For Chef Eric Stancell, there are a lot more similarities between good ol’ down home Southern cooking and Italian cuisine than someone might realize.
“This is actually my first try at Italian cooking,” says Stancell. “But there are lots of similarities with the methods of cooking, and things like the richness of sauces. Southern foods just have to have sauces.” In addition, Stancell says that fresh vegetables and other ingredients are essential to Southern cooking, just like classic Italian cuisine.
This commitment to freshness is one of the many aspects that Stancell loves about cooking and creating at Travinia Italian Kitchen. “We make it a point to try and source locally as much product as we can. There is so much good seafood available, like clams, oysters and mussels. Plus, there are all types of produce. We’re a local business supporting local businesses. That’s important to us.”
Born and raised in Winston-Salem, N.C., Stancell attended college for a time, before joining the military. After 12 years in Oklahoma, he made his way back home. He knew that his future was in the culinary arts, and he felt a good place for opportunity was Myrtle Beach. “I moved down to try and do something. With more than 2,000 restaurants, Myrtle Beach is a good place to do that!”
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After about a year of working at Broadway at the Beach eateries, Stancell saw an advertisement for a chef’s position at Travinia in The Market Common. It was a match made in kitchen heaven. “I love it here,” he says. What is his favorite dish to prepare? “The Chicken Marsala, definitely [thin pounded medallions in an aged Florio Marsala wine demi-glaze topped with Fontina cheese and cremini mushrooms]. I love to make that thick, hearty sauce.”
Stancell’s personal favorite foods range from steaks (“You can’t live in Oklahoma for 12 years and not like steaks!”) to seafood, and if both are together, well, all the better. Surf and turf specials tend to end up on Stancell’s specials menu with delicious regularity.
The staff of Travinia is truly one big family, says Stancell. “From front of the house to back in the kitchen, we have one of the best staffs around. You walk in and automatically feel how relaxed and calm it is.”
Stancell’s philosophy on cooking is simple: “If you’re going to do any cooking, you have to love it in your heart. You cannot do it simply for the money. You must have a true love and passion; every day you can do something new to keep that passion fueled.” He says that his passion has its roots in the kitchens of his mother and grandmother. “Growing up, I watched them cooking and creating. Even today, I’m always learning from them, though they still won’t let me cook in their kitchens!”