If you are looking for a travel guide to good eating along the coast of North Carolina, consider “Chefs of the Coast: Restaurants and Recipes from the North Carolina Coast” by John E. Batchelor. This book is the third in a series on eating in the Tarheel State – mountain region, Piedmont and now the coast.
Unlike most recipe books that focus on the “what” of the kitchen, Batchelor hones in on the “who.” He has made the tasty journey from the Outer Banks to Calabash, interviewing chefs along the way, tasting their “signature” and other dishes and is now ready to share that research with us. He offers a profile of each of about 50 chefs and the recipes they have made famous in their restaurants. The arrangement of the book is north to south by city, with the restaurants arranged alphabetically within each city.
The very nice index catalogs the recipes by type, e.g. chicken.
The essays on each chef are taken from Batchelo’s own interviews. In addition to the usual discussion of ambiance and sample menu items, the interviews provide an idea of what each chef thinks about food – how to cook, why they cook, a bit of their personality and how they came to be the chef in a restaurant worthy of Batchelor’s interest. He does not ignore food festivals, farms, farmers markets and the delights of regional specialties. Those are attended to nicely in sidebars and special features.
Batchelor is particularly qualified to write this book. He has been writing about restaurants and travel since 1981, is the restaurant reviewer for the Greensboro News and Record and previously wrote for the Winston-Salem Journal. He lives in Greensboro.
For residents of Horry and Brunswick counties, the entries of greatest interest are probably (unless you are traveling to a more northern Carolina beach) those for Wilmington and Southport. (Note: There are no chef interviews for Calabash, just a two-page discussion of the phenomenon called “Calabash Seafood” and a short description on each of this little town’s historic seafood establishments.)
The mix of places in Wilmington and Southport is interesting. I have eaten at some but not all of the places he mentions, and for those congruencies, I do agree, they were good. My only caveat for users of the book is to call before you make a reservation to ensure that the chef you are seeking is still with your destination restaurant.
Of the places I have not yet tried, this book has intensified by desire to try Caprice Bistro and Taste the Olive Cafe and Wine Bar in Wilmington, and Mr. P’s Bistro in Southport. He offers many other choices as well. The recipes are good to read even if you never intend to cook the dishes yourself, just to get an idea for how the restaurant builds the dishes that you might find to your taste. Admittedly, it is the Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake that is drawing me to Mr. P’s. As with the chef, if a recipe has hooked your taste buds, call before you go to make sure it is being served on your planned day of arrival.
At a glance
Title | “Chefs of the Coast: Restaurants and Recipes from the North Carolina Coast”
Author | John E. Batchelor
Publisher | John F. Blair Publisher
Length | 344 pages, plus index
Cost | $19.95