Growing up in South Carolina, chef Sean Brock was surrounded by family gardens and people living off the land. As he says in his cookbook Heritage, published in 2013, “If you grow up like I did, you learn to appreciate food on a different level. You see firsthand the work that goes into getting the food on the dinner table. You watch your family handle food with care and respect. It’s in my blood; it’s part of my DNA.” This is evident in Harvest, as he treats every aspect of his recipes with great care and respect.
Brock, founder of Charleston’s McCrady’s, McCrady’s Tavern, Husk, Minero, Nashville’s Husk, and a soon-to-be-named Nashville restaurant complex, has become one of the most recognizable faces of Southern cooking and responsible, local food sourcing. In 2010 he won the James Beard Award for Best Chef, Southeast, is a four-time Beard finalist for Outstanding Chef, and a three-time finalist for Rising Star Chef. Heritage, a New York Times bestseller, won the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook and the IACP Julia Child First Book Award in 2015.
Although, it has been six years since Heritage was published, it’s one we return to over and over again. It is obvious from the beginning that Heritage is a very personal book for Brock. Each recipe begins with a personal story revealing parts of his background, the details of the ingredients he uses, and the purveyors he turns to. Many of the recipes are clearly driven by his desire to preserve Southern heritage ingredients, and range from simple comfort food to more involved restaurant-style dishes. Regardless of the skill level involved in making each dish, Brock earnestly reveals parts of himself that many writers may not.
In addition to writing, Brock recently started what he plans to be a lifelong project called, “Before It’s Too Late,” dedicated to recording and sharing the cultural and culinary wisdom of the American South. As part of this effort, he produces a podcast of the same name, created an heirloom seed bank, and shares some of his personal photography. There is also a large-format book planned to highlight many of his discoveries.
Because he has chosen to dedicate much of his working life to this project, expect to see big announcements from Sean Brock in the near future. In the meantime, we are reading Heritage (again) and exploring its stories and recipes.
Heritage is one of the best and most readable cookbooks in my collection. Thanks for revisiting it.
You are welcome, Edward. We were honored to have had Sean as one of our visiting chefs in 2016 for the Friends of the Cafe Dinner Series, benefitting the Southern Foodways Alliance. You can read about it on the Journal here: https://journal.alabamachanin.com/2019/01/five-years-of-friends-of-the-cafe/.