March 2017

Lucky Rooster Kitchen + Bar: Pop-Up dining experiences bring diversity to the Lowcountry

Author: Linda S. Hopkins

When Clayton Rollison throws a pop-up party at Lucky Rooster Kitchen +Bar, start crowing and call to reserve your seat. Because it’s never just an ordinary party, but a culinary adventure and experience you’re not likely to forget. In addition to his everyday gastronomic wizardry, Rollison is teaming up with some of the best chefs in the country to bring a series of new dining experiences to the Lowcountry, offering unique menus, a chance to rub shoulders with renowned chefs and cookbook authors, get up close and personal with favorite area musicians, and support local business and area charities.

It was a chilly mid-January night when Hilton Head Island-born-and-bred restauranteur Rollison packed the house for a Southern-style Sunday supper “pop up,” with guest chef and four-time James Beard nominee, Paul Fehribach from Chicago. You may be wondering what would possess a city boy to head south (other than to escape snow and ice) and whip up the likes of oyster stew, shrimp and grits, chicken and dumplings, and Lowcountry bouillabaisse in his friend’s kitchen. Turns out, heirloom Southern cuisine is Fehribach’s specialty at his Clark Street restaurant, Big Jones, where, since 2008, he has been surprising the palates of grain-fed Midwesterners who never heard of a grit.


Lucky Rooster’s blue cornbread in a skillet

Born and reared in Southern Indiana, Fehribach spent his youth on family farms, exploring kitchen gardens and hunting and fishing in the woods. These early experiences helped shape his approach to Southern cuisine, taking today’s almost cliché “farm to table” concept to new heights by applying his passions for history and social science to his cooking.

With experience in a broad range of cuisines including French, Chinese and Mexican, Fehribach found a soft spot for Southern food culture. “When I got the chance to open my own restaurant, I wanted to think about what would speak for me. I thought Southern food was what I most closely identified with,” he said. Fehribach fit right in at Lucky Rooster, where the soul of the menu is Southern with an adventurous twist. And Rollison was happy to play host and promote his colleague’s new cookbook, The Big Jones Cookbook: Recipes Savoring the Heritage of Regional Southern Cooking.

For Rollison inviting guest chefs and bringing new experiences to his popular local restaurant is a no-brainer. “One of the things that makes our restaurant different is that I was fortunate enough to work in different places all over the country with some really talented people that are a hell of a lot better at what they do than me,” he said. “They enjoy fishing and playing golf, and it’s a nice working vacation for them to come down for three or four days and hang out, while we do all the prep work and they come in and sign cookbooks and promote their restaurant in a town that has people from all over. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s good will for our regulars. They get to experience something different—something that is talked about in our community.”

Upcoming events will include guest appearances by cookbook author Ronni Lundy and executive chefs Jorge Guzman and Tyler Lyne. “There have been some big-named chefs who have come to the island for special events, but it doesn’t happen very often. This is the beginning of a dining series for us,” Rollison reiterated.

Add music and stir
On the afternoon of the January pop-up, excitement was palpable as prep cooks scurried about behind the scenes, chopping, stirring and simmering like an orchestra tuning up for the symphony, while Rollison and Fehribach conducted with harmony and flair.

Meanwhile, Hilton Head Island-based band Cranford Hollow was busy arranging amps and adjusting sounds for the small, intimate setting (as opposed to the large stages and outdoor amphitheaters where they are accustomed to playing), preparing to add some Lowcountry stomp to round out the evening experience to come.

Vocalist and guitarist John Cranford, a former chef with longstanding ties to the culinary world, took time to share a few thoughts about the similarities of the two arts: food and music. “It’s a translation of an idea—to go from something in your head that you manifest,” he said. “Maybe it’s a sauce, maybe it’s a dish, maybe it’s a song or a record; maybe it’s a whole album or an entire restaurant. You have this basic foundation. It’s a simple thing, but the more you add to it, it’s transformed into complex layers. Clayton is not just trying to feed people. He wants them to have an enjoyable response to the whole experience. And that’s what we try to do: evoke emotion.”

Cranford continued, “Hilton Head and The Lowcountry has a completely different culture from anywhere else in the U.S.—one of my favorite cultures—the food and the vibe and the music. Clayton does a really good job of pumping greatness into Lowcountry food. We were asked to be a part of this, and of course, we said yes.”

While Cranford was a chef first and then a musician, Fehribach started out as a musician, studying trombone at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana before transitioning to a culinary arts career. “There are interesting parallels between musicians and chefs. They are both deeply cultural,” Fehribach said. “Some chefs are great technicians and others are great artists; very few are both. And when you talk about music, some musicians are really great technicians and others are really great artists. For example, Tony Rice—He’s one of those guys who can play a million notes a minute and they’re all perfect. Then you have somebody like Johnny Cash who is a far greater artist. So, you always have that dichotomy. Then you have people like Prince who was the best of both.

“I think I’m probably more of a technician, but I’m more attracted to the history and sociology of food, too,” Fehribach continued. “Same with musicians. Some like to base their music on more traditional genres, but put their own footprint on it. If you went to a dinner and saw the menu, you would know that it’s mine. Cranford Hollow would like to think that you would hear one of their songs on the radio and think, ‘That sounds like Cranford Hollow.’”

“Paul along with [sponsors] Goose Creek Brewery, brought a little bit of Chicago to Hilton Head. With Cranford Hollow and a Lowcountry venue, it just made for a fun night,” Rollison said. “We do some really cool stuff here. We’re not a stuffy fine-dining restaurant at all, but serving, I think, really refined food. We cook—every day—differently from a lot of what we are used to seeing on Hilton Head. We’re a little outside that comfort zone. This is what is more common in other places, so these chefs are comfortable coming here, knowing that we can execute their food at a high level and represent them very well.” 

Lucky Rooster Kitchen + Bar is located at 841 William Hilton Parkway, Unit A (South Island Square) on Hilton Head Island. To view their menu, make reservations or get information on upcoming events, call (843) 681-3474; visit luckyroosterhhi.com and friend on Facebook to keep up with the latest happenings. Catch up with Cranford Hollow at
cranfordhollowmusic.com and follow on Facebook for event pics, videos, new releases, tour dates and more.

Don’t Miss the Party: Upcoming Pop-Ups

Wednesday, March 29: Ronni Lundy. Lundy is a cookbook author whose work focuses on traditional American foods and music. Her latest book, Victuals, explores the diverse and complex food scene of the Mountain South through recipes, stories, traditions, and innovations.

Saturday, April 29: Jorge Guzman and Tyler Lyne. A recent James Beard Award nominee, Guzman is executive chef at Surly Brewer’s Table in Minneapolis, where the focus is on food that tastes good with beer. Tyler Lyne is executive chef at Riviera Catering in New York City, and was recently recognized by ZAGAT as one of New York City’s “30 under 30” trailblazers in culinary innovation. Proceeds from this event will benefit Greener Grass, a non-profit organization that gives area alcoholics and addicts the opportunity to recover and rebuild their lives.

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