Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Sarah McClure never dreamed of growing up to be an accomplished chef. But here she is, killing it.
McClure, co-owner and chef of Southside Smokehouse in Landrum, has been named one of four 2018 South Carolina Chef Ambassadors. The program is a joint initiative between the South Carolina Department of Agriculture and the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.
The program is entering its fourth year, and this is the second chef from Spartanburg County who has been selected for the honor. William Cribb, owner or partner of four Spartanburg eateries (Willy Taco, Cribb’s Kitchen, Cribb’s Catering and the soon-to-open The Kennedy), served as a 2017 Chef Ambassador.
McClure discovered her culinary passion after receiving a bachelor’s degree in art history from Wofford College. As she was pursuing her master’s degree, she got a job at The National restaurant in Athens, Ga., and learned to cook from Chef Peter Dale.
She realized her calling was in food, not art, and returned home to Landrum to work in her family’s restaurant. The McClure family has owned Southside Smokehouse since 2004, where they’ve served “American standards that run the gamut from bar food and chicken fingers to barbecue and Cajun food,” inspired by the family’s travels. When McClure returned to work alongside her father, Robbie McClure, she brought with her new ideas for the building and the menu.
“Physically, we’ve changed a lot about the building,” she said. She also helped expand the bar, which now features 85 bourbons, 30 tequilas and a variety of craft beer.
The menu was a different story.
“I was able to cut four or five items, but that’s all our regulars and my family would allow,” she joked.
The compromise was a chef’s special menu that allows McClure to experiment and introduce new items to her clientele. She focuses on seasonal local produce, and regularly offers a fish dish, pasta, game, and specialty nachos and tacos.
“In a town like Landrum, being so small, you do need to have something for everything,” McClure said, adding that many of their regular customers have enjoyed trying new dishes and new approaches to traditional menu items.
McClure said her family loves to travel and try local foods in other regions. Those local flavors are what inspire her seasonal menu items when she returns home.
“How can I make this a little more accessible, a little more affordable?” she said. “(It’s) taking some avant garde concepts and bringing them into the small-town family restaurant vibe.”
McClure was one of four women to be recognized as a South Carolina Chef Ambassador for 2018. Her cohorts are Kiki Cyrus of Columbia’s Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles, Heidi Vukov of Croissants Bistro & Bakery and Hook & Barrel in Myrtle Beach, and Michelle Weaver from Charleston Grille.
The chefs were chosen for offering distinctive flavors, and for using locally grown and harvested items in their menus. Throughout 2018, the four chefs will participate in several culinary, agriculture and tourism events throughout the Southeast, representing South Carolina as a culinary destination.
Cribb said his year in the program offered him valuable connections to other chefs across the state, as well as farmers across the state.
“I think the main focus of the program is to make people think about sourcing local,” Cribb said. “I think it only makes sense to see what the farmers are growing.”
Having Spartanburg represented two years in a row in the Chef Ambassador program is a testament to the growing food scene in the county, Cribb said.
“Great new restaurants are opening. It’s fun to see the growth,” he said. “I think the skyline is going to continue to grow. The sky’s the limit.”