farms sells directly to retail outlets in 30 different states and Canada, and they make daily deliveries to their roadside stands, Sara’s Fresh Market, in Aiken and Trenton.
“We take pride in being able to deliver this premium fruit that we grow every single day directly to local communities, and we take pride in farmer and chef relationships. A lot of people live in an area, but they don’t know where their food comes from,” explains Rogers. “Having that chef relationship provides an opportunity to showcase us as growers and to showcase our products.”
The importance of the farmer and chef relationship is something that’s not lost on Williams.
“If it wasn’t for their quality product, I couldn’t produce a quality product. Quality is grown, it’s maintained and harvested before it’s passed on to me,” says Williams. “I’m all about South Carolina products and about the farmers and the produce they grow. We have everything here—the beach, the mountains, the hills of the Midlands. Each region grows something different so you can find fresh produce in South Carolina from January all the way to December.”
“For this recipe, I want to do something simple and fun—something that would take me back to my childhood and at the same time define a South Carolina summer dessert.” – Chef Chris Williams
This recipe makes roughly 20 servings.
7 lbs. of croissants (roughly 47-50 croissants)
We get some croissants from a local bakery about a day or two before we’re going to make this recipe. The day of, we let them sit out before we tear them into smaller pieces.
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 tbsp nutmeg
2 cups brown sugar
3 quarts half and half
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Candied Pecan & Peach Crust
1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cup brown sugar
6 cups toasted pecans
3 lbs. of peaches
1/4 stick of unsalted butter
3 cups brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup bourbon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
To Make the Toasted Pecans
Preheat oven to 350F.
Spread the nuts evenly onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake until they begin to brown and become aromatic, making sure to toss halfway through, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
To Make the Bourbon Sauce
Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Once the ingredients have dissolved into the melted butter, add your heavy cream. Reduce mixture by a third. At this point, it’s time to add your bourbon. Reduce mixture by half and serve immediately.
To Make the Croissant Bread Pudding and Crust
Preheat oven to 400F.
Tear two-day-old croissants into smaller pieces and set them aside in a large, deep container.
In a large bowl, mix together the eggs and brown sugar until smooth. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Slowly mix in your half and half.
Pour the custard mixture over the croissants. Toss your croissants by hand until they have soaked up all the liquid. Evenly pour the croissant mixture into your baking dish of choice and set aside.
Take the room temperature butter and mix with brown sugar until you have a sand-like consistency. Set aside.
Using your hands, break the pecans into smaller pieces. Not all of the pecans will be broken. Mix the pecans into the butter and brown sugar.
Line a deep baking pan with parchment. Add the croissants to the pan and press them down so that you have a uniform, flat surface. Evenly coat the top with the pecan mix.
Peel and cut the peaches. Line the peaches on top of the pecan mix in a design of your choice. Peaches will caramelize while baking.
Depending on your oven, bake for 1 hour and 15 min to 1 hour and 30 minutes.
To plate, top with your choice of bourbon sauce, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.