Chef: Michelle Weaver
Restaurant: Charleston Grill at Charleston Place
Resume: Only female executive chef among all those who work for the several dozen Orient Express properties worldwide. She has led the kitchen since 2009. Graduated from the New England Culinary Institute in 1995 and first trained under Bob Waggoner at the Wild Boar in Nashville.
Tidbit: Started watching Julia Child on “The French Chef” when 10 years old.
Charleston Grill's menu is unusual in that its choices are clustered around four styles of ingredients and techniques. It's also interesting to note that its Southern “style” is put on equal footing with the other seemingly more sophisticated and contemporary styles: Pure, Lush and Cosmopolitan.
Then again, to know executive chef Michelle Weaver is to know her deep reverence for Southern food.
After all, the Alabama native grew up eating from her mother's garden and helping in the kitchen from an early age, “standing in a chair over a cast-iron skillet,” she once told The Post and Courier.
So it's no surprise that the Thanksgiving Day dinner at Charleston Grill will be seasoned with her mother's influence.
Weaver's favorite turkey day dish is her mom's cornbread stuffing and gravy. “I make it at the restaurant for Thanksgiving, except I make about 100 pounds,” she says.
That and turkey with all the trimmings plus oysters, crab cakes, duck, etc. — a veritable Lowcountry feast.
Weaver will have her hands full.
The chef, at the helm of Charleston Grill since 2009, says she is most thankful for this in the past year: “My brother being cancer free!”
Cornbread Stuffing With Bacon & Pecans
16 cups stale cornbread, crumbled into 2-inch pieces (see cook's note)
1 cup diced bacon
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons dried sage
4 eggs, beaten
3 cups of turkey or chicken broth
2 cups pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Cook's note: Cornbread should be stale. Make 1 to 3 days ahead of time.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish.
In a medium-size saute pan, over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is almost crisp. Add the onions and celery and cook until tender. Place them in a large bowl and add the herbs; mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, stock, salt and pepper.
Add the cornbread to the onion and celery mixture and gently toss. Pour the egg mix over the cornbread mixture and gently stir together. Transfer to the baking dish and cook until it is golden brown, about 30-40 minutes.