City Paper: What's the last thing you fried?
Jacques Larson: I'm glad I looked you up! This is a pretty standard response: Geechie Frites. We created a monster when we came up with these, they're definitely a hot seller at Obstinate Daughter.
CP: That's actually my next question: What's up with those Geechie Frites?
JL: I'm pretty much based in classic Italian cooking and fried polenta is simple Italian street food. When we first opened Obstinate Daughter, it was at the height of "all things Southern" so it's also a nod to Charleston's culture, plus we use Geechie Boy products. It was really about doing something new and having fun.
CP: I asked your former employee Steve Seguin this same question: Hog's head cheese or mortadella?
JL: I do like hog's head cheese. I'll never forget when I was living in Park Circle I'd go that grocery store that closed down a while ago and I'd be fascinated by the pork section there. For me to see pig ears and pig tail and ham hocks, it presented a whole new arsenal of stuff to work with. However, after traveling to the city of Bologna, Italy, where mortadella hails from, I love that stuff. I swear, the whole city of Bologna smells like mortadella — it's everywhere.
CP: What about your Frogmore chowder?
JL: When I moved to Charleston in 2005 it was definitely a learning curve for me. I'll never forget my first Lowcountry Boil. To me, it's all about getting together with friends and family to celebrate the spirit of community. If you take the shrimp out of the Lowcountry Boil and it's just sausage, corn, and potatoes, that's a staple dish in the Midwest where I'm from. Every time I go to New England, I'm eating the clam chowder, so I told my people: Let's come up with a kick ass chowder and frame it as Frogmore stew.
CP: Charleston's busting at the seams with Italian food, you've been doing it for a while now. What are your thoughts?
JL: That's tough. For me, pound for pound, we have a great food scene here that I can't take for granted. That being said, there weren't a lot of "ethnic" restaurants when I first arrived, especially Italian. Back then people appreciated what we were doing, making fresh pasta, bringing in great wines from Italy, but it really took time for it to grow. There weren't a lot of high-profile chefs doing it yet. Over time, some have made it and many have failed. You have to think about it: Charleston's not big and it's very fickle, so if you're not one of the "good ones" and on your A game, you'll fail. Even though more Italian restaurants are opening, it keeps the old ones on their toes. Of course there's going to be some rumbling in the F&B community when a hot new chef from New York City comes into town and gets in your lane. I don't mind though. My GM eats at Le Farfalle at least twice a month. Good food is good food.