This month marks a milestone for Georgetown Foodland. It's seven years old.
I began this culinary adventure out of pain and recovery. I suffered an accident resulting in two years of surgeries, a total of thirteen to be exact. If it wasn't for God and my family, I'd never have made it through.
Speaking of God, I had quite the many conversations with the Almighty. I asked how can I give back to a community I love? How can I use my talents, my energy, and ultimately, my passion in giving back? I had always liked taking photos. I have a degree in Journalism. I love telling stories. I enjoy seeing people smile. How do you envision me entering back into normal life?
Then, in my recovery, I began eating at a restaurant on Front Street. This restaurant was fairly new. Painted a bright blue, it attracted me. So, I dove in.
On my first visit, I ordered a "Big Texas BBQ Burger" from the waiter. After he took the order, he went to the back to prepare it. Little did I know he was the waiter, the cook and the owner.
I peeked around the corner, through a small opening, and saw him giving attention to this burger as if I was the president of the United States. He made sure the burger sat perfectly on the bun. The lettuce had to be just right. The fried onion ring had to be in pristine condition. The BBQ placed on the patty, not thrown on.
When he came out and presented the basket, I became entranced. Something took over me. So, I grabbed my phone and took a few pictures. Here's the one I shared on Facebook.
At first, the gentleman didn't know how to respond. He thought there was something wrong. He generally said if it's wrong, let me fix it and please, don't post to Yelp. I told him it was a thing of beauty. I loved the presentation. I began to praise his technique, his service and his commitment to making something fresh. It was like I was possessed. Like, where's this person been all this time?
After sharing the photo to Facebook, it received around 80 or so likes. I had comments ranging from "Where's this at?" to "...that looks so tasty." and many positive responses in between. I showed him the next time I stopped in and he was amazed. He truly blossomed with happiness.
Well, some time went by, and a lot of Big Texas BBQ burgers were ordered. My family and his family developed a friendship, made some memories and eventually the restaurant closed.
But the last meal service there, he named the burger after me. He named one after my wife, Adrianne, too. After that night, I knew I had something with what I was doing here and wanted to take it further. I wanted to help all restaurants in the county.
So began Georgetown Foodland.
It started with a restaurant crawl in our town. We (my wife and I) dined at bisQit, the former restaurants Atlantic House and Pastaria 811, and a few others. I took pictures of all the dishes we had and shared them on social media.
The more I did it, the more the love and passion grew. Here are few below from that first restaurant crawl.
In a full-circle moment, I was honored to be a guest at the last dinner service at Atlantic House and honored owner Roz Wyndham and her staff with a Letter of Appreciation.
There are two questions I am asked a lot on my culinary adventures. The first is whether or not this is a business.
It's not. At least not for money.
I have been cultivating and growing Georgetown Foodland on the basis of paying it forward. Our culinary industry here is an awesome one. We're not meant to be known as an "in-between" county. We have chefs and owners, who like the gentleman I met when this started, want to please you with the dishes they serve and invite you into their hearts with the food created that comes from those same hearts. The passion and love I see in their eyes when I visit has earned their places to be showcased and spotlighted.
I see myself in the business of helping these folks stay in business. I am in the business of showcasing great culinary talent right here in Georgetown County. I am in the business in letting these folks know they have a friend.
The second question I get routinely is whether I have a staff or not. Or, if I work for someone. No to both, however, the former has changed a bit.
This not only started out of rubble, but it started with family. My wife and daughter have been very supportive. They help without asking to. They love what I do not because they love me, but because they choose to.
My wife Adrianne has been more and more involved as the culinary adventure has grown. She's my public relations manager. She's the one who tells the backstory while I am taking photos. She makes sure information is gathered while I talk to chefs and staff. She holds the phone when I go live on social media. She's my confidant with that. She helps me organize shots and come up with nifty phrases, too. For that, I am eternally grateful.
My daughter Bailee wears Georgetown Foodland apparel, shares photos and even takes photos of her dad when he stuffs his face full of food. She's an important asset to what I do. Here's just a few she's taken of me below.
Seven years in, I have met some of the most wonderful people. From great chef Tom Mullally, who has a charismatic personality, to Steve Perrone, a superb chef and equally charismatic figure.
There's Sally Swineford of The River Room. Her and Chef Joe have always promoted the city and given back. Their food is out of this world.
Folks like Allison and Mike Castellano, owners of R'Way Pizza, who always make you feel at home when you visit. And, you leave full because of the portion sizes. Oh, and that pubwich!
There are farmers like Carol and Ben Williams of Millgrove Farms. You look in their eyes and you see years of struggle and the fortitude to fight back from it. You see what it takes to get produce to the customers and the love in doing it. Eyes are windows to souls and both Carol and Ben have a lot to tell through them.
There are chefs like Danny Smith, who I got to meet when he worked under some great chefs to grow into becoming an executive chef himself, and Chelsea Cribb, who also has worked under great chefs to now leading a kitchen at a great restaurant.
Oh, and the competitions. I have judged meatballs, she crab soup, collards, and shrimp and grits. I have enjoyed to be part of those experiences and am humbled each time I am asked to do them.
There are a lot more folks to name. Too many to do here. Again, all wonderful people. All great friends.
All are the focus of what I do.
Today, I wanted to give a small snapshot of Georgetown Foodland to those who are just now hearing or seeing what I do. More, I want those who have been with me from the beginning to know the passion and love is ever growing.
As I continue to work my normal job, I'll also find and make time for that passion and continue to do what I do. For the love. For the passion. For the family.
And to heal.
Georgetown Foodland helps me heal. Not only from trauma suffered through the injury, but new trauma that comes from living life. This avenue allows me to fall back with arms wide open into something I know helps others. It allows me a break from this hectic world, filled with pandemic, to enjoy company and friends who create and present great culinary dishes.
Seven years in, I have built relationships in the culinary industry I'd never trade. I've helped a few restaurants become centerpieces. I've told stories others wouldn't have.
And, it the people who read this, share this, who keep it growing. You all keep it alive. You all keep restaurants in business.
I am forever thankful to each and every person who has read a post or story, liked and shared a photo, commented on your experiences, shown up at culinary events and just gave a damn.
I don't ever look at myself getting these likes or loves or thumbs up. When I see them, I smile because I know you all have seen what I have done and you'll go dine in or take out or buy from there. My happiness comes from seeing the folks I support succeed.
I stand back and just watch as what should have happened a long time ago happen now. And with a smile on my face, with a supportive family, I know I've given back.
As I celebrate, I want all those in the culinary industry in Georgetown, Charleston and Horry County to know you've been my priority and will continue to be. I love all of you and wish all the best. Keep pushing and keep the desire. Keep the love. Grow the passion. You all have earned your keep, friends.
If I haven't visited with you yet, please reach out by sending me a message in the CONTACT section of the website.
Seven years in, with hopes of many to go.