Charleston is such a foodie town that food and beverage superstars are hiding in plain sight, out of the James Beard limelight, but still very much creating and serving amazing food and drinks. This series profiles Charleston’s “hidden F&Bs.”
Out on the farm near Augusta, Ga., a young Emily Kimbrough couldn’t get cable television, but she obsessively watched PBS and begged her mother to help her make the recipes from Nathalie Dupree, Yan Can Cook, and Cajun Justin Wilson. The farm shaped her life-long love of fresh vegetables.
“People would say, I have a bumper crop of corn and they’d come over with a pickup truck full. You’d stop everything and shuck corn,” she recalls.
From a very young age, she knew she wanted to work with food.
After getting degrees in culinary arts and food service management from Johnson & Wales, Kimbrough started Emily Lane Personal Chef Services. She cooks for vacationers who want meals at their beach houses, Charlestonians too busy to deal with cooking, and offers private dinner parties, and in-home cooking lessons. She has had to hire a second chef to keep up with the demand.
Favorite kitchen tool or gadget: My microplane/zester, although I’m also obsessed with my spiralizer right now.
Three things in my refrigerator: Cheddar cheese, cold coffee, broccoli. I eat a lot of broccoli.
Three things in my pantry: Quinoa pasta because I’m gluten-free; oyster sauce because it’s good in stir-fries since I can’t have soy sauce; canned jams that I’ve either gotten from other people or made myself.
Favorite after-work hangout: I’m pretty boring. I enjoy going home after work. I’d rather meet people in the morning for coffee and then it’s Collective Coffee in Mt. Pleasant.
Favorite Charleston restaurant: Right now, it’s The Grocery. I feel like I can get three or four vegetables and I’m always wowed.
Favorite comfort food: Any kind of cheesy pasta.
Favorite smell: Peaches. At a farmers market, when you walk by a basket and they’re really fresh, it smells like the best perfume in the world.
Favorite drink: Water, kombucha with ginger ale, and mocha chilled coffee.
Number of hours you work a week: About 40 hours in the slow season from November to early February, 55 hours the other times.
Customer pet peeve: When I get information from people I’m going to be cooking for, and they give me every detail, down to grandma’s allergies, but they don’t tell me, or can’t tell me, the address. They’ll say, “It’s a really big house on Isle of Palms,” like I’m going to drive up and down asking who hired a personal chef!
Most under-rated ingredient: Lemons. People think about salt, but not about how adding the acidic can round out a whole dish.
Favorite meal to cook at home: Broiled salmon with a cold cucumber salad and brown rice.
Best advice a mentor gave you: A client — I’ll call him Ben N. — said, “Never work for less than you’re worth. You’ll never be happy doing the job and your client will never get what they need.”
Emily Lane Personal Chef Services can be reached at charlestonpersonalchef.com