Joyce Goldstein, a legendary San Francisco culinary icon, commented during an interview years ago that she was disappointed by so many young chefs who would take on cuisines with which they had no real connection. “It's like putting on an ill-fitting jacket,” she said. “It just doesn't fit.” I was reminded of this interview when we recently crossed paths with Jeremiah Bacon, the executive chef of Carolina's, a southern-style bistro in Charleston, SC.
Bacon, a Charleston native, spent seven years honing his skills at some of New York City's best restaurants, including River Café, Le Bernardin and Per Se. Afterward, he returned home to take the helm of Carolina's, which is located in a building that dates back to Revolutionary times. There, less than 100 feet from the Cooper River in historic downtown Charleston, Bacon is connecting in the most beautiful way with what he knows best, Lowcountry cuisine. But with all that big city experience, he has refined and elevated the food of his youth to a world-class level.
Food journalist Holly Herrick, writing shortly after Bacon took over Carolina's kitchen a few years back, rejoiced. “Carolina's, which was not so long ago stumbling clumsily along in the food department, has truly stepped up to a pristine plate of restrained, gorgeous Southern-inspired cooking in the capable hands of executive chef Jeremiah Bacon.” He has transformed Carolina's, she added, “into the belle of Charleston's culinary ball.”
Bacon's menu celebrates the best of the South, including Pan-Sautéed Crab Cakes (with corn maque choux, green tomato chow-chow and wholegrain mustard sauce) and Crispy Fried Whole Flounder (with house-made peach jam and sautéed vegetables). Of course there's Carolina Shrimp & Grits, but you'll also find Pan-Roasted Keegan-Filion Free-Range Chicken (with squash risotto, Lacinato Kale, local squash and peas, and bacon lardons).
Combine Bacon's cooking with Carolina's décor (The New York Times called it “one of the most elegant restaurants on the East Coast), and you've got a combination that makes for a truly comfortable fit.