March 2010

Five Guys and a Gullah Diva

Author: Paula Magrini | Photographer: Photography By Anne

The Hilton Head Hospitality Association, The Lowrey Group and Honey Horn Plantation have unveiled plans for an extraordinary evening when culinary prowess and Gullah flavor collide. The event will showcase a rare collaboration between celebrity chef, book author and Gullah ambassador, Sallie Ann Robinson and five of the area’s most talented chefs.

“If there’s one thing I learned growing up on Daufuskie Island, it’s the importance of good, home-cooked food in our lives,” reminisced Robinson. “Home cooking has always been a connection between me, family and friends—a reason to get together whether we’re solving problems or just enjoying each other.”

Robinson weaves memories of her Gullah upbringing with her well-respected culinary expertise throughout the pages of her latest cookbook, Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Way. This month, five of the island’s top five chefs will have the opportunity to offer their interpretations of Robinson’s Gullah-style recipes, including selections like Momma’s Shrimp and “Tada” Salad, Ol’‘Fuskie Fried Crab Rice, Hot Sticky Bush Blackberry Dumplings. These and other savory dishes from Robinson’ popular cookbook will grace the tables of the upcoming event, “Five Guys and A Gullah Diva,” at Honey Horn Plantation on March 12.

Participating island chefs hail from the kitchens of the esteemed Lowrey Group restaurants as well as from the company’s catering and events division. The line-up features Chef Yuri Gow from Antonio’s Restaurant, Chef Keith Josefiak from Old Fort Pub Restaurant, Chef Eric Sayers from CQ’s Restaurant, Chef Peter Zoole from the Lowrey Group’s newest restaurant and Chefs Andy Borgmeier and Glen Barroncini from Celebrations Catering & Events.

Each of the chefs will prepare one recipe from Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Way, ranging from appetizers to dessert. “Collectively, we’ll create an incredible five-course meal,” Robinson explained. “Of course the wine will be flowing and I’ll offer a special demonstration following the first course,” she added. “Be prepared to learn how to properly clean a blue crab!”

A sixth-generation native of Daufuskie Island, Robinson relied on the abundance of fresh ingredients found on the island and in the surrounding waters to create her unique brand of southern-style cuisine. She recalls that “growing up Gullah” meant harvesting vegetables, picking berries, raising livestock, catching fish, crab, shrimp and oysters. The 100 home-style dishes featured in Robinson’s cookbook cleverly incorporate these natural ingredients in flavorful recipes for salads and side dishes, seafood, meat and game, rice, quick meals and desserts. Photographer Gregory Wrenn Smith brings to life the sights and tastes of Daufuskie on the pages of Robinsons’ second compilation of beloved Gullah recipes.

Robinson is famous not only for her Gullah-honed culinary skills and Dixie etiquette. Her nationwide speaking engagements, notable contributions to numerous publications and earlier work as a tour guide on Savannah-Daufuskie boat trips have secured her role as an authentic and highly sought after ambassador to the legendary Gullah culture. Robinson’s mission to preserve the Gullah legacy may have begun following the creation of the memorable character “Ethel,” based on the real-life character of Robinson, in Pat Conroy’s novel, The Water Is Wide.

“There has been an awful lot of misunderstanding about exactly who the Gullah people are,” Robinson pointed out. “I’ve always thought I could give the public a better glimpse of the Gullah culture through our cooking and hospitality. They’re rich in Lowcountry history and traditional values that are honored worldwide,” she said. “When we break bread together, we preserve what matters most, our relationships with the ones we care about and love.”

Over the past decade Robinson has delivered this message and hours of her signature culinary advice to an ever-growing audience via TV programs, including Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Dixie Divas in the Kitchen, The Food Network, The 700 Club, The QVC show and CN8’s Your Morning, among other media resources.

The Lowrey Group chefs will bring their own unique set of culinary skills and cultural influences to the Honey Horn tables. Several of the chefs have studied at prestigious international culinary institutions such as Instituit Hotelier Cesar Ritz in Switzerland and the famed Cordon Bleu in Paris. They have established reputations of excellence based on their diverse and innovative island menus, incorporating sustainable local seafood and offering entrées that feature ingredients fresh from the area’s leading organic farming resources.

“Our menus reflect an impressive range of Lowcountry flavors and nuances,” Chef Sayers said. “But at this upcoming event at Honey Horn, the focus of the food will definitely be driven by our honored guest and celebrity chef, the true Gullah Diva, Sallie Ann Robinson.”

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