As Southern Ground Executive Chef, Rusty Hamlin enjoys a broad and dynamic outlet through which to spread his unique ethos and approach to cooking. Born and raised in Louisiana, Chef Rusty grew up steeped in Louisiana’s famed culinary culture. He is passionate about fresh, local ingredients, and is an advocate for the family farms and farmers who make that possible. This commitment to locally-sourced materials, along with his southern upbringing and culinary experience, defines Chef Rusty’s approach to cooking, and permeates all of his culinary endeavors.
Ken Vedrinski is executive chef, owner and sommelier of Trattoria Lucca in downtown Charleston and his newly opened all Italian seafood restaurant that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, Coda del Pesce.
Moving deftly through an award-winning career spanning decades, and a variety of haute cuisine styles, Chef Ken Vedrinski has found his passion and heritage in Italian fare. A three time James Beard Award semi-finalist, he has found his “place” in Charleston, a coastal city rich with fresh bounty from the land and sea, and a long way from land-locked Columbus, Ohio where he was born.
Embracing his culinary heritage, Vedrinski embarked on food-fueled expeditions to Italy in search of the most authentic ingredients, olive oils and wines. His journeys took him to Lucca in Western Tuscany, which he claims to be the home of “the best olive oil in the world.” Inspired by the beloved olive oil and his love for the region, Vedrinski opened Trattoria Lucca in 2008, acting as sole owner, executive chef and sommelier of the charming Italian restaurant.
The charming restaurant was a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant in 2009, and Vedrinski was also recognized as a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef in the Southeast in 2011. With a devoted local following and industry acclaim, Ken Vedrinski,Trattoria Lucca and Coda del Pesce are redefining Italian cuisine in the Lowcountry.
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 service 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.
Chef RJ Cooper is a Detroit native whose resume spans over 20 years in some of the top kitchens in the United States. A graduate of The Culinary School at Kendall College in Chicago, he has worked with such esteemed colleagues including Jean Joho, Tony Mantuano, Daniel Schaffhauser, Guenter Seeger, Eric Ripert, and Jeff Buben.
Chef was honored in 2007 by the James Beard Foundation with the Best Chef Mid-Atlantic award for his work at Vidalia in Washington, DC. The host of the online television series “Chefs of Anarchy” and Iron Chef America battle chef, Cooper owns Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C., a restaurant where his passion and love for the culinary craft, paired with old and new world technique, and laced with a bit of rock and roll form this three-star adventure in dining. Gypsy Soul in Fairfax, Virginia, is his second restaurant and features his devotion to the American farmer through life at the table.
Cooper is the owner and Executive Chef of both restaurants. He brings together familiar elements to create food for the soul.
Kelly Kleisner joined Oak Steakhouse’s culinary team as pastry chef in July 2013. The child of hospitality professionals, Kleisner brings a lifelong passion for the industry as well as 15 years of experience.
Born in Phoenix, Ariz., Kleisner traveled most of her life, settling in Charleston in 2006 after falling in love with the city’s then burgeoning culinary scene. Prior to moving to Charleston, she completed two prestigious internships, at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. and MK the Restaurant in Chicago, both in 2002, where she worked with James Beard Foundation recognized Chef Mindy Segal and gained valuable hands-on kitchen experience.
Upon moving to Charleston, Kleisner worked as the pastry chef at The Ocean Room at the Sanctuary Hotel on Kiawah Island, SC. Kleisner also worked as the pastry chef at Fat Hen and the lead baker at Lady Fingers Bakery. Pursuing her dream, she opened Mirabelle Bakery in 2009. There she employed skills she honed at some of the Southeast’s most recognized restaurants to create sophisticated wedding cakes.
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