A couple weeks ago, I was at home looking over photos I'd taken of food and restaurants and was wondering what the new normal was going to look like for the culinary industry when my phone rang.
I figured it was one of the many eateries in Georgetown calling to ask for advice, how to prepare for reopening or just to have someone to listen to them get their feelings off their chests.
Yes. In this time of uncertainty, what I do has become a landing pad for those who just want some comfort and who understands them. And I have humbly accepted the role.
It's very important the industry has someone in their corner. Someone who has been there before this, through it and will help them afterward. And, to me, it means the world I am thought of in such regard.
I love the industry and all in it.
That phone call.
When I answered with hello, this voice responded with enthusiasm and vigor. It was a voice I wasn't familiar with, but when he said his name I knew I was in for an exciting conversation.
Chef Patrick Runey has owned T.W. Graham & Co. for more than seven years. The restaurant, of course, has been around since 2003 and the building has been used for different purposes, like a general store, for more than 100 years.
As we talked about the current pandemic and the latest regulations for restaurants and updates on reopening, I told Patrick I was here for him and his staff and would help in any way I could to provide advice and support.
It was at the end of the conversation I knew where I had to be in the next few days.
The trip to the #MCVL was planned for a Saturday evening. The weather that day was picture perfect, and we ate outside, under an Oak tree with a beautiful sunset as the backdrop.
When we arrived, we were greeted pleasantly by staff, then chef Runey himself came out with a smile from ear to ear. As excited he was to see me, I was far more excited to be dining at the restaurant, outside, in such a portrait atmosphere.
Funny, it takes a pandemic to slow you down, recharge and assist in focusing on the precious things in life.
There was some history preserved from the past owners. Local seafood, simplistic recipes and bountiful flavors remained. But, Runey and his staff tweaked the rest and made it his own.
And he kept true to the roots of the eatery. Respect the past, treat the folks like family and show them all a big heart.
Regarding simplicity, let's talk about the tarter sauce. Or, as I dubbed it, tarter slaw.
It has a slaw-like consistency and is so complimentary to the seafood. It's not your regular tarter sauce, friends.
Runey checked on us periodically, but by 7 p.m., it was getting close to closing time and there were quite a few people waiting on to-go orders. The waitress made sure our sweet tea was topped off, safety-minded, and that we had what we needed to enjoy our meal.
The pictures tell the visual, but our taste buds were literally gasping with each bite. It was that good.
More, it was the ability to dine outside in a village known for peace and quiet, with friendly faces walking the sidewalks.
I think my favorite bite was the flounder. So fresh and filleted as perfectly as it was cooked.
Our food was packaged in to-go boxes as it was served to us, so it made it quite easy to pack up and leave. As we headed out and placed the tip in the jar, I stopped Runey and told him the fried scallops, shrimp were super good and the flounder was divine. I wanted him to know the food and service was great and his down-home personality was very appreciated.
I then asked for a photo of he and I. He obliged.
Before he left, he said he was appreciative of me and what I do for the restaurants. I said in return that it was I who was appreciative of you and all of those in the culinary industry. History doesn't just involve buildings and what they're used for. It also encompasses the people, the relationships, the smiles and the overall satisfaction enjoyed in them. The food you all cook and serve writes a history that should never be forgotten.
Nor the people who create it.
With that, we thanked him and headed back to Georgetown with stomachs full and souls recharged.
It was a great day in McClellanville.
We were out and about Saturday, May 2, 2020, giving out Outstanding Service awards to five locations on the culinary adventure of Georgetown, South Carolina.
What's an Outstanding Service award? Check out the story below by WPDE ABC 15.
You can see the story on past winners by clicking here.
And's the list of winners this weekend:
Enjoy the videos below, and congratulations to all on a job well done.
I came across this video a couple days ago posted by the Independent Restaurant Coalition.
I was touched. Very touched. Talk about getting in the culinary feels. You must watch it.
We are restaurants.
Fitting sentence, isn't it. When you watched that, did you get as flood of emotion? Really, there are many life moments that involve restaurants and culinary industry as a whole.
Here in Georgetown, think about the dinners before prom. How about wedding anniversaries and rehearsal dinners? Birthdays?
There's even personal crawls for those who love to try different eateries in a week.
Those moments are special. As are the people who work to provide them.
Let's all do what we can to help keep these restaurants alive. Click the button below.
Restaurants have been hard during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Many people have been doing their best to support the culinary, restaurant industry in Georgetown County and in South Carolina.
More, the restaurants and their staff have had to think and react on their feet to numerous changes in policies and trends.
I wanted to recognize a few of those restaurants with an Outstanding Service award.
All restaurants in South Carolina are doing an awesome job with keeping safe and servicing their customers, however, a few need to know they're thought of.
On April 25, 2020, I went to three restaurants and gave the owners a certificate recognizing them for their "Customer Commitment during the Covid-19 Pandemic" in hopes of showing them they're appreciated and thought of.
I wanted people to know these restaurants are diligently practicing safe standards and attention to detail when it comes to serving food to customers.
There will be more handed out. Stay tuned.
But, please try to support our restaurants and their staffs by ordering curbside, delivery or takeout.
Not only do you get fed, but you help keep these restaurants in business and allow them to survive with potential to make it through.
It's been quite a busy weekend for us.
We've made at least seven stops in Georgetown County to buy take-out and support eateries locally and traveled to McClellanville to make two more stops.
Our McClellanville stops were to Boats N Hoagies and McClellanville Diner, both of which really need the continuous support of town folk and from abroad.
The most common thoughts in providing help to our hospitality industry, specifically our restaurants, are geared towards buying. Whether it be curbside, delivery and/or take-out possibilities, we want to take advantage of what is offered to help keep these businesses alive.
More, we think of gift cards. That helps, too.
A new week brings new challenges. Everyone is day-to-day with their preparation. Some have already had to make the hard, tough decision to close until further notice. Now, that presents a scary situation.
Factoring the length of our restaurants being shuttered to dine-in customers, staffing and product availability, restaurants that close face an uphill battle in getting reopened.
Reports on the national scene say as much as 40 percent could never reopen again. Either way, the landscape will change. We face a possibility of losing a few eateries we've enjoyed for years when this clears.
I have shared via e-mail and social media a Facebook group for Georgetown County in which we can see and share what restaurant is offering curbside, delivery or takeout. I urge you all to join it, share on your social media and contribute.
You can add places you know of, share photos of food you get and do live videos encouraging the owners and chefs.
Another suggestion is cease all negative reviews on web platforms i.e. Google, Tripadvisor and Yelp. These are counteractive and pointless. They are NOT what the industry needs.
If you have an issue, take it up personally. Call them. E-mail them. Reach out privately on social media.
What the industry needs is what I've been doing for more than six years. One hundred percent positivity.
I also ask you share restaurants' posts on your social media. Even in good times, a marketing budget is not a priority, given our market. So, help them out with your networks. Share a post so others can see who follow you. Grow their reach organically. Take a photo of that amazing burger and tag them everywhere.
What the industry needs is an outpouring of support.
There have been many nonprofits that ask and ask again for donations from restaurants, participation in events. It's our turn to support them.
Those in the industry chose it because they love cooking and perfecting dishes for you. They seek out "beautiful smiles" as a deal closer for those "beautiful dishes" they create.
Let's come together and use our word-of-mouth power to keep these great eateries open, so they remember who was there for them when they needed us the most. Let's show them we can do as a whole what Georgetown Foodland has done and that's support with our hearts.
If communication ceases from our end, meaning we don't carry the message, the light will fade.
The awesome food we enjoy will possibly disappear.
Enjoy the culinary adventure, even it's take-out at home. The folks in the restaurants will thank you for it.
The rain that came during Opening Ceremony and Opening Night could not extinguish the culinary fire brought by all the talented chefs and staff at this year's Charleston Wine + Food.
And for those in attendance, they witnessed the precursor to the best festival yet.
With its 15th year in the books, the entire Charleston Wine + Food organization can be proud. The amazing talent, the production aspect, the quality of food, the Southern hospitality displayed were just a few key performance indicators that were off the charts.
This year, I was honored with media credentials, meaning I was able to attend many events held during the festival. My favorites were the Password, Please special party before Opening Night, Opening Night itself and Saturday's Culinary Village.
More, I was able to meet some of my chef friends in person that I have been connected with on social media for more than a year or so. It was such a humbling and rewarding experience.
More humbling, I was taken by surprise by chef Jason Scarborough and US Foods when he made me an honorary Food Fanatic. I was so choked up by the reveal on live video, I think I only got out a handshake, hug and thank you. Many times. I mean, wow. How awesome is that.
For me, Opening Night was like Christmas Eve. You waited for dark as a kid to go to Grandma's house to have some super good food and spend time with friends and relatives you haven't seen in a while. Maybe, if you're lucky, you get to open a present.
Yeah, that feeling hit home as I waited for 7:30 p.m. and the music under the big tent in Marion Square Park to start. As soon as it did, I was under that tent in seconds.
I was just in time, too.
After getting to capture the calm before the storm, so to say, I was off to many of the chefs' tables to get shots of the plated food - and try some of it, too.
Yes, it was all good.
About an hour in, the tent was packed. People raved over the awesome dishes being presented and the great music from the band on stage. But, let's not kid ourselves. We were here for the food.
As I packed up and drove home to Georgetown, I was on cloud 9. Such great food offerings and super cool chefs.
Now, Christmas morning came in the form of Saturday's Culinary Village. Literally, I would have been blinded by the beautiful sunlight - and culinary superstardom - if not for my trusty sunglasses.
As I walked in through the gate I stopped in the middle of the park's X feature and took it all in before the crowd of people amassed. The culinary St. Nick had come. And so many gifts of food were bestowed upon us.
And what's a so-called culinary Christmas without something barbecuing on a grill, right?
Well, there was plenty of that. And everything was so good and warm on a rather chilly day.
One of my favorite dishes came from renowned chef Michael Tuohy of Fullhouse Hospitality.
That duck sausage over Anson Mills grits with duck gravy was so divine.
And I relate finding this dish to Ralphie found out he finally got that Red Ryder BB gun.
Yeah, this was my Ralphie moment for sure.
After tasting my final dish, it was off to enjoy the rest of the village and see the sights of what this year's Charleston Wine + Food Culinary Village for Saturday had to offer.
And, as I got home and wound down for the evening, I fell asleep soundly, with dreams of tasting great sausage from Swig & Swine's Anthony DiBernardo and wearing my US Foods Food Fanatics apron.
When I was on social media yesterday before heading out to dinner, a post popped up that stopped me in my tracks. It really floored me.
Atlantic House Restaurant announced they were closing. For good.
And while this may be a quick response to the announced closing, I had to express my utmost respect and appreciation for one of the greatest restaurants this town has ever seen. That includes the staff, too.
Owner Roz Wyndham is no stranger to the restaurant industry.
Remember Roz's Rice Mill Cafe? It was located in The Hammock Shops in Pawleys. She was earning accolades left and right there. And the food was quoted good enough to make you move to Pawleys Island and eat there everyday by Southern Living magazine.
But when she moved to Screven Street, she was able to focus on her passion for creating awesome dishes.
I wanted a smaller restaurant where I could get back to my true love-cooking and being with customers and less time being a manager of a business.
And you did exactly that. Even winning the People's Choice Award for the 2013 Taste of Georgetown.
The quaint ambiance of the restaurant welcomes you in like a breath of fresh air. The food is cooked to order. The offerings are unique and plentiful.
And there's still time to enjoy the food.
May 16th will be their last dinner serving and the last lunch served will be on May 16th.
I cannot express how thankful I am to have experienced the tastes offered here and the people met.
Shawn has been a consistent, stand-up host and server. Always on point with delivering a great experience.
And Roz is and always will be a good friend. I remember when my daughter played softball for the high school and my wife and I had to work the concession stand one night. I reached out to Roz and asked her if she'd be willing to make her famous chili for hot dogs. She lit up like the 4th of July. Happy to do so. I was so excited, I made a print out and posted on the outside of the stand to exclaim where this chili proudly came from. Made it a point to refer people to the restaurant to try more dishes.
And there are more stories about Roz and her giving back to a community she loves.
But, she and her staff need to know they were loved, too. Not only for the food.
For providing a pleasant, safe escape from the hustle and bustle of the world. A warm smile and embracing hospitality.
Thank you, Atlantic House Restaurant, for contributing to the culinary adventure of Georgetown, S.C.
All families have them. Whether they're beach cookouts on the Fourth of July, frying turkeys for Thanksgiving or Christmas barbecues, the purpose is to gather amongst family and friends and enjoy some great food.
The annual Bruce Christmas barbecue fits the same mold, however, there's a greater meaning in the gathering. It began in 2001 as a way to create memories for the children and has blossomed into a grand tradition.
Along with Joel, Linda, Melanie and Robbin Bruce, Roger Bruce, his wife Tina and his family plan out each December's barbecue in advance. Why? Because there's a good chance something might pop up.
One year, Roger had to work during the barbecue and nearly missed the whole thing. But, as family does, the reigns were picked up and the festivities carried on. Yes, there were leftovers, but not being there hurt a little.
The week-before-Christmas event is usually the only time the extended family and friends gather amongst one another. It's a time to enjoy one's company, see what's new in life and reflect on a year almost gone. More, it provides the elders an opportunity attract their growing children to the crowd for some food and companionship.
I am married in to the family. In the early years of me attending, I considered it a time to eat some good barbecue, chat a little and carry on about my days. Boy, did I have huge wake-up call coming.
As the years passed and the barbecue rolled on, patriarchs of the family began to pass.
Two such people were Uncle Archie Bruce and Aunt D.C. Those were tough ones. You could see it on everyone's faces. While they tried hard to put on a happy face, you knew deep down they wanted them there. Just one more year, please. No one had to say that, but their eyes told it with the tears shed.
Another would be Judy. I loved seeing her. She loved seeing the little children running around and having fun, always asking whether or not they've been good. One year, she dressed as an elf. She told me Santa left her behind to make sure to get the names of all the good kids at the gathering for him.
Family means a lot. To the Bruce brothers, it's golden. To some, the event is a couple hours of eating off the pig and having a few desserts. To them, it's their contribution to keeping the family together and allowing them to congregate amongst one another. You know, because we aren't guaranteed the next day.
They know that.
And as the years have passed, and I have seen their children grow up, my daughter grow up and my stepchildren grow up, I know it, too.
In the fast-paced world we live in, we take for granted all who are around us. This event has been and is a way to slow time for a bit and enjoy one another while enjoying great food.
And that's why I look forward to it each year. My appearance is a way of saying thank you for continuing a tradition that means a lot to the family involved, myself included.
Oh, and don't ask about the sauce. Roger doesn't measure anything. He knows when it's the right amount.
The building sat dormant for years. The smell of those famous "super burgers" that used to grab folks on Indian Hut Road was gone into the wilderness. Deep down inside, Mrs. Janette couldn't stand it. "I have to be moving, doing something. That's me all the way," she says as she tells about her recent doctor's visit. "All my life, I've been doing. Late night drives to Columbia to the produce market then back to the restaurant. Had to take care of children."
And that she did. Her cooking provided for her kids education, first cars and more. And if it wasn't the mere fact of supporting a family that drove her, it was her passion to deliver good food.
"I love to cook. Have a big family. Cooked a big Thanksgiving meal this year. They love my collards."
Her years developing a unique burger and working to perfect it became famously known as the "Super Burger" to a lot of her customers. Just one patty was the size of your hand. And people loved the size and taste. They were all made to order. Nothing sitting around.
Folks working at the saw mill back then knew where to stop for a quick lunch or a dinner for home.
But one day, the doors shut. No more grand-size burgers walking out.
Her family knew the importance of tradition. They knew a person like Mrs. Janette and her determination and grit to make something needed an eternal flame of sorts. More, the people of this generation needed to experience what others had done so decades ago.
And I am glad Tammy, Frankie and Buddy are doing that!
How many true mom-and-pop restaurants do you know of that still exist today? There's not many. And when you get deep into Georgetown, away from the beach and city, you find those gems. Hidden, of course, and only known to those in a certain radius.
I think folks like Mrs. Janette and Janette's Super Burger need to be recognized. Not only recognized, but enjoyed.
Look at the smile on her face above. In mere minutes of our conversation, her face began to light up, as if those memories of years gone gasped breath and flowed through her veins. It looked like a recharging of a spirit that was always there, but needed a boost. At one moment, she perked up, said she had to go to kitchen and see if they needed help. And from that point on, she stayed back there. With her family. With Tammy, Frankie and Buddy.
The glow was brighter than the any of lights in the small building providing at the time. Nothing but smiles.
And as people walked in to grab an order, they saw her back there. The smiles, the higher pitch of voice filled with excitement and the appreciation for what she created could all be felt in simple words - Well, hello Mrs. Janette!
Tradition lives on at Janette's Super Burger. The smell of those famous super burgers is back in the air.
And Mrs. Janette couldn't be more happier.
And we couldn't be more thankful.