A behind-the-scenes veteran in the kitchen of the acclaimed Peninsula Grill in downtown Charleston has been tapped to replace Robert Carter as executive chef.

Graham Dailey helped opened the North Market Street restaurant in 1997 and has worked as chef de cuisine for the past eight years.

Dailey said he plans to put his own stamp on the menu. He will be 'ushering in a new era of lighter, fresher fare that celebrates the natural flavors of the freshest ingredients,' according to a statement from the upscale restaurant.

'This is obviously an opportunity of a lifetime,' Dailey said in the statement Wednesday.

Peninsula Grill owner Hank Holliday said in prepared remarks that Dailey is 'an extraordinarily talented chef. We are thrilled to have him leading our team.'

Holliday said Carter 'had a great 14-year run as a fantastic chef here and has been and will continue to be a wonderful hospitality ambassador for the city of Charleston. We wish him every success in his future endeavors.'

Carter, a 1989 Johnson & Wales University graduate, had been the face of Peninsula Grill since it opened in Holliday's Planters Inn property in February 1997. He was well-known for his decadent coconut cake and other signature dishes.

No reason was given for his departure. He took a leave of absence from the restaurant in May, saying at the time he planned to work on a cookbook.

Carter recently appeared on the Food Network's 'Iron Chef America,' in a cooking competition taped earlier this year.

'I have very much enjoyed my association with the Peninsula Grill,' he said in statement Wednesday. 'At the same time, I am looking forward to new opportunities, which promises to be both challenging and rewarding, and it gives me more time with my family. I am also excited for Graham. He has done a superb job here for so long and I have no doubt he will continue the tradition of excellence we have established these last 14 years.'

Peninsula Grill is rated a Forbes Four Star and AAA Four Diamond dining establishment.

Dailey's professional culinary experience includes a two-year stint in New York City working under chef Anthony Bourdain, now the host of the Travel Channel's 'Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.'

Dailey then enrolled in and graduated from France's Le Cordon Bleu and became the first American student to work in the three-star, Michelin-rated Hotel Lutetia in Paris, according to Peninsula Grill.

Reach John McDermott at 937-5572.