Sean Brock

McCrady's, McCrady's Tavern, Husk | Charleston, SC

Many chefs have their first exposure to cooking at a young age. For Sean Brock, who was born and raised in rural Virginia, it was the experience of his family growing their own food that left a deep impression. “This was a coal field town with no restaurants or stoplights,” he explains. “You grew and cooked everything you ate, so I really saw food in its true form. You cook all day, and when you’re not cooking, you’re preserving. If you were eating, you were eating food from the garden or the basement--it's a way of life.”These were the building blocks that Brock remembered as he began his career as a chef, inspiring a lifelong passion for exploring the roots of Southern food and recreating it by preserving and restoring heirloom ingredients. Leaving Virginia to attend school, Brock landed at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, SC. He began his professional career as chef tournant under Chef Robert Carter at the Mobil Four-Star/AAA Four-Diamond Peninsula Grill in Charleston. After two years at Peninsula Grill, Brock was executive sous chef under Chef Walter Bundy of Lemaire Restaurant at the AAA Five-Diamond Award/ Mobil Five-Star Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, VA.  His success in Richmond led to his promotion within the Elite Hospitality Group in 2003 to executive chef at the AAA Five-Diamond Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, TN. Brock spent just under three years fine tuning his craft in Nashville before accepting a position as executive chef at McCrady’s Restaurant. Shortly after his return to Charleston, Brock began the development of a 2.5-acre farm on Wadmalaw Island.  “While I was growing there, I began dabbling in resurrecting and growing crops that were at risk of extinction, suchas those indigenous to this area pre-Civil War,” he says. These experiments led Brock to become a passionate advocate for seed preservation and he has worked closely with Dr. David Shields and Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills, studying 19th century Southern cookbooks--which Brock collects— to educate himself on Southern food history and discover new ways to resurrect antebellum cuisine. He also cares deeply about the way animals are treated before they become food on the table and sources heritage breeds of livestock for his restaurants. He has even raised his own herd of pigs.  In November 2010, Brock opened his second restaurant with the Neighborhood Dining Group. Husk, justdown the street from McCrady’s, is a celebration of Southern ingredients, only serving food that is indigenous to the South. “If it ain’t Southern, it ain’t walkin’ in the door,” Brock says. The emphasis at Husk is on the ingredients and the people who grow them, and a large chalkboard lists artisanal products currently provisioning the kitchen.  Working with local purveyors and vendors has had a great impact on his cooking, and the menu changes twice daily based on what is the freshest that day. “Gone are the days of a chef sitting in the kitchen creating recipes and then picking up the phone to order food from wherever it needs to come from,” he says. “At Husk, we might get three suckling pigs, three whole lambs, half a cow, and upwards of 450 pounds of fish, as well as mountains of vegetables.  We only take it when it’s ready, so it shows up and we have to start piecing the recipes together; it’s like a puzzle every day.”