Although sentimental about the chestnuts on trees at her childhood home in Charlotte, North Carolina, Chelsey Conrad can wax eloquent about pecans. “They’re so buttery and, unlike other nuts, they don’t have any bitterness,” says the Butcher & Bee chef. “They’re delicious straight out of the shell, while most other nuts need some toasting to coax out their flavors. And all those crevices hold seasonings really well.”
Putting her culinary skills to work on the South’s favorite nut, the chef delivers pecans in three dishes. First up: her take on céleri rémoulade, adding apples and pecans to the traditional celery root. “It’s a classic for a reason,” she explains. “It’s so well rounded and very satisfying to eat. It’s ‘dressy enough,’ as my mom would say, for dinner with friends and easy enough for weekday lunches. In my take, you get the crunchy texture from the raw celeriac and the roasted pecans, creaminess from the rémoulade, earthiness from the caraway, and a little sweetness from the apple.”
Conrad’s combo of bitter greens, candied cranberries, and warm pecan vinaigrette can accompany just about any entertaining menu, and even be right at home at a game dinner. She calls it a “showstopper” because of its “bold favors and drama” and points to the textures, noting the way “the greens’ roughness fits with the crunchy nuts and mouthfeel of the fat in the vinaigrette.”
The chef’s final recipe is pure comfort food in the form of pancakes. She uses ricotta to make “fluffy pancakes that balance sweet and savory perfectly. This dish is also an excuse to bust out your local honeycomb.” According to Conrad, the best places to source honeycomb are Kennerty Farms on Wadmalaw and Horsecreek Honey Farms in Bowman.
As South Carolina pecans are coming in season, it’s a good time to stock up. Conrad gets hers from GrowFood Carolina and stores them in airtight containers in the freezer.
Dishing It Up with Chef Chelsey Conrad
Restaurant: Butcher & Bee
First F&B Gig: “I was a prep/line cook at Bella Trio, a family-owned breakfast place in Charlotte where I learned to cook eggs and make salads.”
Education: Culinary Institute of Charleston and the College of Charleston
Favorite Local Ingredients: “Geechie Boy grits, Bull’s Bay and Red Clay Hot Sauce’s Red Mash Salt, and fresh field peas”
Recipe She’ll Never Share: “Butcher & Bee’s veggie burger”