In the midst of the working-dog demos, falcon-flight shows, fly-casting lessons, and ecology talks at Charleston’s Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (February 14–16), you’ll always find a crowd—and delicious aromas wafting from the on-stage kitchen—at the CertifiedSC Tent in Marion Square. Curated by authors and local culinary experts Ted Lee and Matt Lee in partnership with South Carolina’s Department of Agriculture, the event welcomes dozens of chefs, caterers, cooks, and food authorities to the stage alongside their favorite farmers, fishers, or other Palmetto State ingredient suppliers. “This highlights the bounties to be grown and harvested in South Carolina and the different ways food makes it to the public,” Ted says.
Among the matchups this year: Chef Shamil Velazquez of Charleston’s Delaney Oyster House with Josh Eboch of Barrier Island Oyster Co.; Tania Cienfuegos Harris of the Lazy Goat in Greenville with her citrus supplier Stan McKenzie out of Scranton; and Jessica Shillato from Spotted Salamander in Columbia with David Anderson, an organic blueberry farmer in Branchville, who has introduced beehives to pollinate his crop. On stage, Shillato will use Andersons’ bees’ resin—called propolis—and blueberries to make a salted honey pie with macerated blueberries.
Over the years, the program has brought together many chef-and-purveyor teams with long-established relationships, and others who are meeting for the first time. “We realized the only people who work more than chefs are farmers,” Matt says. “So they often don’t have time to meet.” Cynthia Wong of Charleston’s Life Raft Treats, for instance, only uses Lowcountry Creamery for her whimsical ice cream delicacies, but had never met owner Patrick Myers until last year’s SEWE. “After meeting him here, Cynthia took her kids up to his creamery to get a real insight into how it’s made,” Matt says. Similarly, Shuai Wang of North Charleston’s Jackrabbit Filly took to the water one afternoon last year after becoming friends with the team at Charleston Oyster Farm. “It’s cool to see relationships tighten up in an environment that’s not the backdoor of the kitchen,” says Matt.