From the Diamond to the Kitchen

We wish we had time to watch more food-related shows such as Bizarre Foods hosted by Andrew Zimmern. Luckily, we were treated to a recent Bizarre Baskets- themed Chopped episode with Mr. Zimmern making a guest appearance as a judge. One thing that wasn’t bizarre was the talent displayed by the chefs who used their imagination with some really weird basket items. We reached out to one of the cheftestants, Geoff Rhyne, after the show to learn more about him.

Young Geoff Rhyne picking blackberries
Young Geoff Rhyne picking blackberries

FP: How did you get your start with cooking? 

GR: I’ve always been one to dabble in the kitchen, even when I was young.  I have incredible food memories from my childhood of picking fresh blackberries, cracking just fallen pecans or fetching warm hen eggs in my grandparents yard, and eating the best biscuits ever in my great grandmothers farmhouse kitchen.

Professionally, I began cooking in Charleston as a pizza guy in 2000.  I had transferred colleges and ended up working in restaurants instead of playing baseball.

FP: We bet there are similarities between being a chef and playing baseball.

Tell us about your experience on Chopped. 

GR: The biggest chapper was the goat head. I’ve worked with plenty of goat, lamb, and pig heads. I was excited because I love the cheek meat. Unfortunately, they must have roasted the heads quickly at a high heat first because the outside was super cooked and leathery. I tried to tenderize the rest of it with a quick poach in a buerre monte, but the meat was inedible. I will never put something on a plate that is inedible– fundamentally wrong.

FP: The goat head was strange for sure!

Out of all the bizarre basket items, which one was the hardest ingredient to work with?

GR: The lox ice cream was just gross–seriously, does that actually exist somewhere? It tasted like corn syrup flavored gravalax– gross.

FP: We’ll take your word for it. 😉

We learned about Red Clay Hot Sauce through our Twitter interactions during the episode. Tell us more about how the concept came about.

GR: Red Clay was essentially founded upon customer feedback. When I was chef de cuisine at The Ordinary, we were tasked by the Executive Chef/Owner, Mike Lata, to build a pantry of ingredients. We made our own mignonette’s, ketchup, cocktail, horseradish, and other typical condiments. I enjoy pickles and ferments, so I started dabbling with them. I made a seakraut–traditional sauerkraut with dried sea leaves that had an incredible umami to it. I tested a bunch of different peppers for hot sauce. My objective was too strip away all non-essential ingredients and focus on the quality of the remaining ingredients: the pepper, the vinegar, and the salt. Out of all the peppers, the fresno had the best flavor–it had a great balanced heat while still being able to enjoy the flavor nuances. Every hot sauce I’ve ever seen uses distilled vinegar. As a chef, we strive for flavor. In vinaigrettes, we never use distilled vinegar–we use ones with flavor. Thus, I applied that concept to the hot sauce. I only use white wine vinegar, and I only use a particular salt. Customers were stealing the bottles off the tables, and an idea to take it to market came about. After working on the recipe and adding the bourbon barrel component, I felt like I had a product that could appeal to folks. We didn’t set out to make the hottest sauce ever like so many of those in the hot sauce market, we set out to make the most delicious, and I believe we have delivered on that.

FP: We definitely like our share of hot sauces! We’ll have to give Red Clay a try!

What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home?

GR: I am a minimalist and appreciate the simple things and the food I gravitate towards cooking is just that. Peasant foods are in my heart- stews, simple roasted vegetables and meats, unadulterated grilled/steamed seafood.  I love Southern food (naturally) and I find parallels in most other cuisines, especially French and Italian.

FP: We hear Charleston is a great food town. When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in town or other cities you’ve visited.

GR: Charleston is an incredible food town. To me, the restaurants are an extension of it. It’s a great food town because of our cultural history involving food and the amount of natural resources available to us. The bounty of our incredible waters, the fertile farmland with a climate suited for growing, vast nature surrounding us… we all draw from it.  The community lives food, and the restaurants are the beneficiaries.

I love the little places more so than the fancy. Wild Olive and The Tomato Shed on Johns Island, The Fish Net Cafe and Scott’s BBQ in Hemingway.  In NYC, I loved my meal at Peasant and I’m consistently impressed with Blue Hill at Stone Barns where I both ate and did a week long stagiaire. In Chicago, I really enjoyed Avec, Urban Belly, Old Town Social and Vie.

FP: We hope to visit Charleston in the near future! Let us know next time you’re in NYC.

What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂

GR: Restaurant wise, there are 2 chains that I can never get away from: Waffle House and Chik-Fil-A. Growing up in Atlanta, these two were everywhere. I get a “Wa-Ho” craving frequently. Hashbrowns- scattered, smothered, covered, chunked, and diced…a triple order thank you very much!  God, it’s good… and Chik-Fil-A is my fast food vice. So classic– waffle cut fries and that chicken sandwich– delicioso!

I have a wicked sweet tooth from time to time where I will put down a half gallon of ice cream.  Ultimately, I’m just a fat kid at heart.

FP: Aren’t we all fat kids at heart? 😉

What are some of your non-cooking/food related interests and hobbies? 

GR: I love sports. I’m a huge UGA and Atlanta sports fan. I originally went to college to play baseball. Things didn’t work out quite like I imagined, but I’m in such a good place. My family is my world. Other than that, anytime I can spend in the woods, being on the water or just getting lost in nature suits me fine. I love being outdoors whenever I can be.

FP: Thank you, Geoff for your time. We wish you continued success! 

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