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South Carolina’s Chefs Help Bring Southern Traditions to Your Table

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.
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South Carolina Chef Ambassadors help bring the important stories of South Carolina food culture to the public.

Farm-to-table is not just a trend in South Carolina—it’s a tradition. Generous access to farm-fresh meats and produce, plus straight-off-the-boat seafood set the stage for South Carolina’s Chef Ambassadors to create inventive, ingredient-driven dishes that pay homage to the state’s rich food heritage and keep diners coming back for more.

Each year, in conjunction with the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism and the Department of Agriculture, the Governor’s office selects chefs from across the state to serve as ambassadors. Through educational programs and cooking demonstrations, South Carolina Chef Ambassadors help bring the important stories of South Carolina food culture to the public.

But South Carolina flavors aren’t just a restaurant experience. Here, each of the 2019 Chef Ambassadors shares a recipe that you can follow in your home kitchen to create a fabulous, five-course meal using some of their favorite local ingredients.


Course 1
Amuse Bouche: Deviled Eggs

Chef Jessica Shillato
Spotted Salamander Café, Columbia

Chef Jessica Shillato is the whirling dervish of deviled eggs, serving 1,600 a month in her Columbia café. She is famous in these parts for her surprising take on this simple Southern classic, her tasty twists dictated by what’s seasonally available.

“Spotted Salamander is lucky enough to deal with many area farmers who supply most of our eggs,” she says. “We serve deviled eggs every day, topping them with different ingredients. The sweet and salty South Carolina pecans are one of my favorites.”


1 cup chopped South Carolina pecans
1 egg white
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
12 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning

Preheat oven to 300º. Toss pecans and egg white in a bowl with sugar, salt, celery salt and cayenne pepper. Spread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Slice boiled eggs in half. Remove yolks and blend with mayonnaise, mustard, salt and Cajun seasoning. Fill each egg with yolk mixture and top with pecans. Refrigerate covered until ready to serve.


Course 2
Soup: Peach Gazpacho

Chef Kelly Vogelheim
Town Hall, Florence

South Carolina is the No. 1 producer of peaches in the Southeast, so it stands to reason they figure prominently on menus across the state. Chef Kelly Vogelheim knows just how to use these sweet, blushing beauties to enhance summer dishes.

“We must take advantage of this delicious fruit and its availability,” she says. “Chopped South Carolina peaches, cucumbers and tomatoes make a beautiful soup or garnish.”

Vogelheim, who led the kitchen at Town Hall in Florence before moving to North Carolina, introduced legions of guests  to dishes that reflect the state’s rich history. Peaches—the official state fruit—have been grown here since the 1800s. To make use of the state’s bumper peach crops, Vogelheim developed this refreshing recipe.


3 cups fresh peaches, peeled and chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
½ cup red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/3 cup lime juice
¼ cup rice vinegar
Salt and pepper
Dash of hot sauce
1 to 3 teaspoons sugar

Combine first five ingredients in a food processor and pulse until blended. Add lime juice, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, hot sauce and sugar and pulse again until smooth. Chill for three to four hours.


Course 3
Salad: Figs And Ham

Chef Brandon Carter
Farm, Bluffton

You’d have to eat your seafood on the dock and your veggies in the field to experience dining fresher than the dishes at FARM. This salad dish of fresh figs and country ham is set off by subtle hints of two other local favorites: cotton field honey and Bulls Bay Carolina Flake Salt harvested from Charleston waters.

Carter says the state’s long growing seasons and pristine seafood drive his creativity. “Having a connection to the hard-working people who grow and harvest the food we serve tells a better story,” he says.

“I love the simplicity of this dish. The sweet, smoky and salty aspects really hit all of the right notes that reflects this region.”


12 slices of country ham
10 ripe Turkish figs, halved
1 tablespoon cotton-field honey
1 tablespoon of fruity olive oil, more to finish
½ teaspoon semi-coarse, freshly ground black pepper
Bulls Bay Carolina Flake Salt

Divide the slices of ham between four plates. Toss figs with honey, olive oil and black pepper. Arrange five fig halves on each of the plates. Season each fig with a sprinkle of salt. Drizzle the ham with more olive oil and serve.


Course 4
Entrée: Spicy Shrimp Over Fried Green Tomato

Chef Marc Collins
Circa 1886, Charleston

For Chef Marc Collins, award-winning restaurateur and co-founder of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, history is his main inspiration in the kitchen.

“Early in my career, I recall people talking about the culinary history of New Orleans and Louisiana, but I think that pales in comparison to the intricate past of South Carolina,” he says.

A driving force in the Charleston food scene, Collins stocks a South Carolina pantry with ingredients that weave local heritage into every dish, including this delectable main dish.

“Fried green tomatoes, chow chow and shrimp are as Southern as it gets, and this recipe shows them off perfectly,” he says.


12 large South Carolina shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 small shallot, peeled
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/8 cup of hot sauce
3/4 cup of canola oil
Salt and white pepper, to taste
For fried green tomatoes
½ cup of cornmeal
½ cup of all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
1 cup of buttermilk
1 large green tomato
2 cups canola oil

Blend shallots, garlic and hot sauce until smooth, slowly adding the oil. Add salt and pepper. Pour over shrimp, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Heat oil to 350°F in a heavy frying pan. Cut the tomato into four ½-inch slices. Mix the flour, cornmeal and Old Bay. Coat tomato slices in the flour mixture, dip in buttermilk and coat again. Place into hot oil and fry until golden brown.

Grill the shrimp in a pan over medium-high heat, two to three minutes each side. Spoon warm tomato sauce onto each plate. Place one fried green tomato on top, then top the tomato with three spicy shrimp. For a little more kick, serve with your favorite chow chow.


Course 5
Dessert: Rice Pudding

Chef Tania C. Harris
The Lazy Goat, Greenville

Chef Tania Harris received her culinary education in Mexico. Now firmly rooted in South Carolina, she marries the two cultures to create exciting pastries and desserts for The Lazy Goat’s loyal following. For this particular recipe, Carolina Gold rice takes center stage in one of her favorite Mexican desserts. It works so well as the grains of this sweet, non-aromatic, long-grain heirloom rice tend to stay separated even when cooked.

“This rice pudding brings back so many memories,” says Harris. “I love using the Carolina Gold rice because it adds to the consistency of the dish. It doesn’t make it bland and mushy. You can taste every single grain of rice coated in the cinnamon-y sweet cream.”


2 cups of Carolina Gold rice
2 ½ cups of sugar
1 quart of half and half
3 quarts of milk
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup of raisins

Heat the liquids and the sugar together in a large pot. Once it comes to a boil, add the rice and cinnamon sticks. Reduce heat to low. Stir the mixture constantly for one hour, or until the rice is cooked. Remove it from the heat and let it cool. Add the raisins and enjoy.


Get to know the chefs who define South Carolina’s cuisine scene.

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.