Vinson Petrillo, Zero George Restaurant + Bar (Charleston, SC)
There are places in Charleston where sometimes I’m still stopped by how beautiful and unique Charleston can be. One of those “I actually live here” moments was the first time I visited Zero George a few years ago. Turning from the street into the gates of the bricked courtyard, the quiet oasis feeling enveloped me; here was a private getaway in the middle of the city. While I’ve never made my dreams come true with a staycation, I have spent a good deal of time at tables and in the kitchen as Chef Vinson Petrillo’s vision for ultra-modern food in an antique space took shape. I can attest that every time I visit the food is better and better, and yet I’m amazed it comes from a 100-square-foot kitchen in the lobby, run by a chef who all day is on display. Although he’s used to the public eye -- he’s been on Top Chef and Top Chef Masters -- it still feels so private to see him leading a team in nightly 9-course tasting menus that might have salmon poached in butter one night and tamales wrapped in toasted nori another. He is an intensely creative and quiet individual but there’s lots of thinking going on behind that quiet facade. Just listen.