Cook lives by his rice, rice steamer

Taylor Clarkson

Despite all the cliched jokes about testy mother-in-law relationships, April Gorski isn't contributing to the stereotype. She has nothing but admiration for her son-in-law, at least when it comes to food — and does anything else matter as much?

She writes, “(He) has the ability to take whatever spices and herbs he has in his kitchen and make delicious sauces and gravies. That is only one of his cooking talents. His other is that whatever he makes is scrumptious and he loves to cook!”

Name: Taylor Clarkson

Age: 28

Residence: Charleston

Occupation: Accountant

Family: Alysia Clarkson (wife)

Q: Reach into your bank of good food memories, and tell us an experience you'll never forget.

A: It's hard to pull out just one moment that is unforgettable. I think every food experience is unique in and of itself. The best times that I have had in my life all revolve around people that enjoy those food experiences with (me). Growing up the kitchen was where everyone congregated to tell stories, laugh, and enjoy the fact that we are able to be together. The people are truly what make the food memories because at some point, you will have a bite of food that transports you back to those times and people.

Q: You're known for Southern cooking. What's your idea of a perfect Southern or Lowcountry meal?

A: Being from Charleston, the perfect Southern or Lowcountry meal has to include rice, whether that is rice and gravy, red rice, rice and hash, gumbo with rice, etc. Rice is a staple in our household and there is never a time it is not on hand for if, and when, we need it. Other than the food itself, there is nothing better than having that meal on a patio or porch overlooking the beautiful marshes.

Q: Your mother-in-law remarked on your skill with herbs and spices. Give us an example of how you're using fresh herbs right now.

A: The summer season or grilling season is the best time to use fresh herbs. I love to use fresh dill or rosemary in a potato salad or a sauce to accompany grilled meats, vegetables, and fish. Also, some people may not realize but adding fresh herbs to simple syrups (basil, mint, thyme, tarragon) to include in that refreshing summer cocktail will help to elevate that drink.

Q: Did you have a role model or mentor in your past and how did that influence you?

A: I was lucky in that both of my parents love to cook so they are the ones who influenced me in my passion for cooking. My father would always cook to unwind after work because he found it relaxing. I find that it is the same with me. I think some people find cooking stressful because they are afraid of the way a meal is going to turn out. I take sort of the opposite approach in that I believe cooking should be approached as an experiment. Is there a chance that your food could not turn out the way you would like — yes, but you learned something during that process. Both of my parents weren't keen on using recipes so that has also molded my approach to cooking. My wife calls it throwing something together.

Q: Are there any chefs or food celebrities you admire, local or national, and why?

A: There are a lot of chefs that I admire locally and nationally. Nationally, I would say I admire Morimoto the most. He has a way of taking the simple ingredient and elevating it so that it becomes complex and elegant on the plate. Locally, Sean Brock (although a national name), Doug Blair (Voysey's), and Paul Tinsley (River Course) are the chefs that I most admire. Each of them has a unique way of coaxing the subtle nuances out of each dish that is prepared. They also produce dishes that comfort you and bring a smile to your face.

Q: What is your favorite piece of cookware? Why?

A: It is hard to pick just one piece of cookware to be my favorite, but I can narrow it down to two at the moment. The first piece of cookware is a fish spatula. It's versatility in the kitchen is something that I find unmatched in other utensils. Its combination of flexibility and strength makes it perfect for a home cook.

The second piece of cookware that I know I could not live without is my Charleston Rice Steamer. If you like rice, then you should have one of these. All you have to do is put your rice in the insert along with 11/3 cups of liquid per 1 cup of rice, add water to the pot the insert sits in, and turn on high for 30 minutes. Your rice will not burn or overcook if you use the Charleston Rice Steamer, so you are free to do other things.

Ingredients

1 cup stone-ground grits

1 cup whole milk or heavy cream

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup water

1/2 pint sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine grits and liquid in pot. Bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce to a simmer and stir frequently. Keep at a simmer until grits are cooked (15-20 minutes). Once grits are cooked through, remove from heat and stir in sour cream. This will give your grits a creamy/velvety texture.