Imagine a workplace where no one is ever frantic, there is no wasted energy and coworkers are calm, friendly and professional.
Now imagine that mythical-sounding environment as a busy kitchen that just got a James Beard Award nomination. Meet Andy Henderson, a culinary wonder-worker who conjoins his ingredients with deft skill. As the chef at Edmund's Oast, he has employed a remarkably successful trickle-down philosophy of how to be efficient while letting creativity stay loose.
Henderson's plates are visually stunning and his Cali/Southern flavors are profoundly satisfying. In the winter, he likes to get creative with his beloved baby carrots, which he finds “so versatile and supernaturally sweet.”
He takes his patrons into consideration and tries to please vegetarians, offering exciting dishes of all kinds (butternut squash a la plancha anyone?). It is seemingly incongruent to his skill with butchering and charcuterie. For carnivores, he might break down an Ossabaw Red Wattle hog and use it judiciously to flavor those baby carrots, perhaps braising them in a super-rich pork stock with red wine and cumin. In the deep South, letting pork play a supporting role is surely progressive.
The accolades and awards are exciting for Henderson, but his mind is still working on how to streamline his kitchen to function even more smoothly and in tandem with local farmers. After a four-year stint cooking in San Francisco, where recycling food waste for compost is mandatory, Henderson wants to see the same thing happen in Charleston.
“It breaks my heart to throw a peel in the trash can.”
On the meat/vegetable continuum: “I love meats. There is a freakin' meat locker above the kitchen, but the vegetables are what really get me excited. What other product is a better example of what a city or a town or a region can make than local produce? I love the idea of taking a vegetable and treating it with the same respect as a protein.”