Based in Charleston, South Carolina, The Local Palate is a food culture publication that celebrates the region’s best culinary figures, recipes, and processes. The magazine has recently launched their digital presence, resulting in a beautiful, easy-to-navigate, and delicious website.
From The Local Palate website:
Food in the south is intrinsically connected to life in the south. It is through eating, sharing, and creating food that pleasure is evoked, connections are forged, context is offered, and history is created. Across southern states, individual interpretations of food are as varied and compelling as the people who live in our unique cities and towns. Yet the importance of food in enriching our lives, our culture, and ourselves is a concept that is universally understood.
This description of food (and life) in the South has been my experience since childhood. And since opening The Factory Café last year, I’ve witnessed firsthand how food brings people together in an entirely new context. This concept is especially true this time of the year, as family and friends begin to gather together around the table in celebration of the holidays.
I’ve bookmarked several recipes and cocktails on the website as I begin to plan my holiday gatherings, parties, and meals. Citrus Sweet Potatoes, Sugared Pecans, and the Love Holiday are sure to find their way into my kitchen (and belly) this season.
We recently caught up with the editor in chief, Maggie White, of The Local Palate, and she was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about food culture, community, recipes, and launching a new site:
Alabama Chanin: The new site looks so great, could you give us an overview of the changes you made and your process in making decisions.
The Local Palate: Thank you so much! We had a solid starter site that served us well from our inception as a publication in late 2011 until recently. Implicitly, the publication has evolved quite a bit over three-plus years, and we found our virtual presence was not nearly as dynamic as our print product—we saw a lot of opportunity, digitally speaking. While reconstructing an entire web site is not for the faint of heart, our Director of Digital Content, Stephanie Burt, enthusiastically spearheaded the “adventure” and facilitated the process. I believe I can safely say that it was a beast of a time for her to corral the TLP team into decision-making meetings and to then relay our many concerns, desires, and questions to our design team at Fuzzco (an amazingly talented group, by the way), but she stuck with it. Our Associate Art Director, Jennifer Hitchcock, thankfully lent some very astute design/creative guidance to all of us as well. Ultimately, we knew our branding needed to remain consistent with our print content, but also that we needed to amend certain style decisions to speak to our web reader. It’s a delicate balance and time will tell if we are doing it right. The good thing is that we all feel very positive about the direction and the site will be infinitely more dynamic, substantial, and interactive.
AC: I’m fascinated by the process of decision making. Would you be willing to share a little about your process and how do you determine what to share with your readers, and when?
TLP: We believe that print content drives our web content, so that is our starting point and provides us a foundation on which to build our web presence. What we try to do, and hope to do better and better in the future now that we have this great new site, is to cull from our print materials the compelling components that would translate well to the web. We ardently seek to offer pieces virtually that are complementary to what runs in our print issues and to present the information through a variety of platforms. For example, video will play a huge role in the future of our virtual coverage. As far as when we share things, the web is a great vehicle for “teasing” out content from our print magazine. We’ll have sent an issue to press and then have a waiting period before it hits the stands or the mailboxes. During this time, we love to dangle the proverbial carrot as to what people can expect. The web also affords us the opportunity to expound upon or take our print pieces in new directions, so the stories we tell are not finite entities, but evolving pieces, the print component being just one chapter of the overall tale. While we decide what to run based on the response of and the polling of our virtual community, much of what we do is organic. Does it fit our brand? Is it substantive? Is it unique? Would we want to read it? We ask ourselves those questions and go from there.
AC: Aside from the online magazine, you have a print issue as well. I loved the last issue with Vivian Howard on the cover. What is the difference between online and print?
TLP: We just love Vivian—such a talent and such a looker too! Again, our print content drives our web content. One thing we are extremely excited about with the launch of this new site is the ability to really understand and get to know our web reader. Of course, some of our web readership overlaps with our print readership, but we still look at the two as separate entities—each with their own styles in terms of how they want to receive information and what will most engage them. Since we have both a print reader and a web reader, the two distinct audiences each require distinct material. They are equally as valuable to us. Of course, a major goal of our new site is that it will attract a new audience who then subscribe to the magazine. But we are not using the site only to speak to potential subscribers. Rather, the web is also a platform to highlight current events, trends, and other “fun” ways to engage with very tech-savvy readers. The print product is equally as compelling, but less ephemeral. We very much try to tell “timeless” pieces in the print publication.
AC: With a print publication, you are often dealing with limited space…which led to the Extra Helpings portion of your website. What are some of the other ways you manage to merge print and digital—while keeping your readers indulged?
TLP: For a lot of publications, the print + web model used to be that the website was a “dumping ground” for outtakes and extras. We have made a conscious effort to move away from that model. The web deserves its own unique content to work in tandem with the print material. We try to plan ahead, to strategize as we map out our editorial content, to determine where we could take different directions that would be applicable to a web platform and that would tie well into what we have outlined for print. And you are right that we have very limited print space. We love the web because the space is limitless and we have so many stories we want told! We have found that our readers want more, and the web offers them more. AND…maybe most importantly, with our site, the readers have a recipe database always at their fingertips. That keeps them mightily indulged.
AC: How do you distinguish between cuisine and Southern cuisine?
TLP: I feel compelled to preface my response by saying I am hardly an expert and that the “definition” I share with you is entirely subjective. But I do believe it is an exciting and unarguable point that you learn so much about any given culture through their food. So when you think of “The South” as a culture in and of itself, all Southern food belongs to a place and time, to a series of traditions, to the origins and the evolution of the culture. Southern dishes each tell a story, the people who make Southern food each have a story that informs their style and choices, and when people eat Southern food they share these stories and more. “Cuisine” is just food, but when you add a descriptor like “Southern” to preface the word, it becomes a porthole into a way of life.
AC: What role does community play within your work?
TLP: We would not be a viable magazine without the support of our community and the partnerships, collaborations, and relationships The Local Palate cultivates across the South. Because our home base is in Charleston, South Carolina, we are thus heavily involved with the community in our backyard. We are fortunate that Charleston has such a wildly impressive group of culinary professionals who all want to bolster our food culture in myriad ways. As an organization, we sponsor and create events where portions of the proceeds go to culinary causes, we are involved with Les Dames d’Escoffier (I am a member), we are building an on-going charitable partnership with GrowFood Carolina. Le Creuset’s corporate headquarters are here and we often pair with them on events to benefit the culinary community. But we also do our best to infiltrate the entire Southern region by sponsoring events and festivals all across the South.
AC: The magazine’s unique voice and storytelling abilities have earned a few nominations for James Beard awards. Has that notoriety changed the publication in any way?
TLP: That is funny to me; I feel like a subject of a VH1 Behind the Scenes episode—how fame went to our heads and we spiraled out of control. All joking aside, we were beyond honored, flattered, and humbled to be nominated for a Beard award in the Journalism category for excellence in visual storytelling. The great thing about our nomination was that the entry comprised three features so the people named in the nomination numbered about 10 different talented individuals. That is special to us in that it well-encapsulates what we are about as a magazine—a group of passionate people all bringing something different to the table that results in what we believe to be an exquisitely unique end product.
AC: Can you give us a few up-and-coming chefs/restaurants to keep an eye out for in 2015?
TLP: I could sit here with you for two days and discuss this topic! I am eager to see what Chef Elliott Moss does with the new BBQ restaurant he is opening in Asheville in mid 2015. He was nominated for a Beard when he was chef at The Admiral—a “dive” in West Asheville. It was such impressive food and I think he has the Midas touch. Chris Shepherd of Houston just won the Beard this past year for Best Chef: Southwest and some might say that with the award he reached a pinnacle, but there is no way that is true. He is doing very commendable things to support the food culture of his city and I would dine anywhere he recommended. In fact, he gives a list of his favorite places on his menu at Underbelly. So go there, eat his food, and then explore his culinary Houston. Also, I love bread and pastry and I have been wildly obsessed with SubRosa in Richmond. Anyone who has even a mild affinity for bread needs to eat there.
AC: And lastly, what is your go-to holiday recipe?
TLP: Because I am constantly exposed to new recipes and ideas due to my job, I love to change things up—I am not one of those people who has her one cookie recipe or her one green bean casserole recipe. This year, two things come to mind: 1. Memphis Chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman shared their Peanut Butter Banana pie in our holiday issue. I ate it at Hog & Hominy earlier this year and the stuff was wild. Secondly, there is no question that I will be making Vivian Howard’s turkey. You mentioned loving seeing her on our recent November cover. She looks so happy while basting that bird—I need to be that thrilled with my holidays, so I’m having what she’s having!
Subscribe to the magazine for even more articles, insights, and recipes. (A subscription to The Local Palate would make a great holiday gift for the foodie in your life.)