Garret Fleming to head kitchen at Eatonville
The kitchen at Eatonville did not get off to an auspicious start. After holding a well-documented and ultimately unsuccessful Top Chef-style contest to choose his first head toque, owner Andy Shallal saw three different chefs (including both the contest's winner and runner up) briefly take the title. Now, after running his restaurant without an executive for a while, Shallal is bringing in 28-year-old Garret Fleming to run the show.
Fleming, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who has been cooking at Stella's in Castine, Maine, was born in Charleston and did an externship there under Bob Carter at the Peninsula Grill. He is drawing on his love of that area and his experience with its cuisine to focus what he sees as a scattered menu. "Restaurants as a whole, once they pick a theme, often fall into a trap of never being truly regionally specific, they never achieve a sense of true cuisine," Fleming says, "Eatonville has suffered from this." He plans to tighten the menu by focusing more on his area of expertise. "Being from the Lowcountry, and that being the source of my training," says Fleming, "that's what I know from southern cuisine. We're gonna steer clean of the general grab from all over the south and focus on Gullah and the Lowcountry cuisines of the Southeast."
Fleming was hesitant to reveal any future dishes (here's hoping for some Frogmore stew), but for now you can find the region's flavors in his roast tomato pudding, a South Carolina specialty that tops a bread and tomato pudding with bruleed cauliflower slivers and cornbread gremolata. He hopes to have a full menu change by the end of December.
In addition to changes on the menu, the restaurant also plans to bring its focus on Gullah and Lowcountry cuisines to its Food and Folklore series when it brings Gullah food ambassador Charlotte Jenkins to the restaurant for a four course Gullah dinner on Dec. 19.
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