Charlestonians are not known for being able to keep a secret, but the masterminds behind the unprecedented, groundbreaking Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle did a pretty impressive job at doing just that.
For months, the town was abuzz with excitement after it was announced chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s, Husk, and Minero would be one of the 37 chefs selected from around the world to trade places with each other and participate in the once-in-a-lifetime event. These chefs not only swapped kitchens, they swapped lives — staying in each other’s houses, meeting up with a chef’s farmers, purveyors, staff, and customers to ultimately cook a dinner for a lucky handful of diners that scored a ticket to the event when they first went on sale.
Presented by S. Pellegrino, The Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle was the first of its kind, and involved months of secretive discussions and coordination. The most impressive task was having the world’s most renowned chefs be able to take several days out of their incredibly overbooked schedules to travel all over the world on the same exact week. Chefs did not swap with each other, so Sean Brock was whisked away to cook at Osteria Francescana in Italy while McCrady’s was fortunate to have the light hearted and incredibly entertaining chef Paul Cunningham from Henne Kirkeby Kro in Denmark.
The “shuffle” started with each chef traveling to an unfamiliar location and once in the country, immersing themselves in the city, the restaurant, and the local foodways quickly so they could cook an eight-course dinner the night of July 9. For Paul Cunningham, that meant coming to the United States for the first time in his life, and meeting up with chef de cuisine Daniel Heinze, the culinary and operation team at McCrady’s, and local food writer Jeff Allen (who helped write Sean Brock’s award-winning cookbook, Heritage).
The group took Cunningham to places like Backman Seafood Company to eat steamed crabs; Doscher’s Food Stores to check out the meat counter and gullah geechie pantry items; Folly Beach to pick red bay; Rebellion Farms (Allen’s farm) to feed the pigs and talk about the endangered St. Croix white sheep on his property; Geechie Boy Mill to see the mill and pick local heirloom tomatoes off the vine; and Fish Net Seafood to have Jesus crabs, fried blue crab, fried whiting, and hushpuppies on a the back of a truck bed. If Cunningham wanted to experience real, true Lowcountry down-home cooking and locations, he was in good hands and hit all the right spots.