When the story of the Southern food renaissance is told years from now, the chapter on Charleston will be largely about one man, Louis Osteen. The chef put Lowcountry cuisine onto fine dining menus starting in 1979 with Louis's Charleston Grill at the Omni Hotel (now Belmond Charleston Place) and quickly earned the attention and respect of critics across the nation. He won the James Beard Award in 2004 for Best Chef: Southeast for his Louis's Fish Camp on Pawley's Island. Then, after a gamble on a multi-million dollar Vegas restaurant in 2008
(that ultimately failed following the recession), Louis returned to the Lowcountry. The 74-year-old has been operating Louis’ Lowcountry Larder
, a pimento cheese and lemonade cocktail mix company, out of North Carolina for the past few years.
That was until Jan. 5 when he was in a terrible car accident. His wife Marlene says a reckless driver crossed the median on a winding road in Highlands, N.C., hitting Louis square on.
"That accident was terrible," says Marlene. "Louis broke his sternum, some ribs, all kinds of stuff going on." They took him to the hospital in Asheville after the wreck and during the course of the scans and MRIs to determine the extent of his injuries, doctors discovered a malignant tumor on his liver.
This week Louis underwent a five-and-a-half-hour liver surgery at MUSC, and Marlene reports that the operation was extremely successful. "They removed 70 percent of his liver, and the doctors believe they got all of the malignancy," says Marlene.
Louis's third bout with cancer — he was treated for vocal cord cancer in 2011 and prostate cancer in 2014 — his team at MUSC says he's lucky in that none of his cancers were related.
"Liver cancer is usually the result of another cancer metastasizing," says Marlene. "But this was not the case for Louis. This cancer originated in the liver. He had a rare kind of cancer."
Marlene expects Louis to be released from MUSC today. "I can’t say enough good things about MUSC. Charleston is blessed to have that place. It is amazing. The doctor’s were amazing," says Marlene.
And there's other good news. Marlene says Louis' pimento cheese has been picked up by Holler & Dash
, a new fast-casual chain of restaurants from Cracker Barrel. Starting the partnership is now just a matter of getting Louis home, recuperated, and back to work.
"We're in good spirits," says Marlene, "We’re extremely thankful for all our friends and family and the Medical University."