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This year’s Cook it Raw came to a close with a celebration of all things smoke and fire at the sold out BBQ Perspectives public event. Bowen’s Island Restaurant, better known for its heaping piles of oysters, spare accommodations and incomparable view was turned into a global grilling village with teams of chefs both international and Charleston’s finest churning out their own interpretation of open flame cuisine with the most elemental cooking style leading way to some of the most modern––and delicious––dishes the city has ever seen. It was a memorable sendoff to what can only be described as an unforgettable week.

Last night’s epic Cook it Raw Charleston dinner brought the cultures and flavors of the Lowcountry to the plate. Now in the history books–and certainly soon to be preserved in future coffee table books–what transpired will likely go down as one of the greatest assemblages of internationally acclaimed chefs on US soil in recent memory. The final perfectly executed dishes hardly tell the story of the amount of inspiration, perspiration and sheer coordination that took place behind the scenes. A few hours before the kitchen craziness dialed up to 11, we cruised around McCrady’s, the site of the evening’s event–into every corner, down every hallway, through every seemingly endless kitchen door, even on the rooftop, we encountered unassuming chefs, servers and producers working together in tandem to create something nothing short of amazing.

Here with a peek behind the Cook it Raw curtain (Part I).

(Part II)

 

Our second day tagging along with team Cook it Raw had us up before the dawn, heading two hours south of Charleston, close to the Georgia borderline, to Turnbridge Plantation for an epic immersion into Lowcountry living filled with foraging, rice harvesting and alligator hunting (yes, alligator hunting) culminating in an afternoon feast comprised only of things caught and found.

Here’s what we saw.  .  .


1. Sunrise breakfast cooked straight on the campfire.

2. Chef Alex Stupak of Empellon in New York City manning the grits, eggs, bacon and pork belly stations.

3. Chefs JP McMahon and Sean Brock sifting through fields of Carolina Gold Rice.

4. Chefs Ben Shewry, Dan Barber, Sasu Laukkonen and Anson Mills Founder, Glenn Roberts, bringing back the morning’s haul.

5. Chef Eric Werner of Hartwood in Tulum, Mexico breaking down a whole white tail deer.

6. Chef Phil Wood of Rockpool in Sydney separating grains from their husks with a modern Japanese rice milling machine.

7. Chefs Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady’s in Charleston and Nashville and April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig, The Breslin, Salvation Taco and The John Dory in New York City doing it the old-fashioned way.

8. Freshly foraged wild flowers

9. Sean Brock carefully skinning the catch of the day, an 8 ft. speckled aligator.

10. Wild bay leaf scented Carolina Gold Rice, from field to fork in under 5 hours.

Nothing brings people together quite like a potluck. The evening meal following the first full day of Cook it Raw Charleston did that and then some, introducing this years participants to the foodways of the Lowcountry as brought to life by some of its finest chefs, artisans and culinary thinkers and encouraging them to take in the sights, sounds and flavors of one of the country’s most unique cuisines.

Fresh Crab Claws by local favorite the Glass Onion harvested from nearby waters just hours before led way to a crispy skinned pork belly by Cypress Chef Craig Diehl with pots full of sea island red peas and cheesy, pork studded grits and benne seed dressed greens in between.

Context came courtesy of Dr. David Shields of the University of South Carolina who explained from seeds to seasonings the eccentricities that inform Charleston cooking and pondered on how it might be interpreted by those from all over in attendance later in the week.

Stay tuned to our tumblr for more behind-the-scenes from Cook it Raw.