Meet Chef Chris Williams of Columbia, South Carolina | Video

Chef Chris Williams grew up in Olar, South Carolina, learning to cook under the watchful eyes of her mother and grandmother. Sensing his curiosity, they regularly brought him into the kitchen, talking him through the ingredients, letting him taste as they went, and sharing their techniques. It was from these talented home cooks that Williams learned how to prepare the venerable dishes of the South.

Chris Williams from Roy's Grill

By age 15, Williams turned his curiosity into his job and started working in restaurants. Over the years, he trained in settings ranging from fast food to fine dining. In 2014 he opened his own restaurant, Roy’s Grille, named for his grandfather Leroy Carter, in Irmo, South Carolina.

In his from-scratch kitchen, Williams specializes in nostalgia-inducing fares, as burgers piled high with pimento cheese and bacon to South Carolina-style pulled pork barbecue. He also has some creative twists, including the jalapeño chicken egg rolls and the Korean Carolina, a formidable sandwich that earned Williams fifth place at the 2022 World Food Championship. At the Tournament, which attracts hundreds of chefs from across the country and the world, Williams represented the Palmetto State as a South Carolina Chef Ambassador. He competed in the Word Sandwich Championship against 23 other chefs before emerging as one of the top five competitors.

The Carolina Korean is his Lowcountry spin on Korean beef bulgogi. Strips of shaved beef are marinated until tender and tangy and cooked until each piece develops an almost-caramelized coating. The sandwich becomes decidedly Southern with toppings like fried onion straws, pimento cheese, and spicy mayonnaise. Williams used ribeye steak for his sandwich in the competition, but you can use cheaper cuts at home; as long as you follow the marinating process, Williams promises you’ll tenderize the beef into award-winning quality

Carolina Korean Sandwich

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Serves 8

    For the meat marinade
  • 1 cup soy sauce or shoyu
  • ¼ cup mirin
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup grated garlic
  • ⅛ cup grated ginger
  • ½ cup grated asian pear
  • 2 pounds (16 ounces) of shaved beef (preferably ribeye)
  • ⅛ cup sesame oil
  • For the sandwich
  • 8 hoagie buns
  • Pimento cheese
  • Sriracha mayonnaise
  • Crispy fried onions
  • Chopped green onions
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk to combine soy sauce, mirin, and ½ cup of water. To the liquids, add sugar, garlic, ginger, and asian pears and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Add shaved beef to the marinade and mix to coat each piece. Let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add sesame oil and stir again; let sit for another 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Working in small batches, cook beef, letting each side cook long enough to caramelize its surface. Once cooked, transfer meat to a bowl or sheet pan and let cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to broil. Slice hoagie rolls lengthwise and arrange them on a middle rack in oven, interior side up, and toast lightly.
  4. Build the sandwich by spreading pimento cheese (as much as you would like) across the bottom half of the toasted buns and sriracha mayonnaise on the top halves. Pile shaved beef on the bottom half and top with fried onions and garnish with green onions.
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