(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.”)
By Helen Mitternight
Melissa Ann Barton escaped to Nashville to join the music business. She also spent some time owning a furniture store and decorating people’s houses, but she always loved food. When a decorating client in Nashville asked her if she could cater, she gulped and said yes. The two-night event involved serving 300 people one night and 200 the next. Melissa Ann jumped in and hasn’t looked back since. Now, she’s in Charleston with some of the products — sauces and rubs — that were the “greatest hits” of her catering days in the music business under the name Mod Squad Martha.
Melissa Ann’s take:
Favorite Kitchen Tool or Gadget: A Smithey Ironware cast iron skillet.
In My Refrigerator (3 Things): Cheese, half and half for coffee — I love coffee — and orange juice, fresh-squeezed.
In My Pantry (3 Things): Really good olive oil, really good vinegar, and beans both dried and canned because you can make a meal out of that.
Favorite After-Work Hangout: That would have to be my porch, staring at the water with a wine or beer.
Favorite Charleston Restaurant: FIG
Comfort Food: Potatoes. I love them every way — scalloped, mashed, French fries, baked.
Favorite Smell: The smell of a Christmas tree because I love Christmas so much.
Favorite Drink: It would be a tie between coffee and beer.
Number of Hours You Work a Week: A minimum of more than 40 and a maximum of around 90.
Customer Pet Peeve: It’s hard for me to find one because I love people so much. But don’t say you hate something. Don’t use ‘hate.’ It’s not my favorite word.
Most Underrated Ingredient: Vinegar. At any given time, you can find at least 12 different kinds in my kitchen. Vinegar and alcohol together. Vinegar brings food to life and elevates ingredients.
Favorite Meal to Cook at Home: Thanksgiving dinner. I cook for three days and sleep like two hours a night. I make everyone’s favorite desserts. I love it.
Best Advice from A Mentor: It was my mother. I was about 12 or 13 and I asked her what “sexy” meant. She looked me right in the eye and she said, “It’s when you like yourself enough to like others.”
For a list of where to find Mod Squad Martha’s products, visit modsquadmartha.com/retailers/
Want more? Check out the companion Hidden F&B podcast with Melissa Ann!