Brett Maynard's first serious kitchen job was at Bacchanalia in Atlanta, the kind of place an ambitious chef could learn lifelong lessons in food. His mother likens it to a lawyer going to Harvard Law. If you want to know about how to enhance the flavors of fresh food and local produce, who better to teach you than Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison, the chef/owners of one of Atlanta's top 10 restaurants for the last 15 years.
Today, Bacchanalia is a much bigger operation than in 1996, when it was just Annie and Cliff working side by side in a tiny kitchen and Brett Maynard was a young buck with an excellent palate, a passion for cooking, and a degree from the Art Institute of Atlanta. What he needed and what he wanted more than anything was to work at Bacchanalia.
"In culinary school, he bothered them all the time," remembers his wife Jill. "Anne always said, 'either we hired you or we had to put a restraining order on you.'"
His persistence paid off, and he worked in that kitchen for a year, soaking up the essence of Bacchanalia's philosophy on food.
His mother, Ann Maynard Jones, is the one who introduced her son to Bacchanalia. She's also the one who raised Brett on good food. At home, she cooked an array of ethnic curries and dishes, and the close-knit family traveled all over the world, eating and drinking good food and wine. When Brett came into his own, mother and son were known to duke it out in informal cooking competitions.
At Bacchanalia, as Brett mastered the lessons in the back of the house, his girlfriend and future wife, Jill, worked the front, learning the other side of the business from Anne. "We shared her as a mentor," says Jill, who waited on tables and expedited the plates from the kitchen. "Anne told me I was the only one who did that job who didn't cry or quit." Jill's career path led her to Maverick Southern Kitchens, owned by Dick and Dayna Elliott, for whom she has worked since she and Brett moved to town 12 years ago.
The two came to Charleston after a year in Vail, where Brett learned how to make amazing sauces, stocks, and gravies, a skill he mastered as a saucier at Wildflower. Brett's brother (and best friend) Craig also relocated to Charleston around the same time.
In Charleston, it wasn't long before Brett landed a job as executive chef at Fulton Five, where he brought his experience to bear. Fulton Five became known for its simple and delicious Italian plates, and within two years Brett was accepting an invitation to cook at the James Beard House in New York.
Charleston is also where Brett cultivated a notorious passion for fishing. "Using fresh and local produce was important to him," says his mother. "In Charleston there is no end to what's available. In Atlanta, we had the big farmers markets, but here it's on your doorstep. That's why fishing became one of his passions. He could catch bait and then catch fish — he caught a redfish right off our deck [on Seabrook] one day at high tide."
Eventually, Brett and Jill got married barefoot on the beach and realized their dream of opening their own place with Twizt on James Island. The two kept their day-jobs and ran Twizt simultaneously, keeping a schedule that friends describe as simply crazy. Last year, after leaving Fulton Five and closing Twizt, Brett landed at 39 Rue de Jean where his friend Daren Wolfe is operating partner. Wolfe had big hopes for Brett's future at Holy City Hospitality. "He worked here as a sous chef, but we were cultivating him to move up in the company when this senseless tragedy happened."
Brett Maynard was killed by a drunk driver in a car accident on Nov. 30. His family, friends, and the entire food and beverage community were hit hard by the loss. "There's just a huge hole in everyone's heart right now," said his mother in a recent phone interview.
A few weeks before his death, he was able to reconnect with Anne Quatrano, and the two cooked elbow to elbow once again when Anne was hired for a high-end wedding at Cassique on Kiawah Island. "It was thrilling for him," says Jill. The exciting week of preparation and cooking culminated with a dinner at the chef's table at McCrady's — a fitting reward for a guy like Brett, who valued friends, family, and food above all else.
At his memorial service in December, friends and family talked about how caring, talented, respectful, fun-loving, hard-working, and admirable Brett was. Wolfe, after describing his friend as a real gentleman, admits, "I feel like I'm sounding cliché, but that was him. It really was."
Brett's family and friends have established a scholarship fund at Trident Tech to honor his career and accomplishments. They also hope to tie the scholarship in with an internship at Bacchanalia, a fitting legacy for Brett Maynard.
To donate: TTC Foundation, Brett Maynard Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 61227, Charleston, SC 29419.