Given its location and history, Charleston, S.C., has established itself as one of the southeast, if not the country’s, top culinary destinations.
Of course, the distinction is not surprising as Guilds Hollowell half-jokingly, half-seriously points out,” Chefs here love the immediate access to food. They basically can reach out of their back window and source what is needed.”
To help visitors (and residents) discover and appreciate Charleston’s various offerings, Hollowell along with Glenn Moorehead and Oscar Hines formed Charleston Culinary Tours
a few years ago.
The concept was created when Glen expressed interest in being a tour guide, and Oscar loved the food scene. Both were in love with Charleston (which Hollowell says is easy to do.) The duo decided to put it all together and see what would happen. A few months later, Hollowell came across their business cards and asked them what restaurant they had line up. When they replied none, Hollowell offered to help. The first one he recruited was Husk.
“The stars lined up for us,” he says. “With the restaurant’s popularity, the tour was the only way many people could get in there.”
Fast forward from 2011 to present time, Charleston Culinary Tours offers five tours to please even the most discerning foodies.
Hollowell recommends the Downtown Culinary Tour
for those visiting Charleston for the first time.
“It’s a great way to learn to the lay of land, and help first-timers figure out where they might want to re-visit. The tour highlights the traditional cuisine of the city as well as the history.”
For repeat visitors, he says the Upper King Street Culinary Tour
is the way to go.
“For the past five years, it has been the fastest growing area in Charleston. Many established chefs are opening up second places here, as well as some up and coming comers.”
For a real food experience, he points to the Fresh From the Farm Farmer’s Market Tour
“The tour meets on Saturday mornings in front of the Visitor Center, and walks with the guide and the participating chef to the market to chose ingredients for the meal. While the chef takes everything back to the restaurant, the group goes on tour of the area prior to arriving at the restaurant. Once at the restaurant, they are present with the meal using the ingredients selected and purchased earlier.”
“It has sort of an Iron Chef concept to it. It’s fun for the participating chefs because they can be creative.”
While there isn’t much food involved in the Chefs’ Kitchen Tour
, Hollowell says it’s geared for those who enjoy talking to the chef about the process. The tour provides a behind-the-scene look at an area many, if not all, aren’t very familiar with.
Rounding out the tours is the Mixology Tour
. Hollowell says it isn’t a pub crawl, but more of a “farm-to-shaker” tour.
“The tour focuses on how the mixologists come up with their recipes, and understanding what they do, why they do it, and why certain spirit mix or don’t mix.”
He says he has a lot of people take the downtown tour one day, followed by the mixology tour that night and then enjoy the Upper King tour the next day.
“It’s been fun being a part of this. I grew up in Mount Pleasant, lived in other places and came back to the area. It’s fun to see how it has grown and changed.”
photo credit: (top left) Husk Table, (middle right) Shrimp Risotto, (bottom left) Burwells; photos courtesy of Eskimo Advertising