Our top 3 picks, plus all that's new for the 2020 lineup
(Clockwise from top) SCDA Commissioner Hugh Weathers in conversation with cookbook author Patricia Moore-Pastides; James Beard Award-winning chef, pitmaster Rodney Scott; audience members digging into samples
For three days, outdoors enthusiasts gather at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) for art auctions, intriguing expert lectures, and DockDogs competitions. While you can get your fill on birds of prey or sheepherding showcases, the festival would not be complete without celebrating one of the Lowcountry’s greatest natural resources: Southern foodways. In addition to being free to attend, the 18 flavor-packed Fresh on the Menu kitchen stage events—brought to you by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA)—highlight the vital relationships among Charleston’s key makers, from farm to kitchen.
The SCDA managed the guest lineup for years since SEWE’s 1983 inception, but in 2018, brothers and cookbook authors Matt and Ted Lee stepped in to curate with a renewed vision. For their third year, they continue to focus on chefs and purveyors and how the food we eat gets to our plates.
“From fine dining to home cooks, we’re trying to represent all aspects of Charleston’s diverse food scene,” says Matt Lee. Farmers and foragers converse with chefs of all stripes, answering audience questions or inviting volunteers onstage to help whisk, chop, and grate, all the while discussing the journey of a dish from concept to service.
This year, five South Carolina Chef Ambassadors, including Tania Harris of Greenville’s The Lazy Goat and Brandon Carter of FARM Bluffton, will appear with regional farmers such as sweet potato expert Harleston Towles of Rooting Down Farms and Stan the Citrus Man of McKenzie Farms and Nursery (the first citrus connoisseur to be featured on SEWE’s kitchen stage). Redfish Mafia Charters’ Jamie Hough—a boat captain and seasoned home cook—will kick off the festivities with pan-seared local shrimp and squid ink Carolina Gold risotto, while chatting with SCDA Commissioner Hugh Weathers.
Certified South Carolina hosts SEWE’s kitchen stage from Friday February 14 to 16.
Though every event is sure to be worth your while, if you’re short on time, here are our top picks:
Saturday, February 15
■ 3 p.m. Chef Jessica Shillato of Spotted Salamander whips up a salted honey pie with certified organic blueberries and honey from David Anderson’s Black Pearl Farms. Anderson will share his expertise on the naturally occurring antibacterial, anti-inflammatory benefits of propolis, a bee resin.
■ 4 p.m. Chef Jason Bruner of Columbia’s 1801 Grille will invite kiddos onstage to rustle up fried grit sticks, courtesy of Adluh Grits, for an exciting, hands-on children’s cooking demo.
Sunday, February 16
■ 12 p.m. Katie Price of WK Price Farms and chef Marc Collins of Circa 1886 will chat all things dry-aged, South Carolina beef. Says Matt Lee: “Beef ranchers have not yet been celebrated on the SEWE kitchen stage; we’re always thrilled to find unexpected corners of the food world South Carolina excels in.”
■ Keep Learning: At FreshOnTheMenu.com, find an index of restaurants that source at least 25 percent of their ingredients from local farms and purveyors, plus exclusive recipe collections, chef videos, and membership information. For a list of local farmers and producers, including SEWE participants, head to CertifiedSCGrown.com.