In 2001, Marc Collins was appointed executive chef of Circa 1886, the converted carriage house nestled in the garden of the Wentworth Mansion. Five years later, he co-founded the inaugural Charleston Wine + Food Festival, a visionary effort that led to the creation of the Charleston Wine & Food Festival Marc Collins Chef Award for which he was the first recipient (2010).
Collins is a kitchen ninja. Deft preparation of unexpected ingredient pairings turns seemingly southern dishes into flavor explosions, like his wildly popular antelope loin with blue corn grits entrée, which recently earned a nod from Departures magazine. Amid pairings of smoked trout with celery greens or beet puree with prosciutto, Collins interjects plantation age foods that stand-alone in both simplicity and taste purity. Rice bread rolls, a recipe steeped in several centuries of Lowcountry history, are baked daily and the perfect vehicle to mop up the final rivulets of fig vincotto that accompanies Collins’ lamb chop.
This weekend, you’ll find Chef Collins at The Art Institute of Charleston Presents Salute to Charleston’s Chefs Opening Night Party and Perfectly Paired Dinners. For more information on those events, visit the Charleston Wine + Food Festival website.
My Charlestonly 10 with Chef Marc Collins:
1. Dishing on Charleston Wine + Food Festival: The moment they gave me an award in my honor was incredible, crazy, epic and gratifying all wrapped up into one moment.
2. It may be my menu, but I’m partial to: Everything! My menu items are like my kids; I have no one favorite because I try so hard to make each shine in its own right. But I’m always fond of the antelope!
3. My go-to Lowcountry ingredient: That’s a tough one. It’s probably a tie between okra and grits.
4. My drink is: Coffee. I can’t live without it.
5. On days off, you’ll find me: Spending time with my family. You just can’t get enough quality time with your family these days.
6. Open my refrigerator at home and you’ll find: Cholula. I practically put it on everything.
7. The soundtrack of my kitchen includes: Everything! My dad was a D.J. for a radio station, and I listened to all kinds of music growing up. I like George Strait, Iron Maiden, Frank Sinatra, The Rippingtons and everything in between. Like I said, everything goes in the kitchen.
8. Favorite smell: If you don’t like the smell of fresh baked bread you must not be from this planet.
9. My favorite Charlestonian, living or dead, real or fictional, is: John Rutledge, a fearless Patriot who sacrificed his own considerable wealth to the cause of independence. Plus, it’s cool knowing what the inside of his house looked like!
10. If I could cook for anyone, it would be: Christ. How cool would that be? Think of all those questions you would love to ask and if you mess up all would be forgiven. I can’t think of a better person to try to please.