Bob Peters, The Punch Room at the Ritz Carlton

 photo: justin driscoll

photo: justin driscoll

It’s a bit disconcerting when you step off the elevator for your first visit to The Punch Room at the Ritz Carlton in Charlotte, NC. First, it’s not on the rooftop or penthouse floor, something I was expecting, but on a random floor. Secondly, other than a small host stand outside what appears to be a usual hotel suite, there is no indication you’re walking into a public establishment at all. But open the door, and there’s no doubt you’re somewhere special, that exclusive VIP experience that really delivers beyond the velvet rope. This room full of luxurious details is the everyday office of Bob Peters, who at once is bartender, host, front of house manager, and magician. Peters won the best bartender award for global Ritz Carlton a few years ago, but sit in this room for any length of time, and you don’t need to know that award to witness -- and taste -- the magic. He uses dry ice, he sets aflame, he infuses, carbonates, dehydrates and coaxes chemical reactions, all with delicious results. It’s up close magic, and an empty glass set in front of you signals your show is about to begin. Let’s see if he can let us know any tricks behind the treats.  

Episode  104 >

Mike Davis, Terra

 photo : Sean Rayford

photo : Sean Rayford

At this stage in the game, Terra Restaurant in Columbia, SC, is an institution -- but that doesn’t mean that it’s staid. Go there any night and you’ll find that you’re walking into the best that a neighborhood bistro can be. Multiple members of the staff have been there for years, the menu rotates seasonally, and the seats are filled with people who know all of this, often greeting each other and the staff like old friends, ready to have a great meal composed of what is best and brightest from local purveyors. This environment is all because of Chef Mike Davis, who opened Terra in 2006, definitely ahead of the curve in Columbia. He simply did things the way he’d been taught, the way he felt was best, and through that, built a restaurant that focuses on flavor and treating his staff and guests like family. In this episode, Davis basically gives us a primer on how to build a farm-to-table restaurant. He touches on collaboration, menu building, sourcing, and his sources of inspiration of course, which include some of the South’s best chefs whom he cooked under before opening his own place. He’s one of those guys that makes all this look easy, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that keeps him ever focused on his craft.

Episode 105 ›

 

 

Rodney Scott, Rodney Scott's BBQ

 Photo: andrew cebulka

Photo: andrew cebulka

There was a time when how good Rodney Scott’s family barbecue was was pretty much a locals secret. Unless you were lucky enough to meet him at a food event or lived in Hemingway, SC, you probably didn’t know about him, that is unless you were the kind of people who roadtrip for good food. So yeah, you and me. Chances are, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’ll drive for good food, right? Anyway, the chorus of praises for this barbecue pitmaster have been steadily rising, and word began to get out in a big way, including on TV with Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. Then Rodney fulfilled his dream of opening a restaurant of his own last year in Charleston. As for the food, it’s simple perfection, made with love, as he continually preaches. His smile can light up a room, too, and on Monday evening, he proved that when he stood on stage in Chicago to accept the James Beard award for Best Chef: Southeast. A few days before he jetted off to those awards, I caught up with him at his restaurant to learn what he’s learned in the last year. In true Southern Fork style, we ended up recording in the cab of his truck in the parking lot. Anytime he’s in the building, he’s either working or people are literally standing in line to talk to him, so outside is where we found some time and quiet.

Episode 106 >