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Culinary Q&A – Chef Travis Grimes

Apr 17 2014

by Whitney Long

Travis Grimes, Chef de Cuisine

Husk – Charleston, SC

Call me lucky as I have been able to dine at Husk in Charleston a couple of times, as well as Husk in Nashville, and it never disappoints. Led by Chef Sean Brock and Chef de Cuisine Travis Grimes, a Lowcountry native, the menu is modern in style while the kitchen reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in Charleston.

Upon entering and seeing the large chalkboard listing of artisanal products currently provisioning the kitchen, your mind races trying to decide just what to order on this particular visit. With seed-saving, heirloom husbandry, and in-house pickling and charcuterie as the basis of the cuisine at Husk, they are transforming the essence of Southern food. In fact, there are some rules about what can go on the plate – “If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door,” says Brock, who has even stricken olive oil from the kitchen. As he explains, the resulting cuisine “is not about rediscovering Southern cooking, but exploring the reality of Southern food.”

Travis Grimes, Chef de Cuisine at Husk, has been cooking almost as long as he’s lived in the Lowcountry of South Carolina—which is to say, most of his life. He was taught the basics at home and worked as a cook at different restaurants in and around Charleston throughout high school, where he learned how to make bona fide Southern food from some of his older co-workers. Grimes enrolled in Johnson & Wales University in Charleston after high school, from which he graduated in 2000—the same year he completed an internship at former James Beard Best Chef Southeast winner Louis Osteen’s restaurant, Louis’s Charleston Grill.

After school, Grimes helped open the Cypress Lowcountry Grill on East Bay Street in Charleston—not far from McCrady’s Restaurant. In 2003, he moved to McCrady’s working his way up to sous chef under Chef Michael Kramer, and then working alongside Brock, who took over as executive chef after Kramer’s departure in 2006.

​Grimes and Brock share a passion for creating authentic Southern cuisine from indigenous and local ingredients—so when Brock opened Husk in 2010 it was a natural progression for Grimes to move there with him as his Chef de Cuisine. “At Husk we very much celebrate the traditional South,” Grimes says. “We support local farmers and fishermen; if it’s a quality Southern product, we want it at the restaurant.” Among those products are sustainable seafood from the nearby Atlantic; pork products from pigs raised on a farm in Virginia; as well as fresh, pickled, and canned produce. “We are also bringing back heirloom varieties of grains that are native to the area, as well as growing an entire crop just for seed saving,” he notes.

Husk’s menu focuses on Southern classics, using as many local, indigenous ingredients as possible, with Grimes researching antique cookbook recipes to ensure the menu’s authenticity. In addition, Grimes oversees numerous other touches that keep the restaurant true to this goal, including making hot sauce, bitters for culinary-influenced cocktails, and even sarsaparilla in house.

​In the rare moments when he’s not in the kitchen, Grimes can be found at home in Charleston with his wife, dog, and two cats, simply enjoying some down time or tending to his own garden.

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First food memory:

Fish Fry with my Grandma

Five ingredients always in your pantry:

Dashi, sriracha, MSG, olive oil, beef jerky

Five ingredients always in your fridge:

Milk, eggs, cheddar cheese, Yuengling, Jagermeister

What are some of your go-to items you like to serve at a cocktail party?

Pork rinds with pimento cheese, sweet vinegar marinated cucumbers and onions

What would you want for your last meal?

A bad ass bowl of ramen

Dream guest list for a dinner party and why?

My wife and son – they are the best people I know!

Career if you not a chef?

Doctor

Do you have a favorite Southern dish that is always better “old school” rather than updated or “improved?”

Lima beans with neck bone gravy

Five Favorites –

Favorite Cocktail:

Jagermeister

Favorite Cookbook:

Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey by John Currence

Favorite Kitchen Gadget:

Microplane

Favorite artist/musician to listen to in the kitchen:

Ween

Favorite culinary destination and why?

Whichever restaurant I am headed to, because I don’t get to go out very often.

If you liked this post, read about:

Chef Michelle Weaver here

Chef Shawn Kelly here

Chef Chris Stewart here

Chef Marc Collins here

Chef Sarah O’Kelley here

Chef Marc Collins 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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