Will Fincher is government chef of The Longboard on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. The Longboard on Sullivan’s Island is Ballast Hospitality’s third restaurant after The Longboard on St. John, USVI, and The Easterly on St. Thomas, USVI.

I grew up in Center Alabama, so we didn’t eat a whole lot of seafood there. The primary time I got here to Charleston, it was undoubtedly eye-opening. I don’t suppose I had even had a uncooked oyster till I moved to Charleston. As soon as I bought down right here, the abundance of contemporary native seafood, oysters, and produce was a deciding issue on me staying. There’s an incredible restaurant scene—a whole lot of cool cooks and a whole lot of eating places doing attention-grabbing stuff I used to be in a position to be part of. Recent out of culinary faculty I grew to become the chef of a restaurant, so it was a simple path, and I caught round.

I used to be the chief chef at a restaurant downtown referred to as Monza, and one other restaurant referred to as Closed for Enterprise. Then, about eight plus years in the past, I helped open The Obstinate Daughter as its chef de delicacies, which is down the road from us on Sullivan’s Island.

Will Fincher, government chef at The Longboard restaurant on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. Photograph: Sarah Swan.

As quickly as I moved to Charleston, I began popping out to Sullivan’s Island to go to the seaside. The seaside out here’s a little bit extra pristine. The homes aren’t proper on the seaside. They really have a moratorium on new eating places on the island—you possibly can solely put a restaurant in a constructing that was as soon as a restaurant, so there’s a restricted provide. However I all the time come out right here to go to the seaside and to Poe’s Tavern, a burger place throughout the road. Once I opened up Obstinate Daughter, it was going to be one of many first nicer eating places out right here. I jumped on the probability to be out right here on the island. It’s a pleasant drive each day, and also you’re near the seaside. Loads of good vacationer motion throughout the summer season, after which numerous locals throughout the off season.

Charleston’s undoubtedly recognized for its seafood. Clearly, we’re proper on the water. Our native fishermen from Abundant Seafood and Tarvin Seafood, these guys are nearly like celebrities right here in Charleston.

When Ballast Hospitality approached me about opening The Longboard as its government chef, it was type of random. I had a good friend run into the proprietor, Clint Gaskins, and he mentioned, “Hey, I believe I’d know somebody you’ll wish to chat with.” Clint then shot me a textual content and was like, “Come all the way down to the islands for every week.” And I used to be like, “Positive, that sounds great.” And we checked it a bit bit, after which did an preliminary interview. I went all the way down to St. Thomas and St. John for a few week, after which they provided me the enterprise from there.

The Longboard has two sister eating places within the Virgin Islands. We’ve got a Longboard on St. John. It’s a smaller spot—they type of deal with pokes, tacos, small plates, issues like that. It’s very near Cruz Bay the place a whole lot of the vacationers come via. It’s a bit extra informal.

The opposite sister restaurant is on St. Thomas, the Easterly, and it’s much more upscale. Coursed-out dinners, a wood-fire grill. They do these massive steaks, these large grilled lobsters, grilled complete fish. After we opened up the Longboard right here on Sullivan’s, the aim was to fuse these two ideas. So we now have the identical kitchen because the Easterly with a wood-fired grill, a giant open-flame oven, a giant 12-top vary, and all of the gear you could possibly probably want. We took all these grill influences from the Easterly and a few of that lighter, contemporary, tropical vibe from the Longboard and put them collectively.

Photograph: Sarah Swan.

I went all the way down to the Virgin Islands each different week for about 4 months, so I used to be there quite a bit. I spent a whole lot of time within the kitchens, studying what they do and a few of their techniques so far as administration and ordering goes. I additionally crammed some gaps every time their chef or a line prepare dinner was out of city. Then we did a whole lot of menu analysis and growth. I labored with their recipes first to see what they have been working with, and I labored with the merchandise. I took over the specials after I was down there so I might get my toes moist utilizing sure components. We did some journeys across the island, a whole lot of consuming and researching, then some picture shoots to conceptualize the meals itself. That’s how I spent all my time—simply immersing myself within the space over the course of 4 months.

We needed to reverse-engineer the menu just a bit bit. We’d begin with a dish, whether or not or not it’s a Lowcountry dish or another dish, after which add that Caribbean taste to it. We needed to tailor gadgets to suit the area. For instance, we do that nice inexperienced curry mussel toast. You’ll see curries pop up over there quite a bit. It might have been a French mussel dish, which is what we began with, however we added our personal transfer to it. We have been consuming lunch subsequent door at Home Team BBQ sooner or later, and we have been consuming a marinated cucumber and tomato salad that you just see right here within the South on a regular basis. We thought, what if it was a cucumber and mango salad with crimson onions and herbs and that very same type of taste profile? We begin with dishes that we all know and suppose that individuals would get pleasure from, then add that little additional factor that ties it again into the menu and the islands.

Photograph: Sarah Swan.

Charleston and the US Virgin Islands are trafficked quite a bit by boat, which influences which components can be found. We observed on our journeys that a whole lot of the meals they eat on the islands is workingman’s meals—rice and beans, braised and stewed meats, and massive, daring flavors. They use a ton of pork. The greens are cooked fairly robust. It has parallels to what you’d get with any type of old-school Charleston cooking. We make grits right here, they make cornmeal porridge. There’s undoubtedly a whole lot of similarities. They’ve a better plethora of tropical fruits and issues that they develop in that space, however typically talking, a whole lot of the methods are actually comparable. We went to a spot that was doing salt cod empanadas with yellow curry in them. And it’s the identical factor in Charleston, with, say, Nation Captain, a dish that options curry as effectively.

Actually, I used to be anticipating the native meals on the islands to be a bit bit completely different. I wasn’t anticipating it to be these workingman’s braises. I used to be anticipating every thing to be quite a bit lighter. And so they do make the most of a whole lot of ceviches and issues which have come from the encompassing islands. I used to be actually shocked at how a lot of a melting pot it was of various stuff. We have been shocked after we began consuming at these native spots how comparable they have been to Lowcountry delicacies.

Photograph: Sarah Swan.

Lowcountry delicacies relies on what grows within the space right here in South Carolina. Plenty of rice, beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and issues that develop rather well right here. The Lowcountry has a whole lot of land, so that you’ll get a whole lot of completely different proteins, whereas on the islands they really have quite a bit much less land for proteins and massive crops. So a ton of pork, numerous sluggish braises, very veggie centric.

Our menu is a fusion of the 2. Loads of stuff that you just may not suppose goes collectively finally ends up going collectively fairly effectively. We’ve got a strawberry and avocado salad proper now. The strawberries are native, however the avocados should not. They use a ton of avocados down there within the islands. They’re a lot nearer to the supply. We simply incorporate that in there.

There’s a whole lot of shortages occurring throughout the business. Issues will simply type of disappear—issues that you just wouldn’t suppose are regular. There have been months after we couldn’t get cream cheese. We have been ordering halved pecans the opposite week, and the distributors have been like, “Nope, all we now have are these little tiny items of pecans.” I referred to as completely different purveyors and none of them had it. Worth will increase are undoubtedly a giant factor proper now. Plenty of purveyors are tacking on additional supply charges and fuel charges, so you need to discover a method to navigate round that, whether or not it’s a distinct meat or a distinct protein or a distinct purveyor or somebody who’s nearer.

Some options contain going to Costco. Most purveyors such as you to stay with them, however we’ve needed to department out and go looking for components and issues that individuals can’t discover. Generally you could find what you want on Amazon, whether or not it’s yuzu paste or yuzu juice or one thing type of random.

Photograph: Sarah Swan.

On the entire, it’s a brand new restaurant on Sullivan’s Island. If we take a look at our analytics, we get a ton of walk-in site visitors, however we do have buyer base that’s eaten in our eating places within the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands—this was unknown to me earlier than I began with an organization—are a fairly common place to go on trip, particularly because you don’t want a passport. It’s fairly simple to get there, a four-hour flight. There’s lots of people who are available and are like, “I’m so excited to do this place as a result of I ate on the one within the Virgin Islands.” There’s not a ton of eating places on these islands, particularly St. John. In the event that they’re in that space, they might most likely find yourself stopping at our spot at the very least as soon as. However there are undoubtedly a whole lot of new individuals who had no concept. I believe the title type of speaks for it. We’re on the seaside, we’re on Sullivan’s Island, we’re referred to as the Longboard. It offers you a bit little bit of an concept of what you’re in for.

A part of the explanation I’ve stayed on the island is since you get a fairly set buyer base. There’s not as a lot competitors round. It looks as if every time one thing closes for good, one thing higher pops up in its area. So yeah, the moratorium completely works in our favor. There’s solely a lot out right here. We love that about Sullivan’s Island. We hope that they don’t permit extra eating places.

The restaurant that I used to be the chef de delicacies at for seven years is correct down the road, so I nonetheless keep in contact with them. They pop over and borrow issues each once in a while. Two those that I used to work with on the Obstinate Daughter, they simply opened up a restaurant referred to as Sullivan’s Fish Camp proper down the road.

Photograph: Sarah Swan.

So far as competitors goes, the ideas which can be out listed here are all pretty completely different. We’ve got a barbecue place. We’ve bought Poe’s, which is a burger place, and the Obstinate Daughter is pastas and pizza. After which we do that Caribbean small-plate-forward menu. Nothing’s actually the identical. Earlier than we head to work, typically we pop all the way down to the co-op and seize a sandwich, or after we get off of labor we head up the road to Mex 1 and dangle on the market. Or if you happen to’re in the course of the day, you pop over to Home Team and have lunch and chat. So all of those folks hand around in one another’s eating places and bars. It undoubtedly has vibe to it. We’ve bought a whole lot of associates on the island. There’s a textual content thread between all of the restaurant homeowners on the island as effectively. It’s undoubtedly its personal little neighborhood of those that work out right here.

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