By Helen Mitternight
(Editors Note: Charleston is such a foodie town that food and beverage superstars are hiding in plain sight, out of the James Beard limelight, but still very much creating and serving amazing food and drinks. This series profiles Charleston’s “hidden F&Bs.”)
When April Robinson closed her beloved Butter Tapas restaurant last December after five years, she wasn’t sure she wanted to cook again. She was burned out from the long hours, from the financial stress, and from her father’s terminal illness. But, lately, the joy has been coming back and she has been doing some pop-ups of her Southern food with a global influence.
Robinson was part of the last graduating class of Johnson & Wales when it was in Charleston. She will say she’s still learning to cook, but her education began with watching her grandmother, with listening to her restaurant-owner father talk food, or with “throwing something in the oven” for her mother.
Favorite Kitchen Tool or Gadget: I guess a knife should come first, but I have to say my stand mixer. I guess I still have a little bit of love for baking.
In My Refrigerator (3 Things): Orange juice, avocadoes, unsalted butter.
In My Pantry (3 Things): Kosher salt, olive oil, brown sugar.
Favorite After-work Hangout: 167 Raw, but I don’t really hang out. I just eat out.
Favorite Charleston Restaurant Other Than Yours: The Ordinary for the customer service and the consistency. And I do crave Nana’s (Seafood and Soul) garlic crab.
Comfort Food: Spaghetti and meatballs made with ground turkey.
Favorite Smell: Lavender.
Favorite Drink: An old-fashioned with extra cherries.
Number of Hours You Work a Week: When I had the restaurant, it was 13-14 hours a day, five days a week. Now I have no schedule, no alarm clock.
Customer Pet Peeve: When they come in 10 minutes before we close.
Most Under-rated Ingredient: Salt. Sometimes, the tiniest little bit can help. And fresh herbs and spices. They add so much flavor and help bring out the natural flavors of the star ingredient.
Favorite Meal to Cook at Home: I cook whatever I feel like eating. I don’t have a go-to.
Best Advice a Mentor Gave You: I guess that would be my mom. It’s not her quote, but it’s “Nothing beats a failure but a try.”
Find April’s pop-up schedule on Instagram at eattolive.livetoeat.
Photos by Ferris Kaplan