I’ve only been an inveterate Today show fan since I was … five. Based on the crowds and their neon signs at Waterfront Park Friday morning, I’m not the only one.
I chatted briefly — three minutes and 20 seconds if we’re counting — with Kathie Lee Gifford and Al Roker before they hosted the fourth hour of the morning show. After admitting my totally objective stance, I asked the tough questions — “Charleston, you like it? Any favorite restaurants?”
Consummate professionals, the two smiled warmly. “We’ve always been here working,” says Gifford. “We’ve never just been tourists.”
While they couldn’t cough up a list of Charleston go-tos, Roker did mention that they enjoyed a dinner at Parcel 32 while in town. Also, for those who haven’t been diligently following the career path of the 11-time Emmy winner, Roker authored Al Roker’s Big Bad Book of Barbecue in 2002, so I asked him about his ‘cue experience in Charleston. “Rodney Scott just dropped some barbecue off,” says Roker. “You can’t do much better than Rodney Scott.”
While co-hosting their fourth hour at Waterfront Park, some local talent popped in to soak up the spotlight — restaurateur Brooks Reitz was first, with a vodka cocktail (rumor has it the Today crew made an appearance at the Reitz-owned Leon’s earlier this week). Next up was Stefan DeArmon, a.k.a. “Reverend Cornbread,” a former Wine + Food fest volunteer who ended up connecting with and signing on to work for Smoke BBQ chef Roland Feldman. Shortly after, DeArmon would start his own biz, the Reverend Cornbread Company. Roker and Gifford tried his cornbread stuffed with pimento cheese and collards, before making their way to the final demo featuring Charleston Grill executive chef Michelle Weaver. Weaver jumped into the duo’s banter effortlessly while preparing shrimp and grits — “Not low calorie,” says Gifford. Weaver: “We didn’t say anything about calories.” Officially putting in a request for more Weaver airtime on NBC.
While Gifford had to head back home, you can still catch Roker on Saturday at the Culinary Village main stage starting at 1 p.m. Bring him a bag of Molly & Me Pecans which we caught him snacking on before the show. You might score three minutes and 20 seconds of face-time, too.
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