Devon Harrelson has been on the line for the past few years, spending hours in the kitchens of Sorghum & Salt, Butcher & Bee, and Workshop. He'll be taking over for the sous chef and whipping up some specials at French restaurant Goulette starting next week, too.
But what he's most excited about is getting out of the hot box and into the open air, grilling local meat and veggies on a Big Green egg. Harrelson introduces his new pop-up, Hot Fire,
this weekend at Workshop running Friday through Sunday. He'll have 21-day dry-aged, 24-hour brined tomahawk pork chops; grilled veggie skewers with fresh-from-the-market squash, fava beans, and Brussels; plus steak and beef short rib from Celeste Albers' farm. He'll have a keg of Westbrook White Thai and Kevin Regan of Merrow's Garden Bar will be onsite with his collection of wine, cider, brews, and cocktails.
Under the tutelage of local meat master Blair Machado
(who currently runs his own pop-up, Farmstead Co.), Harrelson has created this concept with no certain future — this weekend's pop-up is the only one on deck — hoping he can evolve it into more of a catering endeavor. "The feasibility of doing it seasonally and locally," Harrelson says, means he can't just line up a bunch of dates. This is a slow burn, long hustle pop-up. And he doesn't want to cut any corners.
"There's a lot of greenwashing going on," Harrelson says. It's safe to say we're beyond the 'farm to table' craze — now, our collective obsession with locally sourced/organic/grass-fed/non-GMO has skewed the average diner's perception. They trust menus and chefs and hospitality group mission statements. And while most top tier spots in the area are probably sourcing from local farmers, that isn't always the case.
Harrelson has seen it, over the years, working long hours as a line cook: "The person who’s consuming it, they don’t care. They think, '$40 for this steak?'" The difference matters to Harrelson, though, and he hopes he'll be able to chat with customers this weekend about where all the food they're eating comes from. "I want to elevate the farmer," he says.
The price point for Hot Fire will be higher than most other pop-ups and food trucks around; this weekend will be the proving ground for whether Charleston diners are ready to feast on $30 tomahawk porks cuts in the great outdoors. Unlike at his restaurant gigs, where there's a GM, an exec, a sous, an owner, for Harrelson, Hot Fire is all on him.
"It's my first venture on my own, the first thing I'm financing, organizing, prepping, executing. It's a been a few months in planning stages on paper, and now the time is right, I'm excited — if I sink the ship it's all on me, but if I do well, that's all on me too."