Chef leaves Wild Olive for chickens

Fred Neuville

WADE SPEES

Hoping to deliver on his first restaurant's name, Fred Neuville has left his partnership in the Wild Olive to take on raising chickens on Wadmalaw Island for the Fat Hen.

A year after opening the Italian restaurant, his second on Johns Island, and starting a catering business, the chef-owner said he couldn't give 100 percent to all of them and his family. He said there were "philosophical differences" with Wild Olive partner Doug Godley but the split was friendly.

Leaving the Wild Olive was painful, he said. "We loved the crew there. We were all in tears. But it needed to be done."

Neuville will focus his energy on what he says the Fat Hen does best, the farm-to-table concept. He has entered a partnership with Andrew Payne of Wadmalaw Island Farms and plans to raise pastured Delaware-breed chickens there, beginning with 300 chicks.

"Hopefully, in about eight weeks

we'll be selling them as specials and have eggs at the same time," Neuville said. The plan is to eventually process 40 chickens a week for the Fat Hen.

As for direct sales to the public, Neuville said not yet, but possibly.

The farm sits on 22 acres but only a small portion will be used for the chickens. Neuville said the birds will eat a natural diet of grain, insects and grass. "They love wild mustard greens. They run everywhere."

Neuville, who opened the Fat Hen on Maybank Highway in 2007, said he's excited about the new venture and how it will boost the farm-to-table experience.

"My thinking is, what better way to have people have the food on their plate to come from ... 20 minutes away."

Teresa Taylor is the food editor. Reach her at food@postandcourier.com.