Those who held a golden ticket to the first-ever public Cook It Raw event really lucked out. For four hours, Bowens Island was transformed into a wonderland of palatable delights, boozy cocktails and happy chefs. On Saturday, October 26, the hungry hordes began to queue up at the entrance to BBQ Perspectives around 11:00 a.m. Teasing smells of meat-tinted smoke wafted over the crowds, as a few joked about wishing they had brought mimosas for a makeshift tailgate. The line snaked through the woods, and at noon, it was time to see what the culinary minds from far and near had in store for those attending the event.
The entire island was covered with tables of food, cookers, grills and makeshift bars. The Lowcountry contingent of cooks was strong. Coda del Pesce chef Ken Vedrinski offered tastes of smoked wild cobia with melted balsamic cannellini beans, Josh Keeler from Two Boroughs Larder brought veal pastrami with Brussels sprout kraut and Hominy Grill's Robert Stehling had a whole goat "goatchetta." Perhaps one of the most talked about bites of the day was the hay-smoked oysters with wild fennel butter from The Ordinary's chef Mike Lata.
When stopping by the Westbrook Brewing table for a refill, Morgan Westbrook, wife of brewer Ed Westbrook, asked if anyone knew the shirtless chef wandering around. An investigation ensued. On the way to find the half-naked guest, a few more bites were needed, however.
The most lively group of the afternoon had to be "Team Canada." The collective decorated their table with various pelts, maple leaf flags and various paraphernalia pertaining to their home country. Their smoked salmon dish was served on wooden plates, freshly cut from a small log, and the barbecued beef tongue dish was offered up on a hand patted clay dish. It was all very rustic and charming.
Pitmaster Rodney Scott was positioned on the river with his giant smoker. His pulled pork and crispy skins garnered the longest lines for the day, only second to those waiting for a taste of Barcelona chef Albert Adrià's amberjack fish served with pickled onions. Husk/McCrady's chef Sean Brock was hanging out with the Spanish crew and was still in awe of the whirlwind week he had just experienced with the Cook It Raw group. "This is amazing! Can you believe this?" he stated as he took in the sights of all the international and local chefs feeding a happy crowd of over 500 people.
Inside the Bowens Island restaurant, the shirtless man was spotted [it should be noted: he was donning an apron at this point]. It was none other than badboy chef Brandon Baltzley. He was shucking oysters next to an attendee who asked him, "Where are you from? Are you American?" The big "I heart GA" tattoo on his hand should have been a giveaway he was from the South. While Baltzley had some nice things to say about Charleston, he didn't have as many kind words about Eater writers. The word "hate" may have come up? But then attentions were turned to the arrival of actor Bill Murray—he has a home in the Holy City, so he's often spotted out and about. Even a few chefs were heard geeking out over the the Ghostbusters guest.
Food and booze were never lacking during the party and for a first-time event, it was a smashing success. After four hours of eating and drinking, eager attendees repeated the same question, "Can this happen again next year?"
· Bowens Barbecue Blowout [-ECHS-]
· BBQ Perspectives [Official]
· Coda del Pesce [-ECHS-]
· Two Boroughs Larder [-ECHS-]
· Hominy Grill [-ECHS-]
· The Ordinary [-ECHS-]
· Sean Brock [-ECHS-]
· Brandon Baltzley [-EC-]