I’ve contested that it’s hard to find bad food in Charleston, despite what some Yelp reviews may say. Inversely, one may say it’s easier to find good food in Charleston than some other places, and thanks to Louie's Kids’ Little Chef Big Chef event on August 25, there’s some more evidence to support that. Because, I learned in the most delicious way: I can be out-cooked by a teenager.
Louie’s Kids is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting childhood obesity, which affects millions of kids in America. Their annual Little Chef Big Chef is, at its core, a fundraising event where all proceeds go to their cause, thanks to purchased tickets and multiple sponsors such as Whole Foods and Southwest Airlines. Beyond the surface it’s also a testament to the culture and kind of people that populate Charleston, as well the quality eats we’re drawn to around here.
Renowned chef Mike Lata of The Ordinary, where the event took place, was joined by chefs Craig Diehl of Cypress, Marc Collins of Circa 1886, and Michelle Weaver of Charleston Grill who have all been lauded for their culinary prowess. Each chef was paired with a “Little Chef,” a child from the Louie’s Kids program, to bring patrons some amazing dishes that deserve to be on menus around town. Each dish had a beer pairing which was graciously provided by Goose Island and patrons were encouraged to bring home their final Goose Island glass after the dessert.
The spacious locale was quickly filled by eager patrons, and a few words were said as dishes were served promptly to satisfy cravings. A quick change to the menu had Mike Lata and Little Chef Adrian McKinney’s dish up first: A chilled shrimp with sweet corn grits dish that really expanded on the Lowcountry favorite, with a Goose Island “Sofie” beer pairing. It really set a great mood for the upcoming dishes. It was light and pleasing and had this air of “healthy but it feels like I’m cheating on my diet.”
Up second was Marc Collins and Jaylynn Rutledge’s “Steak n’ Broccoli Slider on a Whole Wheat Bun with ‘Nacho Cheese’ Crusted Bliss Fries and Caramelized Onion” with a Honker’s Ale pairing. My burger snobbery was put in its place when this beauty came out. Perfectly cooked and seasoned spectacularly, this satisfying slider was enough to please my burger cravings without filling me up.
The third course by Craig Diehl and Little Chef Reshawn Brown was a “Smoked Beef Shoulder with Tomato Laquer, Edisto Plantation peas, Carolina gold rice and pickled vegetables.” This dish was easy to get lost in, one of those rare times I forget that I’m working and dig in. Despite this, I remembered to take note that it went amazingly well with the Goose Island Matilda.
The final course from Michelle Weaver and Little Chef Jykoria Cuttino was truly one of those top-notch, mind-blowing desserts I’ll talk about with strangers who probably don’t care as much as I do. “Vegan zucchini brownies with chocolate peanut butter frosting and fresh strawberries” and a Goose Island IPA is listed clearly on the menu yet I didn’t read it at first. I was blown away with this wonderfully crafted dish that had some surprises that you wouldn’t expect from its looks.
Overall the event was a clear success. Louis Yuhasz, founder of Louie’s Kids and crowd charmer at the event, says they hoped to have brought in about $14,000 which will all go to helping kids. A lot of this couldn’t have been done without the hardworking individuals as well as sponsors. I could speak for hours about the food and people in Charleston but I think this event can really sum it up. The giving nature of Charleston’s people combined with top-level food made for a great event that also showcased the talent of some hard-working kids.