Lowcountry Cuisine in the Spotlight at MenuDirections

Conference looks at unique flavors & foods of the Carolinas.

Any visitor to Charleston, S.C., is likely to be exposed to the region’s celebrated Lowcountry cuisine. Attendees of MenuDirections got a full immersion, starting with an overview of the signature ingredients and flavors from chef Mike Ellis, followed by an actual taste at his restaurant, A.W. Shuck's, one of three standout local places included in the conference’s Dine-Around.

As Ellis explained to the 250 foodservice professionals in attendance, Lowcountry cuisine is “perhaps the first true regional cuisine,” extending back to colonial days. It reflects “many early influences, including Indian and European,” he noted.

Those cooking styles and flavors were further influenced by the West African touches and techniques that slaves brought with them to the New World, yielding dishes that remain the cuisine’s staples.

Ellis provided a quick overview of commonly used ingredients, which include rice; corn, served both on the cob and ground into flour or grits; oysters, “so plentiful in the low country that oyster roasts have become as common as the backyard barbecue”; fried green tomatoes; and “the holy trinity” of peppers, onions and celery.

Attendees sampled a number of those components during the Drive-Around. Ellis, for example, served a gumbo made with local creek shrimp and other seafood.

Fleet’s Landing provided hefty samples of shrimp and grits, a traditional breakfast now served by many Carolina restaurants and households for dinner as well. It also served a hush puppy stuffed with seafood.

High Cotton, part of Charleston’s Maverick Southern Kitchens restaurant group, provided what one chef-attendee described as highly refined southern specialties, like pickled cauliflower and pork rillettes, a pate-like dish.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
health food medicine stethoscope

For the last two years, Chris Studtmann has jockeyed between Northwestern University’s residential dining halls and athletic training tables in his role of executive chef, trying to meet the health and food preferences of both sides. Now, his team is taking best practices developed for the sports teams to the 20,000-plus student population, working with dietitians from the school’s contract company to better sync healthy menu choices with lifestyle needs.

Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report shows younger consumers are especially tuned in to functional foods that...

Ideas and Innovation
trail mix

We’ve added fueling stations in our units for our workers who didn’t have time to eat or just need a snack. We have areas set up with trail mix, crackers, cookies and water. It helps us avoid people feeling or getting ill, especially when we get closer to exam periods and student workers are studying and not taking the time to eat.

Menu Development
quinoa bowl

In a time of growing health consciousness, it might not be enough anymore for food to be merely filling. According to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report , diners are looking for food with a function, such as those with high protein content, immunity-boosting properties, antioxidants, probiotics and more. The data suggests 63% of consumers see these foods as healthier than those without any specific nutritional function—and would be more likely to buy them.

But are those stated preferences translating on an operational level? There, the answer is less clear. Baby...

Ideas and Innovation
reusable coffee cup thermos

We were inspired by a book titled “Influence” to start a sustainable cup program called My Cup. All 15,000 new students receive a reusable cup with their name on it, which they can use at the dining halls. Personalizing helps them invest in the program and actually use it.

FSD Resources