Robert Barber & Hope Barber McIntosh, Bowen’s Island Restaurant (Charleston, SC)

photo: james frolio

photo: james frolio

Here in South Carolina, we’re a little over a week from the end of oyster season. Come with me to experience the setting of Bowen’s Island Restaurant this time of year. Roll down your windows to the sound of cicadas as you pull the car off Folly Road and wind back to the edge of the water. Once you’re out and climb up the steps to the second floor, suddenly, it’s hard to escape the view. Marsh grass and water are set on fire in a ribbon of rose gold, winding through sea breezes and the air thick with the scent of fried seafood. But you’re not alone taking in the scene, you’re with probably 50 or so new friends who you are soon waiting in line alongside you, deciding the menu long before they’re at the front to order. This is where Robert Barber and his daughter Hope Barber McIntosh call home, a James Beard America’s Classic restaurant, and they let us inside their world a bit, no shucking oysters required.

Episode 134 ›

 

 

Clark Barlowe, Heirloom Restaurant (Charlotte, NC)

photo: lisa ekus

photo: lisa ekus

There are those that simply talk about good ideas, and then there are those that do their best to put those ideas in practice. Chef Clark Barlowe of Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte is definitely the latter. He wants foraged mushrooms to be able to be served in restaurants? Then he, a native of Lenoir, NC, lobbies for it. He considers the meaning of local? He decides to limit his ingredients to those from North Carolina. And he wants to create a community neighborhood restaurant? Well, then he builds his restaurant in Northwest Charlotte, close to where he lives and where he can get to know his neighbors and cook for them. Oh, he makes some delicious food too, of course, which you’d guess with a resume that includes hometown mainstay Mama Ricotta’s, El Bulli in Spain, and The French Laundry in California. He’s thoughtful about what goes on the plate and how he interacts with the world, and of course, that’s someone I’d love to share a beer with, so that’s what we did.

Episode 135 >

Ashley Christensen, AC Restaurants (Raleigh, NC)

photo: johnny autry

photo: johnny autry

When Ashley Christensen of Raleigh, NC, stepped behind the podium at the James Beard Awards almost two weeks ago to receive its Outstanding Chef Award, she was ready to accept that medal and give a heartfelt speech. Her attitude wasn’t pompous or flippant, but almost an “ok then, let’s do this … together.”  And in many ways, that’s how this outstanding chef has approached her work, going all in, learning the craft, celebrating the ingredients of her beloved North Carolina region at Poole’s Diner, Death & Taxes, and more, and practicing paying attention to the building of a community, of a company, and of the chefs who work around her. She’s found her medium -- food -- to express her vision of kindness, comfort, and connection, but there is also a relentless striving for excellence that informs her work. This isn’t a chef who is going to rest on her laurels; she’s just getting started.

Episode  136 >