James Beard Award-Winning Alum Elevates Southern Cooking to an Artform

Growing up in a small Virginia town where everyone grew and cooked their own food left a deep impression on Sean Brock ’00, the James Beard Award-winning chef of Charleston restaurants McCrady’s and Husk.

Charleston Sean Brock '00 Husk McCrady's

As the Charlotte Campus’ latest Distinguished Visiting Chef (DVC), Brock recently spoke to students about his passions: cooking, farming and preserving Southern culinary heritage.

"It's Like a Game of Jenga"
At his two restaurants, Brock changes the menu every day to reflect what’s available. “The ingredients show up when they’re ready, and we have to start piecing recipes together. It’s like a game of Jenga,” he told students, laughing.

Students were impressed by his principles. “Not everyone could pull that off,” said Rebecca Polson ’11, a culinary arts major. “But you’ve got to admire the fact that he won’t make an exception.”

Brock is obsessed with resurrecting Southern ingredients that have fallen out of favor. At his 1.5 acre farm, he grows heirloom crops like benne seed, Sea Island Red Peas, several varieties of farro, and Jimmy Red corn, from which he makes grits.

“The majority of the produce we cook at McCrady’s comes from our farm,” he noted proudly. What he doesn’t use immediately is pickled, canned or preserved for later use.

DVC Sean Brock Husk Salmon

A Labor of Love
Brock cooked three dishes for students: a salad of heirloom vegetables; strawberry gazpacho with stone crab and pork with chanterelles.

Rebecca was amazed by his presentation and attention to detail. “Just watching him in his element was amazing,” she said. “Each dish was so time consuming, but the love that went in to each one was undeniable.”

After Brock's presentation, culinary arts major Jay Cousin '11 received a DVC scholarship in Brock’s name. After he graduates with his associate in Culinary Arts, Jay plans to transfer to JWU’s Providence Campus to pursue his bachelor’s in Culinary Nutrition.