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Wild Common chef Orlando Pagan talks tasting menus ahead of Thursday opening

Newly renovated Cannon Green space unveiled this week

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As we reported last month, the Easton Porter Group has officially split up the downtown restaurant-venue complex at 103 Spring Street into two concepts: Cannon Green and Wild Common.

Cannon Green continue on as an event venue, while Wild Common will become a tasting menu-driven restaurant, opening this Thurs. March 21 with chef Orlando Pagan at the helm.

Diners will have an array of options when they make a reservation: a private dining room tailored to parties of 50-ish with two bars, a seat at the eight-seat chef's counter looking into the new open kitchen, a table or booth in the reconfigured dining area, or the private (and 'exclusive') chef's table upstairs overlooking the outdoor courtyard.

Zero Restaurant + Bar executive chef Vinson Petrillo, charged with Zero's tasting menu since 2014, has overseen the project's development, but isn't trying to micromanage Pagan. "It's not my place to step on his toes, he's super talented, I'm just making sure we're on the same page."


Orlando Pagan - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Orlando Pagan
Pagan may be new to the Easton Porter Group, but he's got plenty of culinary experience under his belt.

After graduating from Johnson & Wales in North Miami, Pagan worked at several San Francisco restaurants before landing as executive chef at Michelin-starred The Village Pub.

Pagan moved to Charleston serve as chef de cuisine at McCrady's Tavern two years ago, joining the Easton Porter crew this February. With such a quick turnaround from inception to opening, Pagan says it's been nice having Petrillo close at hand. "Opening a restaurant, there are going to be a lot of questions — [with Petrillo] it's a mental safety blanket. I know when I come in here if I need help or have a question he’s around the corner."

Pagan will be the third chef at 103 Spring in a little over four years, and the first to guide it with a tasting menu, a realm that Pagan says he prefers to a standard format. "To me it’s like a chef’s dream — you can focus on only certain dishes. When you have a bigger menu it takes so much energy to make sure every single dish is a winner," says Pagan. "Having a bigger menu, sometimes it is frustrating because you can’t focus your energy on a single dish, you go crazy."

"Large menus tend to create more waste as well," adds Petrillo. "The company as a whole is trying to eliminate waste ... let’s stop killing things to kill things and wasting things to waste things, let’s collaborate and work together, and as a chef community we’re respecting ingredients for what they are."

That said, Wild Common guests will still be able to order a la carte in the main dining room. Guests at the upstairs chef's table will be able to choose from a number of menus for their meals. One we saw featured dishes ranging from pickled Royal Red prawns to butter poached wreckfish with pickled ramps.

"I think dining is supposed to be fun," says Petrillo. "Orlando is not going to play it safe — everyone in Charleston is doing the same thing. [He's] going outside the box with exciting flavors doing something that might be mentally challenging to the guests in a way they can’t comprehend what’s going on but at the same time, it’s delicious."

Between Spring Street blooming — Pink Cactus and Malagon both opened the week of Charleston Wine + Food Fest — and the restructuring of this massive Spring Street space, we'll see if third time's the charm for Cannon Green.

Wild Common will be open Wed.-Sun. from 5 to 10 p.m.; make your reservation for dinner via Resy now.
Location Details Wild Common
103 Spring St.
Downtown
Charleston, SC
Serving Dinner (Wed.-Sun.)5-10 p.m.
Modern American
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“Wild Common” name is inspired by DH Lawrence’s poem of the same name. The poem (much like this dish) is an effusion of life which explodes everywhere in its vivid imagery. Read 1928 poem below ————————— The quick sparks on the gorse-bushes are leaping Little jets of sunlight texture imitating flame; Above them, exultant, the peewits are sweeping: They have triumphed again o'er the ages, their screamings proclaim. Rabbits, handfuls of brown earth, lie Low-rounded on the mournful turf they have bitten down to the quick. Are they asleep? — are they living? — Now see, when I Lift my arms, the hill bursts and heaves under their spurting kick! The common flaunts bravely; but below, from the rushes Crowds of glittering king-cups surge to challenge the blossoming bushes; There the lazy streamlet pushes His bent course mildly; here wakes again, leaps, laughs, and gushes Into a deep pond, an old sheep-dip, Dark, overgrown with willows, cool, with the brook ebbing through so slow; Naked on the steep, soft lip Of the turf I stand watching my own white shadow quivering to and fro. What if the gorse-flowers shrivelled, and I were gone? What if the waters ceased, where were the marigolds then, and the gudgeon? What is this thing that I look down upon? White on the water wimples my shadow, strains like a dog on a string, to run on. How it looks back, like a white dog to its master! I on the bank all substance, my shadow all shadow looking up to me, looking back! And the water runs, and runs faster, runs faster, And the white dog dances and quivers, I am holding his cord quite slack. But how splendid it is to be substance, here! My shadow is neither here nor there; but I, I am royally here! I am here! I am here! screams the peewit; the may-blobs burst out in a laugh as they hear! Here! flick the rabbits. Here! pants the gorse. Here! say the insects far and near. Over my skin in the sunshine, the warm, clinging air Flushed with the songs of seven larks singing at once, goes kissing me glad. You are here! You are here! We have found you! Everywhere We sought you substantial, you touchstone of caresses, you naked lad! [continued in next caption]

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