A charismatic Irishman is not the likeliest candidate to spearhead an homage to the classic Charleston fish house, but anyone familiar with Hank’s Seafood will affirm Chef Frank McMahon is the key to the restaurant’s 12-year record success. McMahon spent close to one year testing and perfecting beloved Lowcountry recipes like Seafood à la Wando, and his attention to detail was applauded by Esquire, which named Hank’s Seafood one of America’s Best New Restaurants upon its opening in 1999.
Those who’ve not had the pleasure of experiencing McMahon’s brogue and beguiling way with fish in person can discover the character of his cuisine through Cool Inside, the gloriously photographed cookbook that includes more than 100 recipes and scores of first-person stories, which was released this week. More than just a cookbook, it is the definitive ode to the things that make dining in Charleston so intensely pleasurable—authenticity, a sense of community, fresh ingredients, recipes beloved by generations and world class hospitality.
Chef McMahon served as the Chef Chair for Thursday night’s The Art Institute of Charleston Presents Salute to Charleston’s Chefs Opening Night Party. This weekend, you’ll find him signing copies of his cookbook at the Culinary Village: Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. For more information on those events, visit the Charleston Wine + Food Festival website.
My Charlestonly 10 with Chef Frank McMahon, the Fish Whisperer:
1. Dishing on Charleston Wine + Food Festival: In 2011, the after-party hosted by Husk was utterly epic. Serving as chair for the 2012 Opening Night is definitely a personal highlight.
2. It may be my menu, but I’m partial to: Scallops with ginger-lime and coriander vinaigrette.
3. My go-to Lowcountry ingredient: Stone crab claws and okra—but not together!
4. My drink is: A proper pint of Guinness—surprised?
5. On days off, you’ll find me: Playing futbol, aka soccer, and having a pint after at The Seanachai Irish Pub on Johns Island.
6. Open my refrigerator at home and you’ll find: Pickles, hot sauce and beer.
7. The soundtrack of my kitchen includes: Foo Fighters and Van Morrison.
8. Favorite smell: Breakfast!
9. My favorite Charlestonian, living or dead, real or fictional, is: Stephen Colbert
10. If I could cook for anyone, it would be: Thomas Keller. I have cooked with him but not for him.
Chef McMahon and Frank Edwards, the photographer who captured the glorious images for Cool Inside, at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival prior to the first official book signing event.