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Charleston Chef-on-Chef Q&A

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Editor’s Note: This blog first appeared yesterday on bonappetit.com, as part of a blog-sharing partnership with The Local Palate in celebration of the upcoming Bon AppetitCharleston Grub Crawl. Both The Grocery and Hominy Grill are stops on the Daytime Charleston Grub Crawl, hosted by Bon Appétit June 22.

Charleston Executive Chefs Kevin Johnson of The Grocery and Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill work long hours in the kitchen, but they are also known for showcasing a “bit of personality” now and again outside of their respective offices. TLP turned the interviewing tables on them recently and asked Kevin to interview Robert. Hey, if we can get chefs to do our work for us and feed us outstanding food, why not do it? And so we did.

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Chef Kevin Johnson of The Grocery and Chef Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?

I guess I’d just be a regular guy.

What are your three favorite ingredients?
Ribs, beer, and high-octane gasoline.

Three least favorite?
Greasy fingers, flashing blue lights, and bail!

Who would be sitting at your dream 6-top to cook for?  Dead or alive.
Any six people without allergies.

If you opened another restaurant, what would it be like?
Vegetarian.

What is the biggest misconception about Southern food that you still battle to change?
There is too much stereotyping with plenty of kitsch.

What city would you like to do a grub crawl in?
Amsterdam. I think Bon Appétit should do a special grub crawl in Amsterdam for all the chefs who participated as a grand thank you gesture — put it in the suggestion box, will you?

Congratulations on such a long and successful run at Hominy Grill.  What still drives you and what goals/plans do you have for the coming years?
I love what I’m doing, and I’m still planning to make it to the finish line, whatever that may look like.

What is your chef “guilty pleasure food”?  We all have them, what’s yours?
I eat right, exercise, and work long hours, so when it is time for pleasure, I don’t waste any of it on guilt.

Who would make you freak out the most if they came into your restaurant?
The President or maybe an ex-president.

What is harder about the restaurant now than when it opened?
Hominy started as my restaurant but now it is a “big” small business. There are a lot of people who are depending on the decisions I make, and that’s a heavy load.

What is easier?
 Being patient.