Chef Forrest Brunton was astonished when he came across Walter Edward's resume while working in the kitchen at Tilth in Seattle.
Brunton learned that Edward had worked at Barcelona's Michelin-starred comerç24 where, coincidentally, Brunton had recently dined. After that memorable experience, he was certain that Edward should join the Tilth kitchen staff immediately.
James Beard Award-winning chef and Tilth owner Maria Hines agreed, and Edward was hired. When Edward and wife Cindy decided it was time to move back to the Charleston area (where Cindy's family roots date back to the 1770s), the couple approached Brunton to see if he was interested in joining them.
They pitched a project that would revolve around supplying a restaurant with self-harvested produce. The decision was a no-brainer for Brunton, and nearly a year later, he's set to join the Edwards as they unveil a glimpse of the menu for their new restaurant, Chasing Sage, through a series of pop-ups starting this Mon. Aug. 26 at Babas on Cannon.
The Edwards had thought about opening a restaurant in Seattle, but they eventually decided that it was the right time to follow Cindy's heritage back to her 315-acre South Carolina family farm called The Farm at Smoaks.
The plan? To harvest fruits, vegetables, and herbs for use in a new restaurant. This vision is slowly coming to fruition, as Cindy cleared three acres of land and began planting produce while Walter and Brunton started collaborating on a menu for Chasing Sage. According to Walter, the two "thrive on each other's excitement about food," and they plan to team up for the day-to-day kitchen operations just as they did during the planning stages. This slightly unusual kitchen dynamic works for them thanks to their ability to run with each other's ideas.
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Guests can expect Chasing Sage, which will be located at 267 Rutledge Ave., to feature several vegetable-based dishes, although Brunton explains that the restaurant is not "vegetarian." The trio's passion for local produce is the inspiration for the menu, along with The Farm at Smoaks which, according to Cindy, should be ready to more fully supply the restaurant in nine to 12 months. Brunton says that the restaurant's ethos relies on a principle belief that vegetables are simply more exciting to work with because they vary with the seasons and require more attention to detail. The streamlined Chasing Sage menu will be broken down into three sections based on price, and all dishes will be between $9 and $19, allowing guests to create their own experience in a setting that lends itself to social dining.
Moving from the PNW to the Lowcountry has undoubtedly been an adjustment, but the group is excited about what the Charleston waters have to offer. The Northwest might be known for its selection of seafood, but Walter points out that there are countless varieties of fish in a 100-mile radius surrounding Charleston. He also explains that the smaller size of the Holy City allows him to work directly with fishermen, something he found difficult to do in Seattle. This and the extended Charleston growing season have the chef excited about the seasonal ingredients they can consistently provide at Chasing Sage.
The Edwards and Brunton are looking forward to previewing this seasonal approach Monday at Babas, where they will serve a five course meal featuring some individual dishes and some to share. Look for seafood tartare, corn and basil soup, braised pork cheek, and a tomato tart, all of which will be a reflection of the actual Chasing Sage menu. The grand finale will be Cindy's chocolate cake, which is layered in a rich, espresso-laced chocolate ganache and will be a staple at Chasing Sage. The restaurateurs are planning to do four such pop-ups with the next one scheduled for late September at The Daily.
The name Chasing Sage has a double meaning; sage is an underutilized herb, and the trio wants to invite guests to chase flavors each visit to their eatery. It's also an ode to the Edwards' twins, who happen to be named Chase and Sage, again demonstrating the deeper meaning behind the restaurant for the owners. And if vegetables aren't for you, it's probably still worth your while to stop in for a bite of that "kick ass chocolate cake."
Look for Chasing Sage to open for dinner and weekend brunch by the end of 2019, and keep an eye out for their three more pop-up dates this fall.