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.”
For Indaco Chef de Cuisine Blair Machado, a love of cooking started with pickles. At his maternal grandmother’s house, “when you’d wake up in the morning and smell vinegar, you’d know it would be a long day pickling,” he recalls. The recipe for the bread-and-butter pickles was passed from relative to relative and, when he married in 2014, Machado made — what else? — 150 jars of pickles to give his guests.
Machado, born in Santa Fe, N.M., credits Mike Lata for his first Charleston job. After attending Virginia Commonwealth University, Machado cooked in such Virginia establishments as 2941 Restaurant and Can-Can Brasserie when he heard about Sean Brock and Mike Lata and their work in Charleston. On a trip to Folly Beach with his then-girlfriend, Machado decided he needed to have dinner at Lata’s restaurant, FIG. Lata came out of the kitchen and Machado introduced himself. Ever gracious, Lata said he was always looking for talent.
“I came back the next morning with a resume,” Machado says. Lata offered him a stage and Machado chose to work as a butcher. When a permanent position opened, Machado became FIG’s a.m. butcher. He would later work as a restaurant consultant at Warehouse, as executive chef at Park Café, and as sous chef at Lana and Wise Buck before becoming Indaco’s chef de cuisine.
Favorite Kitchen Tool or Gadget: My sauce whisk. It keeps all the purees beautifully smooth and it re-emulsifies butter sauce.
Three things always in my refrigerator: Pickles, of course. Hot sauce, especially Cholula, and butter.
Three things always in my pantry: All-Purpose flour, dried pasta, vinegar.
Favorite after-work hangout: Moe’s Crosstown Tavern.
Favorite Charleston restaurant other than yours: Spero. I’ve been going there once a week lately. It’s a perfect variety from snacks to full plates to sandwiches and the execution is full-on.
Favorite comfort food: Fried chicken and mashed potatoes.
Favorite smell: Bacon.
Favorite Drink: Gin and tonic.
Number of Hours You Work a Week: 55-60.
Customer pet peeve: Gluten intolerance, especially being a pasta chef.
Most under-rated ingredient: Saba (an unfermented cooked grape juice). Not a lot of people truly understand it and it’s an amazing supplement to balsamic, which has become a crutch for many people. It changes the complexity.
Favorite meal to cook at home: Anything on the grill. I love grilling.
Best advice a mentor gave you: Chef Jonathan Krinn (formerly of 2941 in Fairfax, Va.), used to tell me that this is one of the few industries where it’s really up to you what you get out of it. If you put dedication and focus into it, it will come back to you. It’s up to hard work to get what you want out of it.
Indaco is at 526 King Street and is open Mon. to Thurs, 5 p.m.–10 p.m., Fri. and Sat., 5 p.m.–10 p.m., and for happy hour Monday to Fri., 5 p.m.–7 p.m.