Michael Mai, Arabica Soda (Charleston, SC)

 photo: stephanie burt

photo: stephanie burt

It’s summer, I get it. So why are you doing a coffee show right now Steph, you may ask? Because it’s not just coffee, it’s cool, refreshing Arabica Soda, made from Cascara fruit and coffee and meant to be a welcome lift anytime but especially welcome as we enter these dog days of summer. Michael Mai, master barista and now bartender, is the man behind this delicious beverage. You might remember him from Episode 33 when we talked all things coffee. His enthusiasm for self-education, wit, and flat out creativity makes him an inspiration to be around, so I knew he’d have some good insights a year into launching his business. It’s no secret that I’m a Michael fan: he was on my Charleston Zagat 30 Under 30 list, I’ve interviewed him for The Post and Courier, and we did a little recipe together for Saveur magazine. But Michael represents a growing class of bright, innovative humans in Charleston who are finding inspiration in and adding to the dinner table, so to speak, and so we raise a glass of cascara to that.  

Episode  110 >

Jill Mathias, Chez Nous (Charleston, SC)

 photo: stephanie burt

photo: stephanie burt

There is a place where there are no TVs blaring, a place where it’s easy to exchange a word with people at the next table or scrape that last bit of dessert off the plate with a spoon. This restaurant glows softly in the twilight as you approach, and yet, open the door, and it’s a-bustle with activity. This magical spot? Chez Nous in Charleston, S.C., and it’s got way more chops that just its good looks. That’s because Chef Jill Mathias creates delicious European bistro fare from local ingredients, focuses on sustainability, the idea of hospitality, and what it means to come together over a meal. She doesn’t often give interviews -- she’s much more interested in cooking than promoting herself -- but we’ve gotten to know each other over the years, so she obliged. Very much a chef’s chef, you’ll want to hear her thoughts on menu building, being a people pleaser, and of course, her daily practice of handwriting that menu.

Episode 111 ›

 

 

Steven Devereaux Greene, The Umstead Hotel and Spa (Cary, NC)

 Photo: the umstead hotel and spa

Photo: the umstead hotel and spa

Today, it’s time to call it. I’m tired of hearing it. Some of you need to stop saying that modernist cuisine isn’t “real food.” That’s just damn silly, and, frankly, it sounds like a lot of ignorance to me. Here at The Southern Fork, just because I love macaroni and cheese and barbecue and my granny’s green beans that have cooked all day does not mean I can’t also love composed dishes of ingredients transformed and manipulated in ways that delight all of the senses. There is a definite place in my world for tasting menus, and on occasion, I love to experience food as an experience, as an occasion, more than just a good meal. Steven Devereaux Greene, the executive chef of The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, NC, is one of those creating progressive American regional cuisine. When I eat his food I am wowed, delighted with texture, amazed at the effort and composition conceptualizing and building each dish, and left thinking about delicious ingredients and combos in new ways. It is beyond the everyday, sure, but then, who is attracted to making this kind of cooking his every day? A native of upstate South Carolina, that’s who, a man who started his restaurant career as a dishwasher. The quest for excellence and precision is Steven’s calling card, and his thoughts on how he does what he does will have you signing up for a tasting menu in no time.

Episode 112 >