These can’t-miss destinations in South Carolina should be on every foodie’s bucket list. Regardless of where you travel in South Carolina, award-winning chefs are paying homage to the state’s treasured cuisine and reinventing classic dishes in their restaurants each night.
Chef Heidi Trull has developed her eclectic Southern cuisine through years of training and experimentation. Heidi grew up on a large farm near Sumter, South Carolina, loving the fresh, delicious food of the countryside. After high school, she immersed herself in her passion for cooking and got a degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University in Charleston.
After completing her education, Heidi apprenticed herself to outstanding chefs for five years in order to learn the ins and outs of fine dining and restaurant operation. She gleaned valuable experience from Elizabeth Terry at Elizabeth’s on 37th Street in Savannah, fed the stars at the Ritz Carlton in St. Louis, and finally settled in New Orleans to join Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA with her husband, Joe. Heidi fit right into the tradition of culinary excellence in New Orleans and soon realized that she had a marvelous vision for a restaurant of her own.
Heidi opened Elizabeth’s Restaurant, a lively place to enjoy delicious, affordable food in a laid-back neighborhood called the Bywater, downriver from the French Quarter. A magnificent outpouring of word-of-mouth praise for her fresh, inventive comfort food and the restaurant’s fun atmosphere helped Heidi grow her establishment, accommodating the flow of people from all over New Orleans and the world. She was given rave reviews in eminent publications like Gourmet and Southern Living and won awards for her consistently excellent restaurant.
When she and Joe realized that they wanted to head home to the Carolinas to raise their son, Tom, and get back to the land where the food is grown, she knew that a new restaurant was in her future. And Grits & Groceries was born. Heidi now splits her time between the restaurant and horseback riding with Tom through the nearby fields.
Chef Teryi Youngblood was named Chef de Cuisine of Passerelle Bistro when the restaurant opened in June 2013. With a menu full of French-inspired dishes, using the purest and freshest ingredients, Teryi does not believe in complicated food. Believing cooking should speak for itself and the food should taste like what it is, she implements this thinking into her menu daily.
The stuffed chicken wings created by Chef Ramone Dickerson and his business partner, Corey Simmons, landed a reality TV show on the Oprah Winfrey Network last year called Wingmen. Ramone owns Wing City restaurant and the 2 Fat to Fly food truck, both in Columbia, where their unique approach to stuffing chicken wings with collard greens and rice, macaroni and cheese, jalapeño/bacon and Cheddar, has generated a flock of fans. They also appeared on The Steve Harvey Show earlier this year.
Juniper’s owners, Brandon and Jeanne Velie, opened the restaurant five years ago on East Main Street in Ridge Spring, and since then, it has been well received in the community. Their restaurant is housed in a building with a past just as colorful as the local artwork that adorns the walls. Built in the 1890s, this building was once a hardware store and an auto parts store. Today, Brandon and Jeanne have turned it into a dining destination in this rural community.
Brandon studied culinary arts in the US Marines, where he learned to cook, and Jeanne worked in varying positions in the restaurant business for years, but Juniper is the first restaurant they have owned. Before moving to Ridge Spring with their children, they lived in Virginia, where together they learned to appreciate local farmers’ markets and buying locally grown produce. That appreciation has driven their selections for the meals served at Juniper.
Cooper Thomas comes to Victors after serving as executive chef at the Belvedere Club & Resort, Wild Dunes Resort in Isle of Palms, South Carolina, Jeff Ruby’s Waterfront Restaurant and the University of Cincinnati, both in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from the College of Charleston and prestigious Johnson & Wales University with a culinary arts and food management degree. He has worked under some of South Carolina’s best chefs, including Bob Waggoner and Michelle Weaver at Charleston Grill.
Victors was recently recognized last month with a Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor.com, based on outstanding customer reviews. It also has been awarded “Best of the Pee Dee: Fine Dining” each of the past eight years and is the only restaurant in Florence to have received the 3-Diamond rating from AAA.
Chef Paulmeier was a contestant in the seventh season of the hit show, The Next Food Network Star. She opened One Hot Mama’s on Hilton Head Island in 2007. Blending time-tested Southern favorites like collards, cornbread, and slow-cooked barbecue and ribs with her own homespun recipes, One Hot Mama’s serves up “comfort food with a kick.”
From Opryland to the Lowcountry, South Carolina native Chef Forrest Parker joined the Hall Management Group team of acclaimed chefs in 2012. He leads the culinary team at the Old Village Post House Inn. Charleston-educated and trained, Forrest has included Southern ingredients and elements in his cooking throughout his career.
Chef Brian Waters, a native Beaufortonian, began his cooking career with Plums Inc. some 11 years ago by chance. What started as a side job in the kitchen of Plums Restaurant has turned into a full-fledged career as the chef of one of the top restaurants in Beaufort, Saltus River Grill.
Brian’s talents were quickly identified, and he soon found himself studying under then-Saltus Chef James Spratling for several years. His exceptional work allowed him ample opportunity to meet and learn from renowned regional chefs by way of events like the annual “Chef’s Feast” and “Great Chef” occasions. Through guidance from Spratling and various professional development opportunities provided by Plums Inc., Brian has been able to dive into the culinary trade and find his unique voice. Brian’ goals for Saltus involve maintaining a commitment to serve as many local products and housemade items as possible and making every effort to refine — and redefine — the dining experience for his guests.
This culinary hotspot is currently home to four James Beard Foundation Award-winning chefs. Don’t miss an opportunity to experience their incredible food and kitchen creativity that celebrates coastal South Carolina.
Robert Stehling, 2008 Best Chef: Southeast
Located in a historic Charleston single house, Hominy Grill feels as though it has been open for generations. In fact, this landmark has only been dishing up its simple, clean fare since 1996. Combining the traditions of the past with the bounty of land and sea, James Beard Award winning chef/owner Robert Stehling lets the Low Country’s unique cultural history and flavors guide his cooking.
Mike Lata, 2009 Best Chef: Southeast
Jason Stanhope, 2015 Best Chef: Southeast
Sean Brock, 2010 Best Chef: Southeast