As the executive director of Charleston Wine + Food, Gillian Zettler is no stranger to food prepared by some of the best chefs around the globe. And as a mother of two, she also doesn’t mind taking some of the job home with her. “Cooking is an integral part of our household,” Zettler says. “It’s so important to me to raise children who have an appreciation for a wide array of food.”
The Vermont native’s own love of good eats started during her childhood. “There weren’t any chains or fast-food restaurants around. Vermont was unabashedly local before ‘local’ was cool,” she says, noting that she relishes Charleston’s abundance of farmers markets as well as its long growing season. And though Zettler is first to admit she’s no stranger to take-out pizza, she most often draws on her grandmothers’ passed-down recipes to feed her family.
“One of my favorites is a tortellini sausage Alfredo,” she says. “It’s one of the first things I made for my husband when we started dating. It’s got peas, hot Italian sausage, and a fabulous Alfredo sauce with a hint of nutmeg. I recommend getting a great local baguette to sop up any remaining sauce.”
For an easy side, Zettler shares a recipe for a winter arugula salad with apples, toasted pecans, and homemade vinaigrette. “We keep many different nuts and seeds stocked in the pantry year round,” Zettler says, “so the salads I make tend to use pepitas, pecans, or walnuts coupled with seasonal fruit.” And the dressing, she continues, “is creamy but not heavy.”
For dessert, Zettler whips up her Scottish grandmother’s Scrumptious Squares. “She loved baking and could never go a meal without something sweet,” she says. “These cookies have layers of shortbread, chocolate, and caramel made from Tate and Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which is integral to the recipe and just so British.” Gillian’s grandmother uses British chocolate, but unlike the syrup (which can be purchased at specialty grocery stores and online), a substitution, such as high-quality dark baking chocolate, can be made.
Sitting Down to Eat with Gillian & Family
Works: Executive director, Charleston Wine + Food
Lives: In Mount Pleasant with her husband, Spencer, and children, Ethan, 14, and Liv, one
Moved to Charleston: 2014
Go-to meals: “When school is in session, dishes that accomplish a lot in one pot—like lasagna or chili—are the most successful. You don’t have to make a million sides.”