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Culinary Q&A – Chef Shawn Kelly

Mar 28 2014

by Whitney Long

Culinary Q&A

with Chef Shawn Kelly of High Cotton in Charleston, SC

High Cotton

Shawn Kelly has been putting out fires and making waves with Maverick Southern Kitchens for 11 years. Originally he studied fire protection at The University of Akron in Ohio and came to realize his true calling was working with the flames on the stove. Shawn now mans the flames at High Cotton as Chef.


Shawn is a graduate of the culinary arts program at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston. While in school he applied for a position at Slightly North of Broad on the recommendation from Charleston Chef Mike Lata, who spoke very highly of Chef Frank Lee and his operations. Under Chef Frank Lee’s guidance, Shawn excelled in the kitchen, working his way to second in command at Slightly North of Broad.


Shawn mastered Lowcountry cuisine under the tutelage of Frank Lee and Russ Moore. “My strong relationship with local growers and producers has allowed me to introduce unexpected seasoning and ingredients to familiar food of the region,” as he brings his love for fresh seafood and culinary creativity to High Cotton.

While Shawn is not working, he enjoys watching and playing sports, going to the beach and spending time with friends.

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First food memory Peanut butter and jelly

Five ingredients always in your pantry – black beans, chicken stock, canned tomatoes, hot sauce, rice

Five ingredients always in your fridge – beer, cheese, tortilla’s, onions, peppers

What are some of your go-to items you like to serve at a cocktail party? Sauerkraut balls, cheese and crackers, cured meats

What would you want for your last meal? A burger and fries

Dream guest list of three people for a dinner party and why? Jim Morrison, John Lennon, and Anthony Bourdain because the conversation would never stop!

Career if you were not a chef? A firefighter

Do you have a favorite Southern dish that is always better “old school” rather than updated or “improved?” Two actually – Fried Chicken and Shrimp & Grits

Five Favorites:

Favorite Cocktail – Old Fashioned

Favorite Cookbook – Joy of Cooking

Favorite Kitchen Gadget – Food Processor/Robot Coupe

Favorite artist/musician to listen to in the kitchen – Miles Davis

Favorite culinary destination and why- New Orleans, LA. I love the scene in general and the bonus is the combination of great chefs and great tunes.

If you liked this post, read about Chef Michelle Weaver here.

Whitney Long is c0-founder of The Southern C and a Southern Living contributing editor. Through this series, she gets to meet some of the South’s finest and most creative chefs all while indulging without the calories.

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Whitney Long View More Blog Posts from this Author

Whitney Long is co-founder of The Southern C and The Southern C Summit. Mama x 4, wife x 1. Entrepreneur, thinker, doer, writer, researcher, believer. Enjoys working alongside creative entrepreneurs to build community while supporting established and upcoming brands. Hobbies include travel, reading, bike rides and clever craft cocktails.

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