Southern to the Bone
Chef Sean Brock’s latest venture might just be the ultimate in Dixie dining
Writing about a restaurant before it opens is a treacherous enterprise. The journalist, drawing on interviews and breathless PR promises, runs the risk of coming off like a shill for the restaurant. And the chef, still in the throes of translating grand ideas into executable dishes, runs the risk of delivering an opening-day experience that is far different from the press-time concept. With those caveats top-of-mind, you should know about Husk, a high-concept restaurant with a chalkboard menu that promises, once and for all, to get Southern cuisine right.
Set in a two-story antebellum home, with deep front galleries and a wood-burning oven at the center, Husk opens this November on Queen Street in Charleston, South Carolina. On chef Sean Brock’s menu will be dishes like cornmeal-dusted Mississippi catfish with jowl bacon, pickled peppers, and pole bean salad. And sunny-side-up farm eggs with ham hock broth. And South Carolina shrimp and Choppee okra stew with Carolina Gold rice. And heritage chicken with buttermilk dumplings, braised garden celery, and carrots. This will be the second restaurant for Brock, who continues in his role as executive chef at McCrady’s, the Charleston fine-dining sanctuary where George Washington once supped. Brock has been at the McCrady’s helm for five years now; from that prow, he won a 2010 James Beard award for Best Chef: Southeast.
Born in Wise, Virginia, an Appalachian coalfield town, Brock, thirty-two, earned his reputation while still in his twenties, working in a genre known as molecular gastronomy. Detractors and acolytes alike knew him then as a wild-eyed human pinball, a young man with a deft skillet hand, a voracious intellect, and a hollow leg for whiskey. Aided by a command of food science and a working knowledge of the chemical processes at the core of cookery, he conceived flights of fancy like foie gras marshmallow terrines, infused with licorice. And country ham cotton candy, made by spinning rendered pork fat and sugar into a tangle of angel-haired porcine filament. Back then, Brock cooked with a wink, a nod, and a flourish. One bite into that terrine, you could almost feel his elbow in your ribs. Two bites into that cotton candy, you could conjure him standing in the back corner of the kitchen, grinning a Jack Nicholson grin.