|Cover image by Jonathan Boncek — great as always|
“The level of the F&B people here is the best in the whole country. The most professional, the most competent.”
Lewis credits Ben Garbee, the General Manager at Lewis Barbecue who previously was at EVO pizzeria, for his extensive network within Charleston's culinary community and his ability to recruit great people for the team. As for the work itself, “It’s harder than other kitchens,” Lewis says, “but it’s also lots of fun.”
At one point in the past, Melvin's Barbecue was cooking on J&R Oyler pits before switching to the gas-assist Southern Prides that they are now phasing out in favor of all wood on Oyler pits.
"I had them back in the early '80s in Charleston," David Bessinger says. "When Luther's BBQ came to town." Luther's was a Texas-based chain that was setting up what was going to be a large-scale barbecue operation in Charleston, and they installed a massive Oyler 1300 series pit. But the restaurant never opened, and Bessinger bought their Oyler and started using it at Melvin's. Ultimately, he didn't find it to his liking back then, but that was three decades ago. "They’ve improved on them a lot since then," he says.
Perhaps tellingly, when I spoke to Aaron Siegel, he wasn’t at one of his three restaurants but rather up in New York City, where he and Garrigan was preparing to cook at the “Taste of Charleston” event at the James Beard House alongside Craig Deihl and Bob Cook of Cypress Restaurant, Chris and Suzanne Stewart of the Glass Onion, and Jonathan Banta of the Atlantic Room at Kiawah Island.
These days, it seems, a taste of Charleston cooking isn’t complete without a little barbecue.
And some good parting advice . . . Ultimately, Siegel’s advice is simple: “Stick to your guns and do what you do best and the folks in Charleston will go after it.”