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SC Chef Ambassadors: Follow This Trail to Great Dining

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
More from "Libby Wiersema"
Chef Ambassador Jamie Daskalis whips up sweet treats at the wildly popular Johnny D’s Waffles and Benedicts in Myrtle Beach.

You’ve heard their names and read about their talents. But have you experienced the amazing cuisine conceived by the minds and crafted by the hands of our stellar roster of South Carolina Chef Ambassadors? One or two, perhaps? Well, that’s wonderful but it begs another question: Why stop there? These chefs are the best of the best, and with nearly two dozen of them currently dedicated to sharing their creations with the dining public, it would be a major foodie faux paus to miss even one opportunity.

The time is well-nigh to do a little culinary craftwork of your own, but not in your kitchen. Instead, sit down and craft a plan to take the ultimate food tour through South Carolina. Here is a comprehensive SC Chef Ambassador listing for you to reference in your quest to fill your culinary dance card.

Begin where you like, take your time and savor the diversity of flavors. One thing that’s consistent though: Each chef is dedicated to maintaining South Carolina’s reputation as a dining destination through a commitment to the best ingredients and a focus on locally sourced products.

From the mountains to the sea and everywhere in between, there’s an SC Chef Ambassador waiting to wow you. Click Here to explore the Ultimate South Carolina Foodie Trail map.


Coastal/Sea Islands

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Brian Waters, 2015
Saltus River Grille
802 Bay St., Beaufort

Exceptionally fresh seafood and a menu that reflects a contemporary, inspired approach to traditional Southern cuisine—these are the calling cards of Chef Brian Waters. Experience his culinary artistry and enjoy the water views at this dining gem in historic downtown Beaufort.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Orchid Paulmeier, 2016
One Hot Mama’s American Grill
1 Greenwood Drive, Suite 7A, Hilton Head Island
104 Buckwalter Parkway, Suite 1A, Bluffton

The “Next Food Network Star” finalist’s recipe for success is a combo of cultural influences, a high-energy approach and culinary expertise. Tender baby back ribs, pit-to-plate barbecue, hand-cut steaks and chargrilled chicken keep the dining rooms hopping at both locations.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Sean Mendes, 2017
Gillie’s Soul Food 
(Formerly of Roadside Seafood and Charleston's Blue Cajun Kitchen)
805 Folly Road, Charleston

From the knee of his grandmother to leading his own kitchen, Chef Sean Mendes has come a long way to master the magic of comforting, satisfying dishes made from fresh, local seafood and produce. Shrimp, oysters, okra, sweet potatoes and more form the foundation of his homestyle meals.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Adam Kirby, 2017
Rustic Table 
10683 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island

Bistro 217
10707 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island

Love—that’s Chef Adam Kirby’s main ingredient in the kitchen and you can feel it in each bite of his amazing dishes. The Rustic Table’s comfort food and homestyle dishes and the fine dining Southern and Pacific Rim cuisine of Bistro 217 have made Kirby one of South Carolina’s most celebrated chefs.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Heidi Vukov, 2018
Croissants Bistro & Bakery 
3751 N. Robert Grissom Parkway
8014 N. Kings Highway

Hook & Barrel
8014 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach

Chef Heidi Vukov has a culinary history grounded in her grandmothers, one who mastered making great dishes from limited ingredients during the Depression and one from Germany near the French border who made exquisite desserts. A combination of their styles, along with an affinity for South Carolina seafood and local produce, combined to give Chef Vukov her own distinctive style.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Michelle Weaver, 2018
Charleston Grill
224 King St., Charleston

Chef Michelle Weaver creates contemporary Southern cuisine for Charleston Grill featuring fresh local produce, seafood and game. Emphasis is placed on the quality of the ingredients, unique presentations and sophisticated textures.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Brandon Carter, 2019
1301 May River Road, Bluffton

Chef Brandon Carter has built a career highlighting the culinary contributions of growers, fishers, harvesters and other local food purveyors who supply the larder at FARM in Bluffton. With a menu built solidly on the farm-to-table philosophy, he continues to build a loyal following and gain widespread accolades.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Marc Collins, 2019
Circa 1886
149 Wentworth St., Charleston

Chef Marc Collins takes a historical approach to cooking, honoring the culinary traditions of South Carolina while incorporating modern twists to create memorable dishes. The original carriage house of the historic Wentworth Mansion in downtown Charleston adds a sophisticated element.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Jamie Daskalis, 2020
Johnny D’s Waffles and Benedicts
3301 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach
3900 Hwy 17 South, North Myrtle Beach
1200 US 17 Business, Surfside Beach

Armed with a degree in baking and pastry from the Culinary Institute of America and decades of experience working in her father’s restaurants in New York, Chef Jamie Daskalis hit the ground running in Myrtle Beach with her first location of Johnny D’s and has never looked back. She doesn’t have time to. Her waffles and benedicts keep the crowds coming, and what happy crowds they are.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador John Ondo, 2022  
Atlantic Room at Kiawah Island Golf Resort 
1 Sanctuary Beach Drive, Kiawah Island

Chef John Ondo celebrates Lowcountry bounty with dishes built upon fresh, local ingredients. Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s signature seafood restaurant is the perfect stage for spotlighting his culinary skills and creativity.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Marcus Shell, 2023
39 Rue de Jean
39 John Street, Charleston

Chef Marcus Shell’s culinary approach ensures that a new generation of diners can experience 39 Rue de Jean, a true Charleston classic. While maintaining the feel of this 1800s-style French brasserie, he applies novel twists and classic techniques to create European-inspired dishes like coq au vin, duck tartine and roasted rabbit—each familiar but decidedly nouveau.


South Carolina Chef Ambassador Leslie Rohland, 2024
The Cottage Café, Bakery & Tea Room
38 Calhoun Street, Bluffton

The Juice Hive
14 Johnston Way, Bluffton

May River Coffee Roasters
38 Calhoun Street, Bluffton

Bluffton Pasta Shoppe 
10 B Johnston Way, Bluffton

The Cottage is a Bluffton dining destination for visitors and locals craving Southern goodness and irresistible baked goods in a quaint setting. Chef Leslie Rohland turns out some of the best shrimp and grits around, decadent tomato pies, pimento cheese grits and sumptuous breakfast/brunch fare. As prolific as she is talented, Chef Rohland also has a hand in serving up healthy concoctions at The Juice Hive, freshly roasted coffee at May River Coffee Roasters and grab-and-go Italian favorites at Bluffton Pasta Shoppe.



South Carolina Chef Ambassador Cooper Thomas, 2015
126 W. Evans St., Florence

Chef Cooper Thomas' chef philosophy eschews the "throw something together" aesthetic and focuses on local, fresh ingredients for his thoughtfully prepared dishes. Whether it’s wings or foie gras, he gives it his all with rave-worthy results.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Brandon Velie, 2015
640 E. Main St., Ridge Spring

Chef Brandon Velie is focused on sharing South Carolina’s seasonal gifts, and diners are the lucky recipients. Whether green tomatoes or bundle of freshly picked asparagus, he can transform them into remarkable dishes that shine with freshness and flavor. Each week brings surprises to the menu.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Amy Fortes, 2017
The Flipside Café 
3150 US-21, Fort Mill

The Flipside Restaurant
129 Caldwell St., Rock Hill

Salmeri’s Italian Kitchen
526 Mercantile Place, Suite 101, Fort Mill

Chef Amy Fortes is known for her imaginative takes on Southern favorites at her Flipside restaurants. With the opening of Salmeri’s, she also indulges her passion for Italian-inspired cuisine. Southern or Italian, her dishes always reflect an exquisite attention to detail and flair.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Kiki Cyrus, 2018
Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles 
7001 Parklane Road, Columbia
1260 Bower Parkway, Columbia

Chef Kiki Cyrus' chicken and waffles delight those who crave the crunchy, savory-sweet combo construction of a buttery Belgian waffle crowned with fried-to-perfection chicken wings. But her signature dish is just a hint of the hearty lineup that honors her cultural roots. Stop in for a taste of soul-satisfying dishes like shrimp and grits and grilled pork chops with sides of collards and mac and cheese.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Jessica Shillato, 2019
Spotted Salamander 
1531 Richland St., Columbia

Chef Jessica Shillato has earned a place on the SC culinary stage by using seasonal local ingredients to give imaginative twists to old Southern favorites. Her creative treatment of deviled eggs is legendary, with versions topped with surprising, but tantalizing additions like country ham jam, Adluh cornbread crumbs and chicken chicharrones with hot sauce.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Raffaele Dall’Erta, 2020-2021
33 N. Main St., Sumter

From Milan to Sumter, Chef Raffaele Dall’Erta has come a long way to share his amazing culinary gifts with discerning diners. His excitement for locally sourced ingredients and SC food culture have melded with his experiences in some of Italy’s top kitchens to give Hamptons a reputation for distinctive cuisine worthy of any European dining room.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Jason Tufts, 2020-2021
The Village Café 
(Formerly of Malia’s in Aiken)
110 Coach Light Way SW

Chef Jason Tufts has a penchant for freshness that is evident in the menu at The Village Café. He has elevated sandwich-making to an artform here with handhelds that are brimming with fresh vegetables and thoughtfully curated meats and cheeses. His creativity shines through with his rotation of “at-home” meals for pick-up. Desserts are impressive, too, so leave room.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Chris Williams, 2022
Roy’s Grille 
711 W. Main St., Lexington

Gas station cuisine is not only a real thing, but when done right, it’s unforgettable, too. Nobody does it better than Chef Chris Williams. Fill up on his smoky barbecue, tender ribs, crispy fried chicken and a lineup of signature barbecue sauces to titillate every palate when you visit his hopping little eatery.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Rob Masone, 2023
135 E. Main Street, Rock Hill

From the Alderwood smoked salmon with cream sauce made from 14 varieties of mushrooms to a comforting bacon-wrapped meatloaf sided with roasted Brussels sprouts, Chef Rob Masone exhibits his talent for elevating the ordinary to extraordinary heights. Experience his inspired creations served against the backdrop of local history when you dine at Kounter, which features a thoughtfully preserved civil rights-era counter.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Javier Uriarte, 2024
566 Spears Creek Church Road, Elgin

Chef Javier Uriarte fuses the Peruvian flavors of his native land with Asian touches to create an exciting tapas experience. From ginger-spiked, garlicky ceviche to peppery gochujang chicken wontons, his dishes appeal to adventurous palates and add multi-cultural flair to South Carolina cuisine.



South Carolina Chef Ambassador Heidi Trull, 2015
Grits & Groceries
2440 Due West Highway, Honea Path

One of South Carolina's farm-to-table pioneers, Chef Heidi Trull sources ingredients locally and looks to the seasons for reasons to create and serve her signature Southern dishes. From her famous tomato pie to shrimp and grits to that addictive praline bacon, her food-craft is always spot-on and memorable.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador William Cribb, 2017
Willy Taco Feed & Seed
217 Laurens Road, Greenville

Willy Taco Tequila Cocina
930 E. Main Street, Spartanburg

Willy Taco Tequila Cocina
1925 Boiling Springs Road, Boiling Springs
5051 Calhoun Memorial Highway, Easley 

Cribbs Kitchen
226B W. Main St., Spartanburg

Chef William Cribb knows his stuff, whether he’s serving up inventive Mexican eats at Willy Taco or a two-fisted handheld stuffed with house-cured-and-smoked brisket at Cribbs Kitchen. Cooking great food is his vocation and fusion cuisine is his super power. Experience both at any of his restaurants.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Sarah McClure, 2018
Southside Smokehouse & Grille
726 S. Howard Ave., Landrum

Southern food is Chef Sarah McClure’s passion, especially when it comes to smoked meat. But there’s an edgy side she’s equally renowned for, and it finds expression in an eclectic mix of barbecue, seafood, steaks, homemade desserts and a cocktail program featuring more than 200 bourbons. This ain’t your mama’s smokehouse.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Tania Cienfuegos Harris, 2019
Topsoil Kitchen & Market
(Formerly of The Lazy Goat in Greenville)
13 S. Main Street, Travelers Rest

Chef Tania Cienfuegos Harris’ way with pastries and desserts is rooted in her formative years. As a child, she watched wide-eyed as her grandmother baked up amazing things to eat. She went on to hone her expert techniques by earning a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts from the Colegio Superior De Gastronomía in Mexico City and working in some of South Carolina’s finest kitchens. Now, Chef Harris continues building her legacy as pastry chef at Topsoil Kitchen, where her creations win regular accolades from appreciative patrons.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Haydn Shaak, 2022
Restaurant 17 at Hotel Domestique
10 Road of Vines, Travelers Rest

Chef Haydn Shaak’s talent for creating culinary excellence through an expert application of classic techniques is generating a lot of buzz. Thanks to a focus on locally sourced ingredients and an artisanal aesthetic, which he describes as “rustic elegance,” he has earned a reputation for being one of the state’s most talented chefs.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Erica McCier-Rayford, 2023
Indigenous Underground
117 Trinity Street, Abbeville

Location, location, location— when it comes to the ingredients in Chef McCier-Rayford’s dishes, it all comes down to proximity. Fresh vegetables, grains and dairy from area farms, markets and mills define her mission to support local producers and offer customers the best in farm-to-table dining. The menu offers a kaleidoscope of dishes with a soul food/Cajun lean, each crafted to showcase fresh, unforgettable flavors.

South Carolina Chef Ambassador Michael Sibert, 2024
Anonymous Burgers
215 Trade St, Greer

Diners in Greer head to Anonymous Burgers to get a taste of Chef Michael Sibert's flavorful “smashburgers” that transcend earthly conventions to explore “otherwordly” flavors and ingredients. From the single smash “Apollo” to the double smash “Big Brother Burger” to triple smash “Sasquatch Burger,” you will be in for a treat. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the fries!

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.