Earlier this year, Charleston chef BJ Dennis relocated to Bluffton to become the culinary director at Lowcountry Fresh Market and Cafe, but now that the establishment is up and running smoothly, Dennis and his family will move back in 2022 with some intriguing projects on the horizon.
The Post and Courier reports that Dennis will lead the food program for the cafe at Charleston’s forthcoming International African American Museum (IAAM). He will create a menu based on his Gullah Geechee heritage. Before moving to Bluffton, Dennis would often host Gullah Geechee pop-ups around Charleston and catered with many of the same dishes.
The Gullah Geechee community are local descendants of West Africans brought to South Carolina as slaves. Many Charleston recipes undisputedly owe a debt of gratitude to the influence of slaves forced into the kitchens and rice fields early in the city’s history. These families worked with products from the marshlands and sea to create many dishes that have become synonymous with Southern cooking, like okra stew or shrimp and grits.
In addition to his work with IAAM, Dennis is creating a recipe book and working towards his goal of opening a Gullah Geechee restaurant. When asked about his return to Chalreston, Dennis says, “... keeping the culture of the Lowcountry alive is important and necessary. Gullah Geechee is the heartbeat and soul of the Lowcountry culture.”