Chef Donald Barickman, HMG restaurants split

Donald M. Barickman

Renowned Charleston chef Donald Barickman has cut ties with the popular downtown restaurants he helped found, one by one, over the past two decades: Magnolias, Cypress and Blossom.

T.J. Parsell, president of Hospitality Management Group, which owns the three upscale dining establishments, said Barickman, founding executive chef and vice president, also was minority owner in the company.

Barickman left HMG on Feb. 10.

Parsell said the departure comes from a difference of opinion on daily business decisions, not a single episode.

"It's not a situation of a business owner squeezing a chef out," Parsell said. It's more of two people agreeing to disagree and parting ways.

Parsell declined to share more until the two reached a separation agreement. Barickman could not be reached for comment.

Culinary insiders credit Parsell's father, the late Thomas Parsell, and Barickman for helping elevate downtown Charleston's reputation as dining destination with their 1991 opening of Magnolias on East Bay Street. They went on to open Blossom Café in 1993 and Cypress Lowcountry Grill in 2001.

"I don't think his legacy will change," the younger Parsell said of Barickman. "I think he'll continue to be thought of as a pioneer of Lowcountry cuisine and the culinary renaissance of Charleston that began in the '90s."

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Barickman, also a cookbook author, oversaw kitchen operations for all three restaurants and trained the executive chef at each. Parsell said Don Drake, executive chef at Magnolias and veteran of HMG, would assume a more supervisory role as culinary operations director for the company.

"From an operational standpoint, I believe the executive chefs of all three are more than capable to oversee their kitchen operations," Parsell said.

Parsell also said HMG has shifted to bulk purchasing to keep menu prices from rising. He added that the company would continue to buy local ingredients, especially for Cypress.