Last week, as we were putting the finishing touches on our next issue of Dish, we discovered during fact-checking that Jacques Larson was no longer chef at Mercato. We've put our feelers out to get the scoop, but heard nothing more than it was abrupt and unexpected.
Today, Hank Holliday's people sent out a press release announcing new chef Eddie Moran with nary a mention of Larson:
“We’re thrilled to welcome Chef Moran to Mercato,” said Proprietor Hank Holliday. “Eddie has an impressive array of experience working in some of the finest kitchens in the country and we’re confident that his expertise will bring amazing depth not only to Mercato, but to the culinary landscape of Charleston."
I just talked to Moran who gave me a little bit of his background. He's worked at Jardiniere in San Francisco with 2007 James Beard winner Traci des Jardins. He also worked for hotelier David Fink at L’Auberge Carmel where he met Hank Holliday, an East Coast version of Fink, two years ago when Holliday was on vacation and dining alone at Bouchee. Moran says they struck up a conversation and had a great discussion about the food, particularly the simplicity of the flavors and ingredients. From that moment on, Moran says they stayed in touch and Holliday's been trying to recruit him ever since.
Moran and his fiancée, a former GM of the Relais and Chateaux L’Auberge Carmel, relocated to Charleston together and he took over the kitchen on Jan. 19. His plans for the menu are to keep it simple. He'll be serving classic Italian-American dishes with local produce and sustainable products. "We want to have good food and to appeal to the general market."
In other words, this is not a fine dining Italian restaurant, so don't go in expecting more than a kickass bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.