Charleston’s culinary scene is a diverse ecosystem full of chefs, beverage professionals, farmers, and others who contribute to our city’s internationally-renowned community. Our Lowcountry Limelight series highlights members of this community and their unique role in the continued success of Charleston’s hospitality industry.
For our first installment, we sat down with Candice Townsend, the creative force behind Charleston Food Writer and author of Provisions to Plate: A Charleston Seasonal Collective. Blending her love for food with her passion for storytelling, Candice embarked on an 18-month journey to bring to life the farm-to-table process. Find out more about her journey and learn about some of the unique people who make up Charleston’s culinary community, including a delicious recipe from chef Jacques Larson of The Obstinate Daughter.
How did you get your start as a food blogger?
I began blogging at the same time that I started my social media channels as a creative outlet because I LOVE food! I grew up visiting the local farmers market with my grandparents, gardening at home, cooking with my family and as a adult- I greatly enjoy dining out and trying new things. I was being asked regularly for recommendations from my clients and friends about where to go, what to order, and personal suggestions about what were the latest hot spots to check out! So, I decided to put all my recommendations in one place- a blog! I never imagined that it would gain traction and lead to a career change as a professional writer, content creator, photographer and creative marketing strategist.
What inspired you to write a book?
Charleston has an amazing bounty of great cookbooks, coffee table books and reference guides, but I hadn’t seen a book that took components from each of those categories and put them all together in one place. I love reading articles about peoples’ lives, learning what fuels their passion, and understanding how they’ve built their businesses. I wanted to create a book that shared stories about the people who are growing, harvesting, fishing, and making our food. Along with telling their stories, I thought there needed to be strong imagery that transported the reader onto the water, into the fields, and in the kitchens of some of our most recognized and respected farmers, fishermen and chefs. Our food scene is strong, abundant, and amazing because of the dedication to producing high quality products and being good stewards of the water and land.
What was the biggest lesson you learned during the book-writing process?
After devoting 18 months to this project, I learned many things- enough to write another dozen more books if I could! However, the greatest thing I’ve realized was something I’ve always known, but it became so much more clear and evident: in order for small farms & local fishing companies to survive, the community by which they are surrounded must support them and actively and regularly choose to be purposeful in their purchasing habits and source from these companies on a regular basis. Sometimes that means choosing the less convenient path for the greater purpose. ‘Buying less, but better quality’ are words we actively strive to live for in our home!
What was it like interacting with not only the chefs, but also the farmers and purveyors who produce the ingredients that inspire their dishes?
I love every single person that was featured in my book so very much. After spending several years meeting such a great group of people inside the industry, I wanted to make a book that took aspects of all of the things I love about our food community and share the story of what it takes to grow and make a great plate of food- the process from beginning to end. I wanted the words to have faces and offer a rare and beautiful glimpse into a carefully selected group of people who could each offer a different perspective. I featured 20 fantastic contributors, 35+ recipes, and a seasonal perspective of what the Lowcountry looks like, tastes like, and feels like.
How is the book a reflection of Charleston’s growing culinary community?
I think that Charleston is a unique place. We are in the south, specifically the Lowcountry, and there are deep food roots that run through these parts. Traditional grains, like rice and grits, are being recreated and turned into innovative, new, and exciting dishes! There is a deep sense of pride, love, and tradition that will never go away from staple foods that have been enjoyed here for many generations. But, we live in a time where they are reinvented and changed and new cuisines from other parts of the country and world are being introduced and interwoven into this food dialogue. It’s been given a new voice. Chefs move here from all over the world and bring with them their own traditions and style which, collectively, is melding to make what today’s current food scene looks like. I love seeing the evolution.
Do you have a favorite recipe from the book?
One of my favorite recipes from the book was the Shrimp Bucatini created by Jacques Larson (Executive Chef from the Wild Olive and The Obstinate Daughter). It is simple, flavorful, and the perfect summer go-to-recipe. Using local shrimp, basil, tomatoes, garlic, peppers and lemon- it embodies so much of what makes summer food so delicious.
Bucatini with Shrimp, Tomatoes, Basil and Fresno’s
(Makes 4 Servings)
4 Cloves thinly sliced garlic
¼C Olive Oil
¼C Sliced Fresno’s (or 1 teaspoon chili flakes)
1 lb Cleaned, De-Veined and Halved SC White Shrimp
1 lb Bucatini
2C Halved Cherry Tomatoes
1/8C Lemon Juice
½C Picked/Torn Basil Leaves
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Method of Preparation:
Bring 6 qt of water to a boil in a small stock pot on the stove with 2T of salt.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat 1/8C olive oil on the stove top. Add garlic and Fresno’s. Sauté the garlic until the garlic just begins to brown. Then add the shrimp. Once the shrimp begins to turn pink, add about ½C of the pasta water and tomatoes and turn off the heat. Set Aside.
Cook the bucatini in the salted boiling water until al dente (about 10 min) and drain. Toss the pasta in with the shrimp, tomatoes, and Fresno’s. Reheat the pasta in the pan over moderate heat. Once the pasta sauce begins to tighten and the pasta water reduces, add the butter and lemon juice. Reduce to coat the noodles. Add the basil and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Divide the pasta/shrimp among 4 pasta bowls. Serve while still warm.