Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chef B.J. Dennis pops up with some Gullah/Geechee fare

Family Style Fun

Posted by Alex Keith on Wed, Mar 21, 2012 at 5:10 PM

Local Charlestonian and self-proclaimed “man of the people,” BJ Dennis is redefining Gullah/Geechee cuisine for the Lowcountry through a series of pop-up dinners at Butcher & Bee. In keeping with the restaurant’s dedication to locally sourced products, Dennis is looking to bring fresh, seasonal foods to the community table, “like Sunday dinner at mom’s house,” he says.

Born and raised in Charleston, Dennis was given the opportunity in 2004 to live and cook in the Caribbean where he came to embrace his Geechee heritage. After four years in St. Thomas, Dennis came home filled with excitement to share his take on Gullah/Geechee food with the Lowcountry. “I want to get rid of the idea that Gullah/Geechee or soul food is not healthy, it’s not just about fried food and mac 'n’cheese,” he says.

At the pop-up dinner, you can expect “real local eats,” from local oysters sourced near Bowen’s Island, to oxtail, rabbit, quail, and even goat.

“There will be a lot of smoking and barbequing, a lot of wild game, and an emphasis on vegetables,” says Dennis. “I’ll always love fine dining, but my heart has always been my home cooking. The dinners at Butcher and Bee are my opportunity to give Charleston a taste of the culture that we don’t get much of a sense of downtown. Downtown is changing and progressing, and I love Charleston’s progression, but we want to remember where we came from.”

Learning much of his culinary skills from his grandfather who grew up on Daniel Island, Dennis has also spent the past two and half years learning from his mentor Jeremiah Bacon, the executive chef of the Macintosh and Oak Steakhouse. Dennis has been working as a chef and consultant at the Cocktail Club and hopes to start his own private chef and catering business.

At the Butcher & Bee, Dennis hopes he can bring the community together, from the older generation to newcomers to the city and turn them on to the Gullah/Geechee heritage. The first one is this Sunday, March 26 from 5ish to 9 ish. The meal will be presented family style, and owner Michael Shemtov says they will be presenting this as an ongoing Sunday night supper series.

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