Chef BJ will be cooking up some love
Chef BJ Dennis is a local boy through and through but grew up unaware of how rich and deep his local Gullah culture is. But that changed and today, he’s a professional chef who prides himself on turning people on to the local foods that he grew up eating. At this Thursday’s pop-up dinner at Butcher & Bee, his first in a year, he’ll be frying up local shark, a staple in the Gullah community, and serving it with red rice. He’ll also break out some conch, an oft-ignored bycatch, which will show up in his Charleston-style gumbo, a savory okra and tomato stew of shrimp, squid, shark, and half a blue crab. Dennis loves his local veggies and has a bunch of options for the vegetarians in the crowd, including a swiss chard, okra, and eggplant stew made with homemade coconut milk and chili peppers. Then there’s the butterbean salad, the barbecue-braised stew peas, and the baked yellow squash with Geechee peanut sauce. Opt for a veggie plate, and you can try all four with a side of white rice. Dennis says the local shrimp hasn’t been all that great this season, so he’s planning to do a shrimp and okra stew with chili peppers, garlic, and ginger. He’s also offering a barbecue plate with smoked chicken breast, beef, and pork. For an appetizer, he’s serving a trio of Lowcountry fritters — blackeyed pea, shrimp and rice, and zucchini — with homemade tomato jam, a sweet and zingy mix of tomatoes, garlic, ginger, apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar that’s cooked down to a ketchup-like consistency. South Carolina pears from GrowFood will be turned into a cobbler for dessert. Dennis says he’s got the students from Ira Hill’s culinary class at Burke ready to help in the kitchen on Thursday. We recommend you make your reservations now. The plates will be sold a la carte (prices range from $5-$25), and it’s BYOB.