by Charlotte Cusano
Last week, one week after the tragic and sudden death of Le Farfalle Sous Chef Drew Tursi, I sat down with Drew’s fellow chef and dear friend Michael Toscano to discuss a life worthy of celebration.
Michael, executive chef and owner of Le Farfalle, explained that he and Drew immediately became friendly when they met at dinner they cooked with Ken Vedrinski at Trattoria Lucca two years ago for Charleston Wine + Food. Drew was working at Coda Del Pesce at the time and was about to embark on a six month trip to Italy to immerse himself in the language and culture. Upon his return from The Boot, Drew reached out to Michael and became an essential part of the beginning stages of Charleston’s highly celebrated Italian restaurant, Le Farfalle. “While working closely with him, he became one of my best friends,” Michael fondly recalled, reminiscing about their experiences creating recipes for the restaurant together in Michael’s home kitchen. Drew, Michael, and the other Sous Chef, Matt Harubin, all worked together on the project of building Le Farfalle from its very beginnings.
Michael explained the energy that Drew brought to the kitchen. “He was just so light-hearted. Any kind of criticism or me pushing him to be better, he took so well and was able to always have such a positive attitude. He was a great leader for the rest of the guys. He wore his heart on his sleeve. And when I say that I mean that he always knew how he felt about you. He was very affectionate. He always told people how he felt. If a woman came into the restaurant and they looked pretty or if he liked their shirt, he would tell them immediately. Not a lot of people do that. He was a very open, very friendly amazing dude.” Michael elaborated by expressing that Drew was loved by so many people. He loved to go out, eat, enjoy the small pleasures of life, and most of all, cultivate his incredible friendships. Michael continued, “He took the time to ask how you were doing. It didn’t matter who you were - he would strike up a conversation.” Drew inherited these wonderful characteristics from his father, who has been a frequent visitor and constant supporter of Le Farfalle. The father and son are certainly considered an essential part of the Le Farfalle family.
Outside of work, Drew loved to socialize and take the boat out on the water with his dad. “He loved food,” Michael recollected. He explained that Drew was passionate about cooking, but also about eating delicious food. When asked about whether Drew had a favorite dish, Michael told me it was hard to say; however, one thing to note about Drew’s tastes is that he did not discriminate against food for its level of cuisine. While Drew certainly enjoyed high cuisine, he was never too proud to discuss, for example, one’s favorite order at Arby’s.
“He was the best. He was a very cool guy. More importantly than just enjoying working with him, I enjoyed being around him. Period.” Of course, losing Drew would have been a big loss regardless of the circumstances, but Michael commented that it was “a huge loss for so many people because we all loved him and we all loved being around him.”
My final question for Michael was whether there was anything else he would like to share about his friend that the Charleston community should remember him for. Michael stated in the most positive way that Drew took a lot of risks. He was never afraid to do what he needed to do to become a great chef and a successful person. Born and raised in Westport, CT, Drew moved to Charleston after working for Louis Osteen in Pawley’s Island. Here in Charleston, he linked up with Ken Vedrinski, worked at Sienna, and rose to Sous Chef at Trattoria Lucca. Drew then spent some time in New York City working for Missy Robbins at the 1-Michelin starred, A Voce. Drew moved back to Charleston to be the Sous Chef at Vedrinski’s second restaurant Coda Del Pesce. He embarked on his journey to Italy and came back just in time to be a major part of the creation of Le Farfalle. Drew was always willing to do things that others might have been too cautious to do. During our meeting in the lovely Le Farfalle on a sunny March afternoon, Michael’s final words on Drew were, “You rest easy knowing that even though he lived a short life, Drew did it right. He did everything he wanted to do at that moment. No regrets. Life can be long. It can be short. It can be taken from you at any moment, but if you live the way Drew lived - you can be proud of it.”
Cheers to the life and memory of the remarkable Sous Chef, friend, and son, Drew Tursi.