Chef Jason Stanhope
The recent James Beard Award winner talks about Charleston’s food scene and things he likes to do.
A former Division II college football player, Stanhope received the 2015 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southeast. The executive chef at FIG [Food Is Good] on Meeting Street, Stanhope’s restaurant serves seasonally inspired cuisine with a commitment to using local and sustainable foods. —DUSTIN TURNER
What is your favorite thing to do in Charleston on a day off?
I usually spend time with my girlfriend and take the Harley and go to Edisto or one of the other beaches— just get on the highway and off the peninsula. And visit farmers; I love doing that. I’m lucky in that I live in an apartment in downtown Charleston, so in my downtime when I’m there, we just grill out on my big porch and take it easy.
You have worked in San Francisco. How does the San Francisco food scene compare to Charleston’s?
There actually are incredible similarities with the driving forces behind our menus and cooking in the now. San Francisco, though, has huge diversity in culture, and California’s agriculture is so diverse with lots of different products, but with the heat and the water, the food that grows down here is very specific. Both have great food scenes.
What does it mean to you as a chef to win a James Beard Award?
That’s something I’ve been dreaming about for a long time. I thought it might be a possibility because of the wonderful mentorship of Mike Lata (with whom Stanhope works at FIG). I just never thought it would happen so soon. And he won it six years ago. So that’s two awards under one roof. It’s great confirmation that FIG is relevant after 13 years.