Eater interviewed chef Andy Henderson to discuss the perfect storm that will be Edmund's Oast, Charleston's newest downtown brewpub set to open in December.
How did get your start in the kitchen?
I started off as a kid at the Boathouse at Isle of Palms at 14 years old. A few of my friends worked there as dishwashers, and I thought that $8 an hour was awesome; so I lied about my age to get a job. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was sous chef.
And from there ? ?
I went to FIG, after it had been open a year. I started out on salads there and became sous chef after four years. I learned more at FIG than I had anywhere else at the time, but I still wanted to try something new. I planned to stay in San Francisco for a few months, but ended up at Local Mission Eatery for over three years and became chef de cuisine there. My job included a visit to the farmer's market every morning, where 100% of the restaurant's produce came from. I got really into vegetables.
What brought you back to Charleston and to Edmund's Oast?
Julia [Julia Ingram, Henderson's girlfriend and owner of gluten-free Sweet Radish Bakeshop] really fell in love with Charleston on vacation. My parents still live here, and we came back to visit twice. After we landed back here from San Francisco, we thought that we'd kind of hang out and just cook somewhere. Jeremiah Bacon introduced me to Scott [Shor] and Rich [Carley]. At the time, I wasn't sure about the Edmund's gig. It all seemed so fast, but Julia said, "You should commit to that." And here we are. It was the right decision.
So when Edmund's Oast takes over the world?
It's all because of Julia [laughs].
Can you talk about Edmund's menu?
We'll have atypical bar snacks, small plates and entrees. The small plates make up the largest part of the menu, because we want lots of things to share so that folks can try more of what we have to offer. We're going for family style without family style food. We want to keep the focus on plating. A sample menu would include a super simple shellfish dish, a vegetarian dish, but then a creative take on something like fries. We have to have fries. We're a brewpub.
Julia is gluten intolerant. Will the Edmund's menu have gluten-free options?
Each section of the menu will have gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options in addition to meat and pescatarian options. Living in San Francisco, I have never been more aware of different types of diets and eaters. There's an option in every section - snack, entrée or something to share ? small, medium or large.
What about veggies?
There's a whole world of vegetables out there. When you're a vegetarian, the worst thing is to see at a restaurant is soup, veggie plates and salad—that's so boring to me. It's easy to make pork belly taste good. But to get a customer to talk about the carrots, that's a challenge. And that's what I want to do that here, in addition to showcasing the awesome meats we have access to. We don't have limitations at Edmund's.
What would you say is the focus of the kitchen?
It's all about showcasing the ingredients and taking simple food to the next level. I'm talking with local farms and fishermen from my time at FIG and am working toward custom-grown veggies from Bo Collins of Sol Haven Farm and Jim Martin of Compost in My Shoe in Johns Island. I've already started our charcuterie program; we're discussing guinea hogs from Revival Foods in Georgia this spring, among other things; we'll get chicken from Keegan Farms and our fish from Mark Marhefka.
Will you be working with brewer Cameron Read on menu items?
We'll definitely have a daily dialog; we're not necessarily designing beer to go with the food, but we'll be working together.
Eater only had access to Henderson's fall menu at this time, and his reliance on seasonal produce made it obsolete. Winter menu to come.