CudaCo focuses on seafood that’s “adventurous, approachable, and sustainable”
CM: Tell us about your childhood in St. John.
SB: I grew up in a two-person tent on a platform a mile away from Coral Bay Harbor, which is the deepest natural bay in the Caribbean. My dad had a sailboat, and we were always snorkeling and fishing. Anything we caught, we cooked on a charcoal grill on the boat. We sailed the entire Caribbean.
CM: How did St. John influence your cooking?
SB: I grew up eating a lot of Caribbean cuisines, West Indian cuisine, and that definitely influenced my cooking style. Things like adobo spice, sofrito, Scotch bonnet hot sauce, and nutritional yeast have played a big part.
CM: What was your path to becoming a chef?
SB: I decided I wanted to go to culinary school. Always being able to travel appealed to me. I went to Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island. I had my externship at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas. After I finished, I went to Florida Gulf Coast University and worked in restaurants, from mom-and-pop to corporate. I took all these bits and pieces from my experiences and figured out how I wanted to operate. After I graduated, I became the chef at a steakhouse on St. John. That’s when my love affair with oysters started.
CM: What brought you to Charleston?
SB: After working at a boutique luxury hotel on Martha’s Vineyard, I decided I wanted to be back home and in touch with my Caribbean heritage. I opened OCEAN 362 in St. John and built a tiny house. But then Hurricane Irma happened. My wife and I had plans to go see her family in Naples, Florida, which turned out to be our evacuation. I was interested in moving to some place in the US that had a connection to the Caribbean and fell in love with Charleston. I loved the camaraderie among chefs. I loved the Caribbean culture. I felt this was everything I was looking for in my life. It’s heavily influenced by the African diaspora. I have more access to dairy and poultry, and you still have some seasonality. There’s prickly pear and wild cassava. All these things spoke to me. So, I was like, I’m all in.
CM: What’s the story behind CudaCo?
SB: I was at Parcel 32 for three years, and it was great. I made so many amazing connections. I also wanted to break into my own thing. The pandemic spurned that on. I met my business partner, Chris John, through him selling me soft shells. We started hanging out, surfing together. We talked about doing a fish market with a chef’s perspective. The old Huff’s Seafood was just right. It had everything we needed in terms of a good structural building. We took over in mid-August and opened mid-December after renovating the place ourselves. We are focused on seafood that’s adventurous, approachable, and sustainable. Anything that sits for more than two days goes on cure. We’re zero waste.
CM: Describe your menu.
SB: The dishes are straightforward, well-executed, and inspired through nostalgia. Being a seafood market allows us to have the freshest possible seafood to cook. I wanted to make sure that the fish sandwich was a top seller, so I made it with the best ingredients for that style of flounder sandwich. I call it ‘Sandy.’ I also wanted to have some fresh and light options because you always see everything fried at seafood markets.