The celebrity chef will visit the Lowcountry for the 2020 Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival.
Story by David Gignilliat
William Dissen is the chef of Haymaker in Charlotte, N.C, and will be visiting the area in February as part of the 13th annual Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival.
“I’m excited to get down to Hilton Head for the festival. I think it’s going to be one of the best ones yet,” said Dissen, a rising star nationally in the culinary world. “Hilton Head is the culinary epicenter of the Lowcountry, with its Gullah and Geechee influences, and (the Island) really is making a bold move with its food scene.”
Dissen will be participating in the event’s James Beard Foundation dinner, and will be doing a sustainable seafood cooking demonstration on behalf of Seafood Watch, a blue-ribbon task force affiliated with the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
After years in some of the Southeast’s best culinary trenches, Dissen opened his first restaurant — The Market Place in Asheville, where twice he’s been named Fortune Magazine’s Green Chef of the Year. He opened Haymaker in fall of 2017, where he “reinterprets the bounty of the Piedmont area and Appalachia, and explores our foodways, both historic and present across our region,” according to his restaurant’s website. He also has a seasonal eatery, Billy D’s Fried Chicken, at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, N.C.
At the forefront of many of the culinary world’s more progressive trends, he recently wrote a piece for the James Beard Foundation (the country’s most prestigious culinary arts nonprofit organization) about food waste. LOCAL Life recently spoke with the dynamic chef to discuss culinary trends for 2020.
Dissen anticipates people will continue to eat even more locally sourced food and ingredients, both as a way to support local farmers and purveyors, but also for its potential health benefits.
“It’s being mindful of the season, and what’s growing, and what’s not. And being mindful of the people who are growing the food, and knowing what they have, and showcasing the best of your region, and the best of what is in your food chain,” says Dissen. “The secondary part of it is the health aspect. The closer the ingredients are to the ground, and the closer they are to being ripe, you’re getting that full flavor at its peak.”
Fresh is back
The Lowcountry is home to many heirloom ingredients, including the famed Carolina Gold rice out of Charles Town, long a Lowcountry staple and recently resurrected by Dr. Richard Schulze, a Savannah optometrist, and revitalized by chefs like Sean Brock at Husk in Charleston, and Glenn Roberts, founder of Anson Mills, a provider of many Lowcountry staple heirloom ingredients.
“Eating local has been on the forefront for years, but with the continued changes in our environment and climate, eating local continues to charge ahead,” he added. “Not only is eating local sustainable, but it also tastes better.”
Sustainable seafood and meats
“As our world keeps expanding and the need for protein increases, people want to know what they are putting in their bodies,” said Dissen. “Finding a protein source that is sustainable allows for people to know that they are eating a ‘clean’ seafood or meat and that their impact on Earth is lessened due to the way in which the seafood or meat was caught or raised.”
Dissen suggests that chefs and guests follow groups like Seafood Watch for more information on how to source sustainably.
“It’s finding the best ingredients, but also being mindful of how they are sourced and farmed,” he added.
The zero waste kitchen
Dissen also believes that restaurants will continue to be mindful to produce little to no waste in their cooking.
“Ultimately it’s important for the future of our planet and for restaurants to be aware of the waste they are producing,” said Dissen, who will present on this topic at the Hilton Head Seafood Festival. “We teach our teams that food loss equals food cost, so it’s equally important for the financial wellbeing of a restaurant to be able to eliminate as much waste as possible.”
Dissen cites as progress restaurants’ use of the delicate meat of fish cheeks, or using bones to make a broth.
“Food loss equals food cost. Chefs are working to cross-utilize everything. Look for more fermented foods made from what would be food waste and more whole animal utilization.”
Transparency about sourcing
Dissen mentioned organizations like the Good Food 100, which help restaurants spread the word about sustainable and positive sourcing.
“There’s such a large amount of local artisanal growers, that access to the best ingredients is within our food chain,” said Dissen. “Within a 100-mile radius of any (Lowcountry) restaurant, there’s now just a great deal of access to quality products.”
In the fall of 2018, the release of The Noma Guide to Fermentation, a compendium of fermentation recipes and techniques (“a significant marker of our culinary culture,” as The New York Times labeled it) started to push chefs in a more exploratory direction.
“Chefs are getting more and more curious about how to expand their palates to incorporate fermented food into their dishes and into cocktails behind the bar,” said Wissen, who uses fermented products in some of his shrimp and grits recipes. “Misos, kimchis, kombuchas, house-made fermented hot sauces are going to be more prevalent on restaurant menus. Look for funky and fermented foods in the year ahead. David Zilber from Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen has been leading the charge.”
The perfect Lowcountry food
Dissen is a devout fan of roe shrimp (“one of my favorite things in the world”), which enjoys a brief May-to-June season in various parts of the Lowcountry, including Kiawah Island.
“It’s when the shrimp are full of eggs, (essentially) when a white shrimp has recently spawned, and they’re just really particularly flavorful among shrimp lovers. They are really, really delicious. They are sweet, and they are the essence of the shrimp. To me, that is like the quintessential Lowcountry ingredient.”
Save the Dates
The Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival is a family friendly, week-long culinary and cultural tourism event, where top chefs, mixologists, sommeliers, local seafood, artisans, live music and wildlife come together.
Feb 19 At Table Seaside: Culinary Discussion + Chef Experience
Feb 24-28 Lowcountry Seafood Experience on the Water
Feb 27 Pitmaster 101 with Bryan Furman and Robert Owens
FeB 27 Friends of James Beard Southern Supper
Feb 28 Celebrity Chef Master Classes with chef William Dissen of Haymaker
Feb 28 Pig Pickin’ + Oyster Roast
Feb 29 Saturday Seafood Festival
March 1 Seafood & Champagne Sunday Brunch