Rank #1: Episode 37: Sam Jones, Sam Jones BBQ & Skylight Inn (Live from Euphoria -- Greenville, SC)
Pitmaster Sam Jones of Skylight Inn and Sam Jones BBQ in Eastern North Carolina is a circuit preacher of sorts on the Southern food circuit preaching the gospel of whole hog barbecue, family traditions, humbleness, and care for his fellow man. And just like the North Carolina girl I once was, you’ll hear a little more of the accent of my youth in this interview, because when Sam gets going, I join in like he’s “preaching to the choir,” an expression he’d probably be fond of. But in all this talk about talk, don’t forget about the barbecue. In 2003 the Skylight Inn received a James Beard award as one of “Americas Classics” and since then has been featured on numerous media outlets, including the Travel Channel, Food Network, and CBS Sunday Morning. We chatted recently in Greenville, S.C. after a long day for both of us, but especially for him, as he’d been up all night tending to the hog, then served it all the next day at Euphoria Greenville.
Oct 14 2016
Rank #2: Ep. 106: Rodney Scott, Rodney Scott's BBQ (Charleston, SC)
There was a time when how good Rodney Scott’s family barbecue was, was pretty much a locals secret. Unless you were lucky enough to meet him at a food event or lived in Hemingway, SC, you probably didn’t know about him, that is unless you were the kind of people who roadtrip for good food. So yeah, you and me. Chances are, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’ll drive for good food, right? Anyway, the chorus of praises for this barbecue pitmaster have been steadily rising, and word began to get out in a big way, including on TV with Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. Then Rodney fulfilled his dream of opening a restaurant of his own last year in Charleston. As for the food, it’s simple perfection, made with love, as he continually preaches. His smile can light up a room, too, and on Monday evening, he proved that when he stood on stage in Chicago to accept the James Beard award for Best Chef: Southeast. A few days before he jetted off to those awards, I caught up with him at his restaurant to learn what he’s learned in the last year. In true Southern Fork style, we ended up recording in the cab of his truck in the parking lot. Anytime he’s in the building, he’s either working or people are literally standing in line to talk to him, so outside is where we found some time and quiet.
May 11 2018
Rank #3: Episode 148: Lindsey Barrow, Lowcountry Street Grocery (Charleston, SC)
I’ve been interested in Lowcountry Street Grocery since talking to director Lindsey Barrow before its wheels even started rolling a couple of years ago. But these days, I’m a customer. I shop on the bus when I can for veggies and other local foodstuffs, and now I’m on their email list for a weekly bag pick up. So in short, I’ve seen this food system in action; it works, and it’s quietly revolutionary. It’s bringing farmers and shoppers together, a mobile market that turns a profit in the tech company parking lot and also near the extended stay hotels where people live by the week. Barrow’s trying to prove we can fix our food systems in a way that is delicious for all, and he’s not just preaching on paper; he’s working numbers in a rolling grocery store that is just the beginning of his mission.
Aug 09 2019
Rank #4: Episode 128: John Currence, City Grocery Restaurant Group, Oxford, MS (Live from 30A Wine Festival)
Since opening his restaurant City Grocery in Oxford, Ms. more than 20 years ago, Chef John Currence’s name has become synonymous with Southern cooking. He’s received the Southern Foodways Alliance Guardian of Tradition Award, he’s won the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef South, and he’s often a sought after writer -- just ask Garden & Gun, his book editors, or Esquire. City Grocery Restaurant Group now encompasses Snackbar and a growing number of Big Bad Breakfast locations, including the one I visited in Rosemary Beach that had a line out the door on a Saturday morning. Beyond the kitchen, he’s someone who speaks his mind on just about anything, and when I caught up with him at the 30A Wine Festival for a chat, he did just that.
Mar 22 2019
Rank #5: Ep. 111: Jill Mathias, Chez Nous (Charleston, SC)
There is a place where there are no TVs blaring, a place where it’s easy to exchange a word with people at the next table or scrape that last bit of dessert off the plate with a spoon. This restaurant glows softly in the twilight as you approach, and yet, open the door, and it’s a-bustle with activity. This magical spot? Chez Nous in Charleston, S.C., and it’s got way more chops that just its good looks. That’s because Chef Jill Mathias creates delicious European bistro fare from local ingredients, focuses on sustainability, the idea of hospitality, and what it means to come together over a meal. She doesn’t often give interviews -- she’s much more interested in cooking than promoting herself -- but we’ve gotten to know each other over the years, so she obliged. Very much a chef’s chef, you’ll want to hear her thoughts on menu building, being a people pleaser, and of course, her daily practice of handwriting that menu.
Jul 20 2018
Rank #7: Episode 65: Glenn Roberts & Dr. David Shields, Anson Mills & The University of South Carolina (live from the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation meeting, Charleston, SC)
May 05 2017
Rank #8: Episode 10: Mark & Kerry Marhefka, Abundant Seafood (Mt. Pleasant, SC)
Apr 07 2016
Rank #9: Episode 30: Stratton Leopold, Leopold's Ice Cream (Savannah, GA)
Despite the fact that I write, I promise you I didn’t have a screenplay in my back pocket when I requested to interview Stratton Leopold, ice cream legend and movie producer. I really just had ice cream on my mind. His family legacy, Leopold’s Ice Cream, is a Savannah, Ga., institution, and just as I mention in this chat, it’s become one of my favorite places to visit each time I’m in town. It’s right on Broughton Street and easy to find not only because of its large sign but by the swarms of people who fill it every day to have a classic soda shop experience. The staff wears paper hats, and you can request samples of as many flavors as you want. However, Stratton and I ride our ice cream sugar high and talk everything from shooting Mission: Impossible III to refereeing football to pink marble. We bonded over ice cream and never looked back. I think there’s a movie line about that, something like “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship?”
Aug 26 2016
Rank #10: Episode 3: Cappie Peete, Neighborhood Dining Group (Charleston, SC)
Cappie Peete knows how to spit like a lady. (Actually gender has little to do with it.) As the Beverage Director of the Neighborhood Dining Group, she is the youngest person in Charleston, SC to receive her Advanced Certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers, and so that means an awful lot of tasting wines and then spitting discreetly into a bucket. If not, she’d be like the rest of us, thinking that fourth glass is the “best wine she’s ever had!” After looking up the audio pronunciation for “sommelier” (and realizing I’ve said it wrong every time before this recording), we sit down and chat wines.
Feb 18 2016
Rank #11: Episode 46: Lee, Ashley, and Daniel Epting, Epting Events (live from Thomasville, GA)
In the South, if you’re lucky, you know we can throw a party. The gentlemen of Epting Events in Athens, Ga. are some of the kings of Southern hospitality. Patriarch, master caterer, storyteller, and general ringmaster Lee Epting has orchestrated parties and weddings for many well-known Southerners for close to 50 years. Sons Ashley, the idea man and filmmaker of Black Tie & BBQ, and Daniel, the logistics and all around HYS guy, have helped propel the business into one of the preeminent event companies in the country, much less the region. And what is HYS, you may be wondering? You have to listen and find out. I recently got the chance to be present at one of their events -- the Shotgun Supper Club in Thomasville, Ga. -- and I get what that Epting Event buzz is all about. The food was sincerely delicious, it was beautiful, and it was easy to have a good time. It’s prime party weekend, and if you are worried/stressed/or otherwise anxious about party giving or attendance this weekend, then these guys will get you in the mood with specific tips. It’s all about relaxed fun, and hey, a Bloody Mary doesn’t hurt either.
Dec 16 2016
Rank #13: Episode 71: Matt Jamie, Bourbon Barrel Foods (Louisville, KY)
Jun 16 2017
Rank #14: Episode 60: Celeste Albers, Green Grocer (Wadmalaw Island, SC)
Mar 31 2017
Rank #16: Ep. 120: Allan Benton, Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams, Madisonville, TN (Live from Music to Your Mouth)
I’ve picked up and put down a lot of things in my life from jobs and ideas, to locales and loves and whatever I thought was the next big thing. This is a story of the opposite, of the power of doing one thing as best as you can for as long as you can. For most of his career, master craftsman Allan Benton of Benton’s Country Hams and Bacon worked in obscurity in an unassuming building in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He raised a family, he used his hands to spread salt, brown sugar, curing salt, and pepper on meat to cure it, and then watched and tasted as it transformed. And then he tried to make a living selling it. In my last episode with BJ Dennis, I flippantly mentioned that I had had enough country ham for the rest of my life, but I realized that I don’t put Benton’s work in the same category with the ham I was referencing, ham sold in packets or on fast food biscuits, over processed and meant to get to market fast. What he creates is like a beautiful Italian prosciutto or the cured meats from Spain -- altogether different and heavenly in texture and depth of flavor. It honors the meat and celebrates it, and just a little Benton’s Bacon or Smoky Mountain Country Ham can go a long way in elevating your dish. Just ask David Chang, Sean Brock, John Fleer, or countless other chefs who make sure his name appears on their menus. But Allan Benton, as a person, elevates those around him too: his kindness is literally infectious, his calm demeanor needed in this world, and through his gentle words, he asks us to look for something to commit to as well, to pour our passion into. Warning: My southern granddaughter side comes out in this episode. Double warning: prepare for bacon cravings.
Nov 23 2018
Rank #17: Episode 35: Keia Mastrianni, Culinary Storyteller, Shelby, NC (Live from Lambstock )
So you wanna be a food writer? Then be like Keia. Keia Mastrianni is one of the brightest voices in the Southern culinary scene at the moment, and this multi-media storyteller got where she is through the following: by writing consistently, by discovering a subject that she is passionate about, and then by immersing herself in that subject. And her subject is food. It’s not like she had a master plan, but now she’s telling stories about farms, sustainable agriculture, and the people behind that, people she feels deeply connected to. That connection is coming through in her work for the Southern Foodways Alliance, for Food Republic and Creative Loafing, but don’t think she’s all serious and no fun. Quite the opposite. Not only can she serve you a piece of homemade blueberry pie fresh from her oven, but she has an easy and musical laugh. Who doesn’t want to be around that?
Sep 30 2016
Rank #18: 159: Amy Mills, 17th Street Barbecue, Murphysboro, IL (Live from Firebox BBQ)
Many restaurants in America are a family business. But how do you be “you” in a business that you didn’t build? For that discussion, we keep the BBQ train going again this week with Amy Mills of 17th Street Barbecue in Murphysboro and Marion, IL. We met up at the recent Firebox BBQ event on St. Simons Island, GA, and although it’s often that we see each other on the road, she doesn’t stop much these days, between appearances on The Food Network’s BBQ Brawl to book publicity for Praise the Lard to getting a bbq sauce factory up and running. Beyond the Bon Appetit’s Best Ribs in America, I think she makes the best baked beans I’ve ever had, and she’s highly aware of the weight of a legacy yet also feels the creative urging of a natural communicator. We always enjoy talking.
Oct 25 2019