Ken Vedrinski is the executive chef, owner and sommelier of Trattoria Lucca, his quaint restaurant in downtown Charleston, SC that showcases his heritage and passion for Italian fare. The three-time James Beard Award semifinalist has found his niche in Charleston, a coastal city rich with fresh bounty from the land and sea, and a long way from land-locked Columbus, Ohio where he was born.
Vedrinski grew up cooking in his Italian grandmother’s kitchen under her passion-infused tutelage. Embracing his culinary heritage, Vedrinski embarked on food-fueled expeditions to Italy in search of the most authentic ingredients, olive oils and wines. His journeys eventually took him to Lucca in Western Tuscany, which he claims to be the home of the best olive oil in the world.
Named for the beloved olive oil, Vedrinski opened his first solely owned restaurant, Trattoria Lucca, in 2008. Located on the Charleston peninsula, Lucca was quickly hailed as “Charleston’s Best New Restaurant,” by Charleston City Paper in 2008 and was a semi-finalist for “Best New Restaurant,” in the 2009 James Beard Awards. The modestly priced, Trattoria Lucca showcases Lowcountry fish and produce prepared with an Italian influence, along with imported Italian cheese, sausage, olive oil, Italian wines, olives, and on-site baked ciabatta. Family-style suppers are offered each Monday (which earned him “editor’s choice” from Charleston magazine, as well as, “best pasta” and “Charleston’s next top chef”). Most recently, Vedrinski was honored as a 2011 James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast.
Vedrinski’s Italian journeys also inspired him to open Enoteca, a small wine and cheese bar, in the summer of 2010. Located a block from Trattoria Lucca, Enoteca serves as a quaint sister location to Lucca, as its authentic selection of Southern Italian wines and cheeses create the perfect ambiance for his restaurant regulars.
Vedrinski’s culinary career began with a degree in restaurant management from Columbus College and a three-year apprenticeship under Certified Master Chef Hartmut Handke. Years later, Vedrinski was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University.
His first stint as an executive chef was at the acclaimed Opus Restaurant in the former Swissôtel Atlanta, where his talent was quickly lauded when Opus was named “One of the Best New Restaurants in America (1991),” by Esquire magazine. Vedrinski was an early adopter of the practice and promotion of farm to table freshness as he heralded Georgia homegrown foods, landing him a spot on The Today Show.
Vedrinski also served as executive chef at The Restaurant at the Woodlands Inn & Resort in Summerville, SC, where he earned the only Mobile Five-Stars awarded to a South Carolina restaurant and his cuisine received the only perfect food score in North America by Condé Nast Traveler. Vedrinski later co-owned and operated Sienna Restaurant, his first professional commitment to exclusively Italian cuisine. Once again, Esquire magazine took notice with yet another, “One of the Best New American Restaurants (2004),” designations, and Vedrinski