Charleston chef's love of seafood spawned in Ireland

Tue Apr 3, 2012 4:04pm EDT
 
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Growing up the son of two chefs in Limerick, Ireland, Frank McMahon was probably to the kitchen born.

"I first tried to get into hotel management, but cooking was really my passion," said McMahon, executive chef at Hank's Seafood Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, since 1999.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, McMahon settled in Charleston, a seaside vacation destination known for its dunes and antebellum charm, after working in Germany and stints in Los Angeles, Connecticut and New York.

McMahon, 47, spoke to Reuters about his love of the lowcountry, preparing seafood southern style, and why he called his debut cookbook, with over 100 recipes from the restaurant, "Cool Inside."

Q: Why did you write this cookbook?

A: "It's more than a cookbook. There used to be a Charleston institution called Henry's Seafood Restaurant, where the waiters wore white coats. It closed down but Hank Holiday, a native of Charleston, felt the need for that type of restaurant again so he opened up Hank's in 1999 and hired me as executive chef. Thirteen years later we felt it was time to catalogue the history of Hank's, Henry's, the city and the lowcountry."

Q: What defines the cuisine of Charleston, South Carolina?

A: "They call it the lowcountry because we're basically at sea level. We're on the coast so we've got an abundance of great fresh shrimp, crab, different fish species like black sea bass, triggerfish, vermillion snapper. Indigenous ingredients include great okra, tomatoes in season, corn, obviously grits, and we've interwoven these throughout the cookbook. The recipes are true to the south. Obviously fried seafood is a big part of the history here, and we do that, but we also do the modern, more contemporary stuff."   Continued...

 
Frank McMahon, executive chef at Hank's Seafood Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina is shown in a 2010 Handout photo supplied by Hank's Seafood Restaurant April 3, 2012. Growing up the son of two chefs in Limerick, Ireland, McMahon was probably to the kitchen born. REUTERS/Brianna Stello/Handout