Last month, Chef Mike Lata eagled the sixth hole at RiverTowne Country Club, an Arnold Palmer signature golf course with scenic marsh vistas along the Wando River and Horlbeck Creek. A week later, he eagled the sixth again.
Two strokes of good fortune fall right in line with Lata’s life these days. With the impending arrival of a little Lata and an eagerly anticipated second restaurant set to open almost ten years to the date after F.I.G. took over the corner of Hassell and Meeting streets, a legacy is in the making.
In 2009, Lata won the James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southeast Award and triggered a fresh crop of smartly-written profiles by Bon Appetit, Esquire, Food Arts, Garden & Gun, Gourmet, GQ, Southern Living and others. He rides a Ducati and sometimes sports a fantastic Fu Manchu mustache, so he looks the part of an interesting character. But those who actually know Lata attest he’s an affable guy who can flat out cook. Have you tasted his coddled sea island egg?
Picture this: an austere-looking dish composed of a white ramekin that contains a blanched palette of ingredients that are purportedly the most popular new appetizer offering. Part of this dish’s brilliance is its hidden complexity and robust flavor. Enveloped in the veil of albumen is succulent blue crab meat, sweet onion soubise and perhaps a surprise, like fresh garden peas picked and delivered to the restaurant that day. The ethos of supporting local farmers, growers and purveyors has been in practice since Lata became a professional chef, and the proof—as they say—is in the pudding. Or, in this case, the coddled sea island egg.
Chef Lata was a part of Thursday night’s The Art Institute of Charleston Presents Salute to Charleston’s Chefs Opening Night Party and the Perfectly Paired Dinners on Friday. Tonight, he’ll host an invitation-only after-party that will undoubtedly live up to the year we were all dancing in his kitchen with Daniel long past the witching hour. Tomorrow he’s hosting a golf tournament for the visiting chefs. We’ll let you know if he eagles the sixth for the third time! For more on Lata at #ChsWFF, visit the Charleston Wine + Food Festival website.
My Charlestonly 10 with Chef Mike Lata:
1. Dishing on Charleston Wine + Food Festival: Over the past seven years, the festival has provided some great memories, but none greater than having Daniel Boulud in my restaurant during the FIG after-party. We talked shop, joked around and ate barbecue. That was a real moment for me.
2. It may be my menu, but I’m partial to: Anything my Chef de Cuisine Jason Stanhope is working on. He has developed a beautiful touch. I really enjoy cooking with him.
3. My go-to Lowcountry ingredient: All I want to cook is seafood; the diversity in flavor and texture inspires me. I also put a lot of focus towards cooking food that makes my customers feel good when they leave the restaurant—heavy meat dishes slow people down.
4. My drink is: Negroni.
5. On days off, you’ll find me: On the golf course, followed by down time at the house with Emilee.
6. Open my refrigerator at home and you’ll find: Sea Island Eggs, Fage Greek yogurt, San Pelligrino and more condiments that I can count.
7. The soundtrack of my kitchen includes: We are a silent kitchen, 100% of the time. Kitchens can be chaotic environments if you let them. Keeping things calm and quiet helps us stay focused and consistent.
8. Favorite smell: Chicken stock or soup is one, especially in my house.
9. My favorite Charlestonian, living or dead, real or fictional, is: Mickey Bakst and Harry Root.
10. If I could cook for anyone, it would be: My Family. I just don’t see them enough. My fun answer would have to be Mark Twain or Elvis.
Bonus: Our gift to you is Lata sporting a blue argyle sweater. Watch him in our Charlestonly video: click here.