Chef Blair’s grandmother told him, “Love goes into the food.” As he showed our group of nine at Charleston Cooks! how to make crispy pecan fried chicken, creamy pimento mac and cheese and just sweet enough strawberry buckle cake, our charming instructor shared his love.
Charleston Cooks! is located right downtown in Charleston, SC, adjacent to one of the restaurants in the Maverick family, Slightly North of Broad (or S.N.O.B.) We’ve been here before. I learned to make shrimp and grits and overcome my fear of homemade crust here a few years ago.
So when we got the opportunity for another class, we jumped. It’s not only fun but it was a great way to get out of the 90-plus afternoon sun.
The cooking school/shop offers both demonstration and participatory classes. I’ll chop, mix and bake another day. Today we came for the instruction. And, of course, the food.
Chef Blair, our host, and Chef Daven, who quietly worked in the background, made it fun and delicious.
The chef mixed in a little history and a few extra culinary lessons along with the recipes.
We went over knife skills, how to crack an egg (and fish out a stray shell) and an efficient way to chop an onion.
And the chef talked about the five cultures who contributed to the cuisine now known as Low Country: the Native American who introduced the Three Sisters of corn, beans and tomatoes; the Spanish, who brought figs pigs and peaches; the French came with roux and cream soups; the English introduced rice and the Africans who contributed their own cooking techniques.
The class resembles those old how-to-cook Food Network shows I miss. Chef cooks at a big counter with a big screen over his head so we can see what’s going on in his pan and his bowl. We were free to ask questions and answer them. And when the presentation was over, we gobbled up all the food.
What did I take away from these two hours? Some good recipes, a couple of tools from the store and a lot of Charleston love.
Ⓒ Text and photos
Mary K. Tilghman