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North American food award nominees announced by

Note that Charleston is up for 2 awards: Husk in the burger category and Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts in the bakery category.

This year will be announcing the winners of it’s North American “Tastiest Fast Feasts” awards in New Orleans, LA on Saturday Jan 10th, 2015.  A fast feast does not mean fast food but rather food is easily approachable and familiar but that has been prepared from high quality ingredients. For instance in the burger category you won’t find any chain restaurants but rather Chef Sean Brock’s Husk in Charleston, SC or Chef Linton Hopkin’s Holeman and Finch Public House in Atlanta, GA.  The awards are divided into several categories including: Sandwich, Pizza, Asian, Burgers, Latin, BBQ, Pasta, and Bakery.  The nominees were recently announced on’s website and were chosen by a group of high profile food bloggers from cities around the continent.  These food bloggers are referred to by Chowzter as “Chief Chowzters”. It is their job to update the top 7 dishes from their respective cities.  ( Click here to see my list of top fast feasts in Charleston ) If you have suggestions Chowzter also has a mobile app that allows you to add your favorite food items from for any city in the world and help get them noticed.  I also like to use Chowzter when traveling. It is a good way to see what dishes local foodies enjoy and provides links to that food bloggers’ social media so you can contact with any other questions you may have.  I have enjoyed being Charleston, SC’s Chief Chowzter and I look forward to attending the award ceremony to be held at Commander’s Palace.


chowzter awards

Top Chef: Texas cheftestant has Charleston ties.

Monday January 23, 2012
by Scott Wink of

Charleston, SC  –  Season 9 of Top Chef has a larger than normal cast and lots of talent.  One of the cheftestants, Keith Rhodes, owns 2 restaurant in Wilmington, NC and has ties to the Charleston area.  His restaurants are Catch and Phun.  They feature lots of seafood and Southern dishes with an Asian flair.  Chef Rhodes made the cut on Top Chef to progress into the final cast only to be eliminated in a controversial, cut throat, judges table.  Despite being eliminated Chef Rhodes continues to stay close to the top of vote getters for fan favorite.  Top Chef season 9 is down to just a few remaining contestants so we thought we would talk to Chef Rhodes about his experience on the show and his restaurant Catch. 

Charleston Food Bloggers ( CFB ) :  Did you know any of the chefs from Top Chef: Texas before filming started?

Chef Keith Rhodes:  Everyone was new to me. I absolutely knew no one. There were several of the contestants that did know each other.

CFB: Which contestants surprised or impressed you the most?

Chef Keith Rhodes:  I liked talking with Chris Jones from Moto in Chicago.  I enjoyed hearing a lot about the restaurant’s philosophy.  It is not all about show, there is a lot of meaning in what they do over there at Moto. It was real insightful.  I talked to a lot of the chefs but as far as someone that I took some ideas home to think about it was definitely Chris.

Top Chef: Texas was unlike previous seasons that stayed centered around one home location.  This season moved all around the state of Texas and included every facet of what Texas could offer.  There was a minimal opportunity to cook with a lot of seafood.  I have traveled a lot and eaten a lot of food different types of food but I had never been to Texas.  It was my first time there and boy was it hot.  It was like 110 degrees.  They have a truly unique type of cuisine in Texas with lots rich influence from Mexico.

CFB:  This year they expanded the number of contestants. Were you guys running all over each other? 

Chef Keith Rhodes:  Yeah. It was intense.  It is really like stepping on a roller coaster.

CFB:  How were the judges?

Chef Keith Rhodes:   Padma, Gail, and Tom have seen thousands of chefs. They have tasted so much food.   Even with all of that experience they were still really nice people to work around.   I was honored to work with a FIVE TIME James Beard award winning Tom Colicchio.  Padma and Gail brought their wonderful personalities to the table as well.

CFB:  Have you changed or tweaked anything on your menu since your Top Chef experience?

Chef Keith Rhodes:   No, we are still doing our own thing here.  We do a lot of the modern and new techniques here at Catch already. We like to stay grounded to our Southern food with an Asian flair approach. 

CFB:  If dinners from Charleston eat at your restaurant for the first time what do you recommend they try first to get a good idea of what your cooking is all about?

Chef Keith Rhodes:  Right now things are changing because of the seasons but I would say our NC sweet potato salad. We blanch the sweet potatoes and give them a flash fry so that they get nice and crispy on the outside.  We serve it over baby spinach with a honey shallot vinegrette and some local goat cheese and sun dried cranberries.  It has some onions, some sweetness, and you feel good about eating it because it is on that bed of greens.  It is something that has been really successful and tasting that salad will let you know what we are all about.  We are about local, simplicity, and quality.

CFB:  The name of your restaurant is “Catch” which to me implies you are cooking a lot of seafood from local fisherman. Are you at the mercy of what they catch that day?

Chef Keith Rhodes:   We try to plan our picks weekly based on what fish is going to be available. So there are times when things are moving and changing on a daily basis.  Right now there is a lot of grouper and triggerfish.  We have tons of oysters and local shrimp.  All of our crab meat comes from Oriental, NC.  Our catfish comes from Greenville, NC.   We really try to say within the region.  We buy local whole fish and local produce that keep the flavors true to our area.

(seafood ceviche at Catch)

CFB:  Do you visit Charleston often?

Chef Keith Rhodes:  Yeah, I have been down there a lot. My mother-in-law actually lives in Moncks Corner. I know Sean Brock. I have spent quite a bit of time down there.

(Chef Keith Rhodes and his wife Angela Rhodes)

(2011 James Beard nominees: Chefs Sean Brock, Keith Rhodes, and Ashley Christensen)

I really have been so honored this year and I appreciate all the support especially from down there in Charleston.  That is a fantastic food scene you have down there.  I look forward to meeting you guys from Charleston.  When you stop by for dinner make sure you say hi.

CFB:  Thanks Chef Rhodes!

2011 Charleston Food Blogger Restaurant Awards

Best food: American

Downtown: McCrady’s

West of the Ashley:  The Glass Onion

East of the Cooper:  Eurasia

The North area:  Cork Bistro

Best food: International

Downtown: Basil

West of the Ashley:  Taste of India

East of the Cooper:  Ali Baba

The North area:  Zocalo ( now out of business )

Best food: Non-restaurant

Downtown: Paolo’s Gelato

West of the Ashley:  Hello my name is BBQ

East of the Cooper:  Whole Foods

The North area:  Pho #1

Best food: New restaurant

Downtown: Husk

West of the Ashley:  Roadside Kitchen

East of the Cooper:  Eurasia

The North area:  Zocalo (now out of business )

Best food: Local chain

Mustard Seed

Best food: Cheap eats

Downtown: Taco Boy

West of the Ashley:  Three Little Birds Café

East of the Cooper:  Jack’s Cosmic Dogs

The North area:  EVO Pizza

Best food: Hole in the Wall

Downtown: Moe’s Crosstown

West of the Ashley:  Bowen’s Island

East of the Cooper:  La Pizzeria

The North area:  Havana Café

Best Atmosphere

Downtown: Cypress

West of the Ashley:  Fat Hen

East of the Cooper:  Poe’s Tavern

The North area:  Cork Bistro

Best Bar

Downtown: Closed For Business

West of the Ashley:  Smoky Oak Taproom

East of the Cooper:  Red’s Ice House

The North area:  Madra Rua

Best local farm


Remember to L
IKE Charleston Food Bloggers on Facebook
for updates!

Each blogger also announced a few creative awards of their own:

Best Dessert: Red Head Recipes – Bread Pudding at Poogan’s Porch

Most worn out concept: Foodmancing the Girl – Sports bars

Best burger:
Foodie Fix – The chorizo burger at Fuel is amazing and spicy. The burger taken to a new level of flavor.  Fuel also has the best come as you are atmosphere.  Like a vacation without leaving town kind of place.

Best things to happen in the Charleston food scene over the past 5 years:
  Charleston Food Bloggers –  In my mind two things stick out:  1) The rise of Sean Brock, Mike Lata and Craig Deihl 2) The Food Truck Federation.

Best way to order frozen yogurt:
Healthy Meets Hungry – Go to Menchies in Mount Pleasant and serve cake batter yogurt and peanut butter yogurt in a one-to-one ratio. Then add an equal portion of Heath Bar toppings.

Best brunch spots: 
Red Head Recipes –

Downtown:  Hominy Grill

West of the Ashley:  Three Little Birds Café

East of the Cooper: Crave

The North area: Alex’s Restaurant

Best place to get “pre” engaged:
Foodmancing the Girl –  Il Cortile Del Re

Best wine bar and small plates:
  Foodie Fix – Bin 152 is a great intimate spot for a glass of wine and a little charcuterie.  A fun place to experiment with new wines and interesting pairings.

Winners were chosen from 4 geographic locations in Charleston. 

        -West of the Ashley included West Ashley, James Island, Johns Island,

        and Folly Beach.

        -East of the Cooper included Mount Pleasant, Daniel Island, Sullivan’s Island,

        and Isle of Palms. 

        -The North area included North Charleston, Summerville, Ladson,
        Goose Creek,
  and Moncks Corner.

        -Downtown included….well…. downtown.

      Why were these awards developed?  We felt that these awards coming from active food bloggers would be seen as a fairly non-biased, honest judge of what restaurants in the area are doing this year. 

    Charleston’s first food blogger restaurant award winners were announced on Saturday September 24th at Cork Bistro in Park Circle.  The food bloggers who participated in the nominations and voting were: , FoodmancingTheGirl , HungryMeetsHealthy , RedHeadRecipies , and FoodieFix . Also in attendance at Cork as invited guests were local design blogger LookLingerLove and Jeremy Current who is a  singer/songwriter out of Brooklyn, NY.  Jeremy was in town for one night performing at The Village Tavern in Mount Pleasant, SC.

(l-r: Charles of FoodmancingTheGirl, Chassity of LookLingerLove, Lauri of RedHeadRecipies, Scott and Crystal of CharlestonFoodBloggers , and Singer/Songwriter Jeremy Current)

  Chef Eric Brownlee of Cork prepared an excellent menu for the event. Highlights of the dinner that got the table buzzing were the Hush Puppy Battered Shrimp, Tomato & Fried Mozzarella Caprese,  Chipotle Strawberry Glazed Salmon, and Spicy Shrimp and Grits.  Owner Tradd Gibbs and Chef Brownlee spoke to the group after we announced that Cork was this year’s winner in two categories. They won the top prize in the categories Best Restaurant: American and Best Atmosphere for restaurants located in “the North area”.  The area included all restaurants in North Charleston, Summerville, Ladson, Goose Creek, and Moncks Corner. 

Wedge salad

Hush puppy battered shrimp

  Tomato & Fried Mozzarella Caprese

Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream in Atlanta raises the bar.

Friday, June 16, 2011
by Scott Wink of

Atlanta, GA –  We like ice cream.  Most people do.  We, however, like our ice cream to excite us the same way the rest of our meals do…..lots of different flavor combinations and lots of taste.  Forget vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate.   Think “coconut jalapeno”, “maple bacon brittle”, “balsamic strawberry”, “ginger lavender”, “Krispy Kreamier”,  and even “Feta and basil”.  These are only a few of the hundred of flavors of ice cream that Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream & Desserts at 749 Moreland Ave B-102 in Atlanta, GA 30316 serves.  This location does not have inside seating.  Customers wait in line outside and get their orders handed to them through a sliding window in the front of the ice cream shop.  At any given moment Morelli’s has about 20+ flavor options.  While that is great for trying new flavors it could be bad if you have a favorite flavor you want to eat on a regular basis.  I kind of like it though. It forces me to stay adventurous.

Top Chef contestant Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill told us we had to go check them out. He has been working with Morelli’s owners Donald Sargent and Clarissa Morelli to develop a few of their cutting edge flavors like maple bacon brittle.  Kevin lives near Morelli’s and is a frequent customer.  The collaboration with Gillespie will continue this year when the second Morelli’s location opens this month.  Gillespie will be developing a sundae menu for that new location which will be located at 1221 Caroline Street.   

When we where in Atlanta recently we got to spend some time with owner Clarissa Morelli and even do some food photography for them.  They were trying to decide how to decorate their new location so we did a photo shoot to give them some ideas and get them started (see photos below).  We asked if they had any flavor combinations that fell flat or were too complicated for their customers and they answered “celery and guacamole”.  Interesting. I would try it.   I was also curious which flavor was one of their most popular and they informed me that their “salted caramel flavor sells 2 buckets to every one bucket of vanilla”.  Lastly, we asked them for some of their favorite ice cream places in the US and they said they really like Ici Ice Cream in Berkeley, CA,  Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco, CA, and Bi Rite Creamery in San Francisco, CA.

This is the type of ice cream shop that every great food town needs.  Something similar to Morelli’s would do well in Charleston.  A lot of Charleston’s dessert places stop much shorter that Morelli’s in pushing the limits of flavor or have limited access.  Here are my 3 favorite creative frozen dessert places in Charleston (I don’t like frozen yogurt):

  • Paolo’s Gelato (in Atlanta and Charleston)  is typically really good but they only have a couple of flavors a day and they are not nearly as creative.  
  • Roots Ice Cream  is the closest thing we have to Morelli’s but they only sell from a small cart at farmers markets or other events.  Hopefully they can find a permanent location and expand their daily selection. I think it would be a guaranteed winner.  They are trying a CSI (community supported ice cream) for a 12 week season this summer.  You pay for the whole season and then pick up your pints once a week at the farmers market.  I really liked their beet flavored ice cream!
  • Diggity Doughnuts food truck has some great ice cream sandwich specials which usually consist of a scoop of ice cream stuck inside a fresh doughnut.  They make crazy good doughnuts.  I am not sure if they are all vegan but I do no they make many great tasting vegan options.  I need to find out more info about the ice cream they use.  Could it be diary free? Maybe but probably not… many questions. (Note to self……talk to Roots and Diggity and find more information about their stuff….maybe an in depth summer feature on them)

The next time you are in Atlanta stop by one of Morelli’s locations and sample some of their great flavors. If you are a fan of Top Chef ask for one of Kevin Gillespie’s flavor creations.  (“Hot”lanta in summer) + (Morelli’s ice cream in your hand) = (not so bad).

Maple bacon brittle

Krispy Kreamier….tastes just like the donuts!!!

Atlanta diner “Home Grown GA” is a diamond in the rough.

    In the midst of Atlanta’s urban and industrial hustle and bustle stands a roadside food experience you have to see to believe.  Top Chef fan favorite Kevin Gillespie told us about this hidden gem.  He told us that a perfect day of eating in Atlanta would include lunch here at Home Grown GA!  He wasn’t lying.  The food is amazing.  Owners Kevin Clark and Lisa Spooner have created an experience that will leave your stomach smiling and your senses buzzing.  

    Home Grown GA has a garden in the back part of the parking lot where fresh summer veggies are waiting patiently to be picked and served within hours of peak ripeness.  On some days the smells from the ribs cooking outside will leave you walking slowly to the door to enjoy every second of that fantastic scent.  When you open the door you will be greeted by walls full of colorful artwork, friendly staff, and satisfied customers.  Sit down and sip on your sweet tea as you look through the menu. It now starts becoming clear that your decision on what to order is going to be tough….really tough.  It all sounds so good.  There are very few places that tempt me to order 4 sides as my meal but this is definitely one of them.  The collards, pinto beans, field peas, black eyed peas, fried green tomatoes and rutabaga sides will remind you of the best family meals from your childhood.  The only thing that prevents me from wanting to recommend you go the side dish route is the great  main courses.  The “Johnwich” has 2 beef patties, a fried green tomato, fried egg, bacon & pimento cheese on a wheat bun.  Other common main courses are Greensboro fried quail, Mississippi catfish, Gum Creek Farm meatloaf, BBQ chicken, pan seared trout, or frog legs.  Now you see why your decision is going to be tough.  Their prices are also very affordable with almost all dishes under $10.

    So here is how you have to game-plan it.  Pick your meal based on your
gut instinct and then immediately decide you need to come back 3-4 more times in the next week or two to try everything else on the menu.

    Don’t let the sometimes daunting city of Atlanta prevent you from seeking out top notch food and experiencing Kevin Clark and Lisa Spooners’  dinner done right.  Anyone from Charleston will feel right at home in this restaurant.

Home Grown GA
968 Memorial Drive Se
Atlanta, GA 30316
(404) 222-0455

(Pictured below are their hickory smoked spare ribs, Grant’s stack with cornbread, and pan seared trout with pinto beans which they serve for lunch)


Holeman and Finch in Atlanta has Charleston connections

This is one of the 5 Atlanta spots we are going to feature from our recent trip.

     Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta celebrated its 7th anniversary this April. Their chef Linton Hopkins also was nominated for the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast. He has been nominated for four years in a row. He will be competing this year against several other finalists including Charleston’s own Craig Deihl of Cypress.  Linton Hopkins has been to Charleston many times. We were able to eat at his Wine and Food Festival Dine Around with Jeremiah Bacon at Carolina’s last year.  Chef Hopkin’s team also runs the neighboring Holeman and Finch Public House.  It is a smaller, slightly more casual version of the flagship Restaurant Eugene.  In our past interview with Top Chef fan favorite Kevin Gillespie he told us that Holeman and Finch would be a required stop in order to have the perfect day of eating in Atlanta……so there we went.

The food was fantastic.  We started off with one of Greg Best’s signature cocktails “The Oracle” (rye whiskey, lime, Regan’s orange bitters, with a splash of Theia jasmine liqueur) recommended by our excellent server Lee Starnes.  We then progressed to a course of charcuterie, a crawfish pie and then fried rabbit livers with farro and candied kumquats.

Besides the great food our server Lee Starnes was also able to dish out some great Charleston connections. We decided to dig a little deeper and see if he could give us more insight into Holeman and Finch, Atlanta, and what else he was into these days.

Charleston Food Bloggers ( CFB ) : Who was the chef here that you mentioned has worked in Charleston? 

Starnes:  James Ellington worked with Sean Brock and he does all  our charcuterie here at Holeman and Finch.

CFB:   You said you came to Charleston recently and ate at  McCrady’s. What brought you to town? How often have you visited and where else have you eaten?

Starnes:  I came to Charleston for the Charleston Marathon.  While  I’m not a runner, they offered a 62 mile bike ride attached to  it. Evan, a bartender at Holeman and Finch, went with me.  It was the first time in Charleston in a long time and we were there for just a couple days.  McCrady’s is the only place of note we got a  chance to get in.  

CFB:  Have you lived in Atlanta for a long time?

Starnes:  I’ve lived in Atlanta for 11 of the past 12 years.  I grew up in Augusta, moved to Atlanta where I went to Georgia Tech for 6 years and finally graduated in 2006.  I then moved to Thailand for a  little over a year and traveled around SE Asia taking photos.  
I worked for a newspaper and did freelance architecture photography.

CFB:  What does Lee do when he is not at Holeman and Finch?

Starnes:  When I’m not at H&F, I’m a working photographer here in Atlanta.  You can check my work at If I’m not doing that, I’m on my bike.  I try to drive as little as possible these days.  The south kind of affords me that luxury.  It allows the inner fat kid in me to not turn into a roly poly.  After all, I eat at H&F nearly every shift I work.  

(You should check out his website.  He does some excellent work, especially with musicians!)

CFB: You gave us some suggested places to go Antico, Cakes and Ale, Lee’s Bakery, and Bell St. Burrito. What would you typically eat at those places?

Starnes:  Antico has the best pizza in the city in my opinion.  The Diavolo is my go to.  Sopprasata, pepperonata, and bufala.  No frills, brown paper, sheet pans, byob, and some of the best cannolis on the planet.  

Cakes and Ale is a super cool spot over in Decatur.  Good bar program, quality ingredients coming out of the kitchen with a focus on local, farm driven fare.  Nothing fancy, but an eye for detail in making the simple things shine.  Nice intimate space perfect for dates.  One of my first recommendations I give to out of towners.

Lee’s Bakery is my go to for Bahn Mi in the city at 2.50 for a sandwich, you cannot go wrong.  On the ethnic food Mecca of Buford Highway, its in an innocuous strip mall full of other ethnic stores.   Absolutely legit.  Just as authentic as it is in Vietnam.

Bell St. Burrito.  This place’s menu is based off an old Burrito Joint, Tortilla’s.  Tortillas was the hangout for so many of us years ago, and was the best burrito in the city for sure.  Then Moe’s moved in a block away and Tortilla’s went under.  Bell St. Burrito has resurrected the flavors so many of us craved for so many years.  The red sauce and the beans could not be matched.  Those heart strings are gently pulled every time I go down there.

CFB:   What are you listening to in music these days?

Starnes:  Music.. oh wow.  such a hard question. I’m musically A.D.D., so I’m all over the place.  But here’s what’s been on the rotation as of the last week.  

CFB: Favorite TV shows or characters in TV shows?

Starnes:   TV shows.  Right now its Sportscenter. March Madness is running everything.   But I really liked Boardwalk Empire, Treme, Madmen, and don’t tell, but I kind of have a guilty pleasure in the show Swamp People.  Something about Creoles wrangling Alligators never gets old.  Hope ATL treated you well.  Hopefully I can make it down to Chucktown sooner than later. I had a great time.  I hear Brock’s new venture, Husk has him busy as ever.  That will be on the docket next time around.  


Mike Isabella: Best Year Ever??



D.C. chef Mike Isabella is having what VH1 might call “The Best Year Ever”.  Mike is currently in the final three of Bravo’s smash hit cooking competition show Top Chef All Stars. That of course means that he appeared on a previous season of Top Chef and came really, really close to winning.  Top Chef All Stars is his chance at redemption and his making the most of it.  Mike also left his head chef position at Jose Andres’ restaurant in D.C. Zaytinya. He left in order to design and own his own restaurant due to open later this spring Graffiato.  It will be an Italian inspired two level location. Mike has excelled in Mediterranean cuisine since his boyhood days watching his grandmother.  He told us his grandmother was definitively on of his biggest inspirations and greatest memories from childhood.  Graffiato will be just across the street for the Verizon Center which is the home to both the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitols.  Mike is taking up residence in a block that had been almost abandoned but over the next 12 months looks to become home to a handful of new and exciting dining projects.  The construction going on at 707 6th St NW in Washington looks an awful lot like how a renovation might go in Charleston.  The basic structure and frame are being kept but the inside is being gutted.  You can view the construction pictures on Graffiato’s Facebook page or website.


Charleston Food Bloggers (CFB ) : You have made quite a name for yourself in recent years at Jose Andres Zaytinya and on Top Chef. How does it feel to know be going out on your own?


Chef Isabella:  It feels great.  From cooking at a young age with my grandmother, to going to culinary school, to cooking with great chefs throughout the country, I feel that all of my hard work has paid off.  At this time in my life I am ready to take the next step and follow my dreams of owning my own restaurant. It is stressful and fun all at the same time.  The stressful part is all the planning.  You never really know how everything is going to match and fit until it is in place.  The fun part is that I have a say in all the decision making and can make my vision come to life. 



CFB: Do you have a ballpark idea of when Graffiato may open this year?


Chef Isabella: Late Spring


I have really grown to like and admire Mike Isabella.  I can see and appreciate all of the hard work he has put into his career.  He earns everything he gets. He works hard everyday to get better.  I think he has grown as a person right in front of our eyes.  He appears more comfortable with himself on Top Chef this time then in season six. He appears not to be afraid of who he is.  Lastly, he plays to win both in challenges and in life.  Making the gamble to leave Zaytinya and start Graffiato is a bold move.  If this were a poker move Mike just went ALL IN.


CFB:  What are your favorite dishes at Jose Andres’ restaurants in DC?


Chef Isabella:  At Zaytinya I really enjoy the classic spreads with pita.  Chicken croquettes and black paella at Jaleo are a favorite as well.


CFB:  Where are some of the places you think we need to check out in D.C.?


Chef Isabella:  Defiantly stop at The Source.  Sit in the lounge and order the dumpling platter. 


PS 7’s for cocktailsMixologist Gina Chersevani can create you a cocktail on the spot…you just have to ask.


701 is great for an upscale tasting menu.


2Amys is the best spot for pizza…go early or be prepared to wait for a table.



We followed up on Mike’s recommendations from Jose Andres’ restaurants as well as his places to check out in D.C.  We met up with mixologist Gina Chersevani and Mike was absolutely correct. Gina’s cocktail menu is top notch. We feature Gina in her own article….Check it out.  The rest of our travels through D.C. will be forthcoming.


CFB:  Top Chef has a hard core following. Are fans of the show always stopping you and slowing you down when you are out in public? 


Chef Isabella:  My experience on Top Chef has been really rewarding and fans who stop me to say hello are very friendly and supportive. It’s exciting to tell fans about my forthcoming restaurant, Graffiato, and I hope lots of people who saw me on Top Chef will come in to try my food. 


CFB:  What bands, TV shows or movies are you really into now?


Chef Isabella:  I tend to enjoy more of the classic rock genre.  If you stop into Graffiato late night you will hear a lot of old school rock. 



Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations; I’m excited to see the new season and where he travels.


I watch a lot of the Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV and the MMA pay per view fights.  I used to wrestle and love the competitiveness of the fighters.


I don’t have a lot of time to enjoy new movies but I did get the chance to see Black Swan and it was very inspiring.  I have been hearing great reviews of The Fighter and would love to see it soon. 


CFB:  Have you ever been to Charleston?


Chef Isabella:  Not yet, but it is on my list of places to go.  I hear of a lot of great restaurants and chefs coming from Charleston.  Maybe one day I will be there for the Charleston Wine and Food Festival.


It makes complete sense that Mike would like rock, MMA, wrestling, and the movie “The Fighter”. I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming.  Those types of things can help keep his eyes on the next prize. I think that is why I like seeing him with chefs like Michael Voltaggio and Richard Blais.  Those chefs just constantly reinvent their dishes and experiment with new flavors and techniques and help push Mike to push himself even farther.


We are happy to see that he wants to come to Charleston… you hear that BB&T Charleston Wine and Food Directors!!! Call him up and book him for 2012 today. We can’t wait to try Graffiato in D.C. and we hope he comes down and smells the pluff mud of the South Carolina Lowcountry soon.




Mike we thought you might enjoy this:

Interview with Bryan Voltaggio

It is almost time for the
2011 Charleston Wine + Food Festival. This year is going to be fantastic. It seems like the event organizers have outdone themselves this year with more events and guest chefs than ever.  One of the most exciting chefs for me this year is Bryan Voltaggio of Volt Restaurant in Fredrick, MD.  Bryan came to fame in Season 6 of Bravo’s Top Chef.  His younger brother, Michael, won the title of Top Chef and Bryan made it all the way to the finale.  Those are huge accomplishments especially since season 6 was arguably the best season ever. 

I have had the privilege of eating at Bryan Voltaggio’s 2009 James Beard nominated Volt Restaurant last spring.  It was great. I was able to catch up with Bryan and ask him a few questions ahead of his appearance at the Wine + Food Festival Dine Around event.

According to Bryan this will be his first visit to Charleston.  He will be paired up at Anson Restaurant with Anson’s chef Jeremy Holst.  Tickets for this dine around sold out right away.  Bryan did give us a hint to something the diners might be treated to!!!!!  Bryan tells us that currently his favorite dish at Volt is “Mock oyster, it’s a salsify sphere with malt vinegar powder, (and) oyster leaf”.  He said he is hoping to feature this as one of the items he does at Anson.  I remember when we ate at Volt one of our favorite dishes was a Yellowfin Tuna Tartare, Soy Air, Yuzu Vinaigrette, Avocado, and Wasabi-Infused Tobiko Caviar.  YUUUMMMM.  Bryan definately uses modern techniques and molecular gastronomy but the beauty and  then the taste of the dishes make you forget everything about the plate except the amazing flavor!

We asked Bryan if there were any restaurants or chefs in Charleston we was looking forward to.  He said, “I want to try and eat at Husk. Sean (Brock) is bad ass and I know he pours his heart into his food. Mike Latta (Fig), who I also have hung out with plenty of times, but have never tried his food.”  I know Bryan will not be disappointed.

I think pretty highly of Bryan, his food, his palate, and his demeanor.  So we wanted to know who in the Baltimore/DC area he thought was doing top quality food. “Spike Gerde of Woodberry Kitchen – that guy has a gorgeous restaurant and a team that puts out some fantastic food” says Voltaggio.

I was not lucky enough to score tickets to that dine around but I guarentee those that are going that it will be dinner to remember. I will definately be heading back to Volt the next time I head through Maryland. Bryan, I hope you enjoy Husk and Fig!!