Chatting with Big Bad Breakfast chef John Currence


Chow (Chow) Down

What’s the last thing you fried?

I hate to admit it because it sounds so cliché, but the last thing I fried was bacon. My 5-year-old daughter hates everything I cook except bacon. I’m always seeking her approval and I’ll pander to her as much as possible to please her.

Some people think potlikker has some mythical and medicinal powers, is it over hyped?

Not at all! I don’t see it used enough. I’m fascinated by it! Why would you throw it away? We’re so wasteful and we always take that kind of stuff for granted. I could totally see why people think it’s magical.

What’s your quintessential meat and three?

Ah man, that’s a tough one. Well, I’m totally predictable — fried chicken. There’s no question about that. Meat loaf and stewed okra and black-eyed peas and green beans, it’s hard to choose. There are so many great places that serve meat and threes. My all-time meat and three spot is Busy Bee Café, the first time I ate there it was $1.85 a plate. She cooked lunch out of her house, you ate what she cooked, and you loved it. Tim Hontzas down in Birmingham is out of his mind ! Everything is fresh, nothing comes out of a can or freezer. Arnold’s in Nashville is great, and of course when I come to Charleston, I love Bertha’s.

What are your thoughts on chow chow?

The first time I saw chow chow was working at Crook’s Corner. Bill [chef/owner Bill Neal] always had it to garnish the catfish. It’s so varied, I don’t really think there’s a definition on what it is. I like mine sweet, a little spicy, served with pork to cut through the fat and richness.

You mentioned Crook’s Corner — did you learn anything about shrimp and grits from chef Bill?

Hell yeah! I worked for Bill at Crook’s Corner from 1987 to 1989 and can tell you in retrospect, I was completely incapable of realizing the nuances of Bill’s cooking. I was always wanting him to push things further, but he taught me how to showcase the essence and beauty of a dish. Bill taught me, the simpler things were, the better they were. That’s why your grandmother’s recipes were only like four ingredients, it wasn’t augmented with all this bullshit. Working at Crook’s Corner was the first time I ever saw it on a menu, and it wasn’t until around ’95-96 where the popularity rose and it was on every menu in every variation. I took what I’d learned from Bill about shrimp and grits and put it in my back pocket. I never used it while I was in New Orleans or anywhere else, I just sat on it. When I opened City Grocery in 1992, I finally put it on the menu that May. I can say I built City Grocery on the back of shrimp and grits.

Currence plans to open South Carolina’s first Big Bad Breakfast at 456 Meeting St. this fall.

Support the Charleston City Paper

We’ve been covering Charleston since 1997 and plan to be here with the latest and Best of Charleston for many years to come. In a time where local journalism is struggling, the City Paper is investing in the future of Charleston as a place where diverse, engaging views can flourish. We can't do it without our readers. If you'd like to support local, independent journalism:

UP NEXT FROM

FEATURE

11/29 COVID-19 update: 12.2% positive, 1,053 cases; 7 deaths

Charleston City Paper Staff

COVID-19 updates: South Carolina health officials reported 1,053 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, with seven additional confirmed deaths. With 8,279 tests reported Sunday, 12.2% were positive. As of 4:26 p.m. Nov. 29, via S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control: Confirmed cases in S.C.: 202,422 (+1,053)Positive tests in Charleston County (total): 19,927Negative tests in S.C.: 2,440,321 (+12,615)Deaths in S.C. from COVID-19: 4,050 (+7) Note: […]

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

11/29 COVID-19 update: 12.2% positive, 1,053 cases; 7 deaths

COVID-19 updates: South Carolina health officials reported 1,053 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, with seven additional confirmed deaths. With 8,279 tests reported Sunday, 12.2% were positive. As of 4:26 p.m. Nov. 29, via S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control: Confirmed cases in S.C.: 202,422 (+1,053)Positive tests in Charleston County (total): 19,927Negative tests in S.C.: 2,440,321 (+12,615)Deaths in S.C. from COVID-19: 4,050 (+7) Note: […]

Chanukah at The Bend making the switch to drive-thru

The largest annual Jewish event in the state is still on, but moving to a new location for the same festive atmosphere at a social distance and from the safety of your car. Join family and friends for Chanukah at The Bend starting at 4 p.m., Dec. 13. Shifted from the traditional, annual Chanukah at […]

Brack: Here’s to two good friends who will be just a click away

In this season of thanks during a year that’s challenged everyone in new ways, let’s remember and honor friendships. Friends make our lives richer. They open new worlds and ideas. But they’re so familiar and comfortable that you kind of want them to never change and always be there.  Two longtime friends, cookbook author and […]

Before You Go: Record holiday spending projected; Groups ask McMaster to address long-term care

COVID-19 updates: South Carolina health officials reported 1,777 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, with 28 additional confirmed deaths. With 14,392 tests reported Friday, 12.3% were positive. As of 2:46 p.m. Nov. 27, via S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control: Confirmed cases in S.C.: 199,538 (+1,777)Positive tests in Charleston County (total): 19,803 (+709)Negative tests in S.C.: 2,440,321 (+12,615)Deaths in S.C. from COVID-19: 4,043 (+28) […]