Charleston is such a foodie town that chefs are hiding in plain sight, out of the James Beard limelight, but still very much creating amazing food. This series profiles Charleston’s “hidden chefs.”
Perhaps it was inevitable that Antonia M. Krenza would become a chef. Every holiday, her large Italian family would gather in New York at food-covered tables.
“I have lots of first cousins in my big family, and all the women are great cooks. Food is a big part of our upbringing,” Krenza says. She grew up wanting her own restaurant to continue the cooking tradition. After graduating from Culinard in Birmingham, Ala. in 2006, Krenza moved to Charleston on a whim in 2010. She was working at Vespa on Daniel Island when mutual friends introduced her to the Hall family. After working a season at Rita’s on Folly Beach, she spent a couple of years at Halls Chophouse downtown. In February, she was named as executive chef at the Old Village Post House Inn in Mt. Pleasant.
Favorite kitchen tool or gadget: My tongs are my third hand. It sounds basic, but my tongs don’t leave my hands most days.
Three things always in my refrigerator: Usually, there’s not much there because I’m not there often. I usually have some form of cheese, some rosé, and fruit of some kind for my smoothies.
Three things always in my pantry: Peanut butter — the honey crunchy kind. Bananas. And coffee, Dunkin Donuts dark roast. I use grounds rather than beans, just due to time.
Favorite after-work hangout: When on this side of the bridge, Coleman Public House. Downtown, I’m at Pearlz Oyster Bar a lot.
Favorite Charleston restaurant other than yours: FIG. I’ve never had a bad meal there in my life and the service is at a high standard. It’s one of the best meals you can get in Charleston.
Comfort Food: Anything Italian. Any kind of pasta or eggplant parmesan.
Favorite Smell: My garden. I have a honeybee garden and I’m growing all sorts of herbs, and Confederate Jasmine. I have lots of basil. I have a big old grill with a smoker and I grill a lot of pizzas with that basil.
Favorite drink: Maker’s Mark and ginger.
Number of hours you work a week: I’ve chosen not to look anymore, but if I had to guess, 55-65.
Customer pet peeve: I tend to let things roll off my back but it does make me laugh when people think you can just whip up a baked potato in a few minutes.
Most under-rated ingredient: Really good extra virgin olive oil. There are just so many out there and people don’t take the time to taste and re-taste. There’s so much diversity: grassy ones and buttery ones. I just love an extra virgin to finish dishes. I guess that’s the Italian in me.
Favorite meal to cook at home: Anything grilled. I’m a big carnivore.
Best advice a mentor gave you: All the way back in culinary school, one of my chef instructors, Ian Tarica, always said that, as chefs, if it is in your range of possibility, you do it. No is not an option with guests. And I’ve carried that forward in my career. If I can physically do it, I will do it.
The Old Village Post House Inn is at 101 Pitt St., Mt. Pleasant and serves dinner nightly from 5 p.m. and brunch Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The restaurant also is open for happy hour Mon. to Fri. from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.