By Helen Mitternight
Photos by Ferris Kaplan
(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.”)
Sarah Baugher (pronounced Bock-er) started as a dishwasher, but she says cooking was in her blood since her father used to be a chef. Baugher grew up in Atlanta but came to South Carolina to get a hospitality degree at the University of South Carolina. She worked her way through various front-of-house positions during college and got a job right out of school at the Motor Supply Company Bistro in Columbia. She moved to Charleston and formed an immediate bond with chef Nate Whiting, joining him at 492 and following him to Juliet, his casual Italian place on King St, where she was named co-chef de cuisine (“Be sure to put the ‘co’ in there, it’s important to acknowledge Greg [Kurtzman, the other chef de cuisine],” she says).
Although she’s loyal to her “co” and to Whiting, whom she says has a hysterically funny side that most people don’t see, she does hope to eventually open her own place. “Maybe a little restaurant with live music,” she says before shrugging, “although the vision changes a little each year.”
Favorite Kitchen Tool or Gadget: My cake tester, which ironically is not all that good for testing cake. In a kitchen, a lot of things break and it’s a good tool to get in small spaces. It’s also good to tell if food is hot.
In My Refrigerator (3 Things): Unsalted butter, some sort of milk or cream because I can’t do black coffee. And either mustard or eggs. I don’t keep a lot at home because I usually eat at work.
In My Pantry (3 Things): Coffee beans for sure, hot sauce, potatoes.
Favorite After-work Hangout: My house or somewhere low-key. I’m a homebody and I live with one of my best friends and a smorgasbord of animals. I like to have a glass of wine and cuddle with the entire zoo.
Favorite Charleston Restaurant Other Than Yours: Xiao Bao Biscuit. It’s consistently so fricking good. It’s not super-pretentious, not super-expensive.
Comfort Food: Definitely Italian food. And at-home breakfast food.
Favorite Smell: Coffee for sure. Also a wood burning fire, cinnamon. Basically, anything that smells like a holiday.
Favorite Drink: Coffee. Are you sensing a theme here? Alcohol-wise, I like red wine.
Number of Hours You Work a Week: 55-60.
Customer Pet Peeve: When people season their food before even tasting it.
Most Under-rated Ingredient: Vinegar. I’m a big fan of acidity and a lot of times if food tastes flat, a splash of acid helps out a lot. Also, parsley. Italian flat-leaf parsley. A parsley salad? That shit’s good. It’s the peasant of herbs.
Favorite Meal to Cook at Home: Hash browns and eggs. I eat it when I have money, I eat it when I don’t have money. I’m a big fan of breakfast for dinner…what do you call that? Brinner?
Best Advice a Mentor Gave You: It was my dad. When I first called and told him I was going to cook, he said, “Just remember, nobody in this industry is indispensable” It’s harsh but realistic. It keeps you humble to know that you can be replaced at any time.
Juliet is at 654 King Street. 11:30 am – 5 pm for lunch; 5 pm – 10 pm for dinner; brunch Sunday 11:30 am – 3 pm