Serving Up The Goods At Soul Food Sessions

In case you weren’t already aware, I have been working at Henrietta’s at the Dewberry Hotel for the past..well..almost 6 months. I wanted to get a first-hand experience working in Charleston’s food industry, and what could be better than at one of Charleston’s finest fine dining spots in the downtown area!

The Dewberry hosts LOTS of events throughout the year – anything ranging from networking events to weddings. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to serve food at an event called Soul Food Sessions. Soul Food Sessions is a traveling dinner series dedicated to advocating for equality in restaurant kitchens. Charleston was the last stop in the series.

In each city, the core Soul Food Sessions chefs are joined by guest chefs. The guest chefs of this dinner were BJ Dennis, Kevin Mitchell, and Jason Sherrill (chef at The Dewberry!). Together, they all worked very hard to create the most amazing seven- course meal.

The event started off with passed hors d’oevres, which was my favorite part of the evening. I loved having the opportunity to describe the food I was serving up to the guests, while also having the chance to interact with them. The hors d’oevres that were served were:

  • Mushroom Duxelles with marinated pulled chicken on a toasted crostini with orange coulis – made by Chef Collier of Soul Food Sessions
  • Blue Corn Cake and Green Tomato Marinade with Okra and Tasso Ham Struesel -made by Chef James Barnes of Soul Food Sessions
  • Blue Crab-Stuffed Carolina Shrimp with spicy tomato jam, collard greens and pickled vegetables – made by Chef Jason Sherrill from The Dewberry.

I sampled some of these as well (yes, of course there were extras!). They were all delicious but I think my favorite of these was the Blue Crab-Stuffed Carolina Shrimp. I mean really, have you ever heard of such a thing?? Just knowing that Chef Sherrill actually stuffed this shrimp with crab is pretty mind-blowing. The shrimp was perfectly fried and crispy and the crab inside gave the shrimp a more soft texture. This being paired with the spicy tomato jam, collard greens, and pickled vegetables created the most delectable medley of flavors.

Next it was time for course 1. This was a cold appetizer made by Soul Food Sessions chef, Elaina Ruth. It was Smoked Trout Pontchartrain and Crab Salad with pickled mushrooms, black pepper tulle and Creole hollandaise. I did not get the opportunity to try this, but I will say that it had the most beautiful presentation, and I watched people devour it in probably under 7 minutes.

Course 2 consisted of a Rabbit Rillete Cake with potato and golden beet pave, crispy greens and smoked rabbit jus, which was made by Chef Michael Bowling from Soul Food Sessions. I did not try the Rabbit Rillete Cake, but I did try the potato and golden beet pave, cripsy greens, and rabbit jus. I absolutely LOVED this dish. The potato and golden beet pave pretty much melted in my mouth and the crispy greens were cooked to a crispy perfection, and had a very wide range of unique flavors. The rabbit jus was both sweet and tangy, complementing the dish quite well.

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Course 3 consisted of a vegetable course, made by Soul Food Sessions chef Mike Sheats. It was a Tuskegee Soup with crab, sweet potato, scarlet queen turnip and benne seeds. The sweet and tangy flavors of this soup, paired with the soft crab and crunchy benne seeds created the most delicious southern-style vegetable dish.

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Course 4 consisted of a seafood course made by local chef BJ Dennis. This was Creek Fish with a Shrimp Purloo croquette and she-crab gravy. This was another dish I did not get to try, but it also had a very beautiful presentation and was well received by everyone at the event.

Course 5 consisted of the Fowl Course, made by local chef Kevin Mitchell. It was pan-seared Duck and Sweet Potato Confit with bourbon-braised dinosaur kale and sorghum reduction. Of this dish, I tried the bourbon-braised dinosaur kale which was probably up there with some of the best-tasting kale I’ve ever had. It was not only braised with bourbon(yum!!), but was also mixed with sauteed onions and bacon! The sorghum reduction provided a colorful, rich, sweet and tangy flavor, which paired quite well with the kale.

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Course 6 consisted of the featured dish, made by chef Greg Collier of Soul Food Sessions, which was grillades over a cornmeal waffle with green strawberry relish and smoked peanut dried okra crumble. This dish was definitely my favorite of all the dishes I tried. I was super into the green strawberry relish and the smoked peanut dried okra crumble. The relish was sweet and tangy and the peanut okra crumble provided the perfect nutty crunch to the dish. Oh, and what could be better than all this on top of a cornmeal waffle?? I sure can’t think of anything.

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Course 7 was of course, dessert! This course was made by Soul Food Sessions Chef Jamie Turner. It was Poached Pear Napolean and Goat Cheese Chiboust with cashew crumble and red wine gastrique. I thoroughly enjoyed this dessert as it was savory, nutty and sweet all at the same time. The cashew crumble was reminiscent of a peanut brittle and the Goat Cheese Chiboust was basically really good goat cheese made into ice cream, and you really can’t go wrong with that. I probably could’ve just eaten a whole tub of it after consuming this dessert!

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This event cost a total of $90 to attend. In terms of affordability, that is a bit of a hefty price. However, for a very decadent seven course meal, this is actually a pretty good deal. If you were to dine out in a fine dining restaurant and have a seven course meal, you’d probably end up spending your entire last paycheck (or more)! Next time Soul Food Sessions hits up Charleston, I would definitely suggest getting a ticket if you didn’t get to experience it this time. It’s worth it!

This was a fantastic event, that I was very happy to be a part of. I love any event that supports chefs, equality and the restaurant industry. If you haven’t heard of Soul Food Sessions, you should definitely check them out. I can’t wait until the next time the Soul Food Sessions chefs bring their amazing culinary talent to Charleston! I’ll be actually sitting down and enjoying every bite.

~Laura

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