Chef Rusty Hamlin returns to curate the festival's fifth culinary lineup. The Louisiana-born chef and co-creator of Zac Brown Band’s Eat & Greets uses fresh, locally-sourced ingredients throughout the festival's concessions and Front Porch Stage Boxes. Learn more via CNN
Returning to Southern Ground Music & Food Festival for his fifth year is festival veteran Chef RJ Cooper. Growing up in Detroit, RJ Cooper watched as his mother and Sicilian grandmother cooked everything from scratch. In high school, he took an apprenticeship at a local bakery before attending culinary school. After graduating, Cooper worked under a variety of chefs, including Eric Ripert before moving to D.C., where he served as chef de cuisine at Vidalia and earned a James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic. In 2011, Cooper opened his first restaurant, Rogue 24 followed by the rustic Gypsy Soul in 2014. He has recently moved to Charlotte, NC where he has been tapped to create a new culinary experience for the Charlotte Marriott City Center.
Born & raised in Danville, Penn., Chef Craig Deihl grew up in a quintessential American household, where every evening dinner was on the table by the time his father was home from work. His mother, an “unbelievable” cook, graced the family’s table with homespun meals—a ritual which remains to be one of the biggest influences he has had as a chef.
Deihl is a founding member of the Butcher’s Guild, a network of meat professionals that promotes responsible butchering through education and community. Deihl was chosen in 2010 as Chef of the Year by the Charleston chapter of the American Culinary Foundation. That same year, he was a semi-finalist for a prestigious James Beard Foundation award for best chef Southeast, and was a nominee for the award in 2011 and 2012, as well as a semi-finalist again in 2013.
Through a partnership with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) and farmer Gra Moore of Carolina Heritage Farm, Deihl had the opportunity to be the first chef in over 100 years to utilize the rare American Guinea Hog. This same passion for preserving meat prompted him to adopt the CSA-like concept for meats, Artisan Meat Share (AMS). From 2009-2013, participants received local charcuterie and local farmers, in turn, received support from the increased product demand in what Deihl describes as a win-win scenario for both. In September 2014, Artisan Meat Share opened at 33 Spring St., providing a place where guests can enjoy all that AMS has to offer—all the time—including award-winning charcuterie, freshly butchered meat and delicious sandwiches.
To date, Deihl has produced over 90 types of charcuterie which have been prepared, stored and cured in-house at Cypress.
A Charleston native, Patrick Owens’ knowledge and passion for Southern cuisine runs deep, cultivated as a child in his grandparent’s kitchen and at Lowcountry fish fries at the family cabin on the Pee Dee River. A Clemson marketing graduate, Patrick played guitar professionally while working his way through various kitchens in Charleston, learning his craft slowly and surely. He started his official culinary career as soon as he was old enough to hold a job, catering with Charleston Bay Gourmet as a teenager and later moving into more serious posts at Circa 1886 and Magnolia’s.
At just 27, Patrick seized an opportunity to have his own restaurant, and opened Langdon’s Restaurant + Wine Bar (Langdon is Patrick’s middle name) in a tucked-away shopping center in Mt. Pleasant. Fast-forward 10 years, when Langdon’s has since become a bright spot in the local dining scene, garnering the praise of locals and tourists who praise Patrick’s “top-tier” fare and “excellent wine list.” Under Patrick’s leadership, Langdon’s continues to shine, earning the only AAA Four Diamond award East of the Cooper every year since opening.
Nearly 10 years after the opening of Langdon’s, Patrick sought a new challenge and outlet for cultivating his affinity for more casual, Mediterranean-style cooking. In 2011, he opened Opal Restaurant + Wine Bar, his own take on an inviting, California-style eatery with a bustling bar, legendary charcuterie plates, handcrafted pastas, and the same level of attention to serivce and detail as the more formal Langdon’s. He has succeeded in creating a place where people gather, imbibe and enjoy well-executed, unpretentious food. As one local critic said of Opal, “With its one-page menu, daily specials, and comfortable vibe, the appeal of this fine dining option in Mt. P already reaches far beyond the neighborhood.”
As one of the only top local chefs to have actually grown up in the area, Patrick has remained committed to and passionate about his hometown, giving back to a number of local causes and charities. His undisputed talents as a chef and humble disposition continue to be lauded by his long-time loyal fans, and have attracted the attention of a national audience as well. In 2013, Patrick was invited to cook for a sold-out dinner at NYC’s James Beard House. Patrick has singlehandedly raised the standard on cuisine in Mt. Pleasant and he takes great pride in creating dining experiences that endure the test of time.