As she toured a Lowcountry company that deals with all types of food ingredients, Gov. Nikki Haley let slip that the state is poised to launch a new economic initiative based on the rising profile of South Carolina's culinary scene.
"We have great chefs all over the state," Haley said, "so what you're going to see us talk about over the next couple of weeks is a new initiative to highlight the chefs in this state, highlight the culinary assets that we have in this state and see what we can do to further promote South Carolina."
Haley mentioned the initiative Thursday to Michael Porcaro, president and CEO of The Tides Enterprises, during her visit to its Clements Ferry Road facility.
The burgeoning reputation of Charleston's restaurant scene has been well chronicled in national magazines and newspapers.
"I was just in China not too long ago, and there were actually people talking about the culinary scene in Charleston as tourists," Porcaro told Haley. "Ten years ago, even seven years ago, we wouldn't have heard that."
But several other cities also have seen a growing number of interesting new restaurants, such as the Trappe Door in Greenville and The Oak Table in Columbia, and many more.
Haley said the state is doing well with economic development and tries to match that with tourism "because I think those two complement each other."
"The part that I see a real niche for is the culinary side of it, the food and wine side," she added. "Anything that will get people's eyes and attention on South Carolina, I want to do."
Porcaro said as he travels globally on business, he often hears talk of Charleston's restaurants. One of the Tides' subsidiaries, the Charleston Nut Co. provides locally sourced ingredients to some of the city's leading chefs.
"I am very pleased with Governor Haley's new initiative," he added. "Reinforcing the popular trend 'source local' and 'farm to table' is very important to the local economy as well as a huge draw as to what makes this eclectic culinary scene so unique."
Fourteen of Charleston's culinary luminaries are being celebrated through a new mural on Mira Winery's Queen Street building. The painting, which artist David Boatwright is completing, is based on Renoir's iconic 1881 work, "Luncheon of the Boating Party."
Last year, the state Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism launched its South Carolina BBQ Trail, a website and advertising blitz aimed to call attention to more than 200 barbecue restaurants across the state.
Haley declined to say if the new initiative would resemble that, but added, "It's going to be cool, that's all I'll tell you."
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.