Open Kitchen

Interview

Charleston’s Slow Food Maestro

As the Executive Chef of the celebrated Charleston Grill, Michelle Weaver is one of the city’s brightest culinary stars. Her elegant take on classic comfort food is impossible to resist.






In the kitchen, her staff call her “Mama”. It’s a fitting title for Chef Michelle Weaver, who works family-style love and passion into every dish. Each day diners flock to Charleston Grill for cuisine which walks the wonderful line between refined elegance and home comfort.

This Alabama-born chef grew up learning to cook with her mother. It only dawned on her that she could pursue a culinary career in her mid-20s.

After formal training at the New England Culinary Institute, she honed her skills under chefs Daniel Bonnot in New Orleans and Bob Waggoner at the Wild Boar Restaurant in Nashville. She eventually found her home at the Charleston Grill, where she has remained for over 20 years. She was named Executive Chef in 2009. Under her lead the restaurant has been awarded the coveted AAA Four Diamond Award for food excellence, and has won Wine Spectator’s ‘Best of Award’ every year since 2007.

Her menu is split into four sections - Social & Shared, Roots & Stems, Waves & Marsh, and Field & Pasture. Each is carefully created to evoke a different mood. Together they bring together her favourites recipes from the Lowcountry and ingredients that have inspired from around the world.

International favourites such as her Thai fish are served with Lowcountry cherry tomatoes and green beans. Her French-inspired foie gras is paired with her mother’s recipe for Southern-fried apple pie.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

I've been blessed to have had so many beautiful meals in my lifetime. The most recent being at Le Coucou in New York City last summer. Fantastic, classic French cuisine, perfectly prepared. Leeks Vinaigrette made with just three ingredients. It was so simple and so perfect.

Then when it comes to formal restaurants I have to mention The Ledbury in London. I sat down for lunch and was looked after by Chef Brett Graham. There were multiple courses of bliss, including pigeon that still makes me smile. Then I remember Luksus, a small restaurant set at the back of a craft beer hall in Brooklyn. The whole meal was paired with beer from all over the world. This was happiness, sitting at the counter watching and talking to chef Daniel Burns.

The first dish you ever learned to cook?

An omelette—it’s a classic and hard to master.

Which one ingredient do you love to work with right now?

Heirloom tomatoes. The flavors are at their peak. There are so many ways to prepare them; cooked, raw, peeled, sliced, acidic, sweet.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I always draw inspiration from the seasons. I love finding ways to use whatever is at its peak of flavor.

What is your go-to dish when you’re in a rush?

I love cooking breakfast foods. My go-to is usually an omelette and toast.

Appetizer or dessert?

Appetizers. I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth.

What item on your menu best represents you?

Charleston Grill Crab Cake with shrimp, tomatoes and a warm lime-dill vinaigrette. It perfectly combines my philosophy of Lowcountry tradition with some international flair.

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?

I’d fly to Tokyo to eat sushi. It's a combination of hundreds of years of craftsmanship, tradition and some of the most pristine seafood in the world.

Words to live by?

Remember who you are and who you represent. It's something my father would tell us growing up. It means be authentic, be genuine and be you.