PHOTOGRAPHY BY TIM ROBISON
South Carolina’s unsung northwestern corner is emerging as a culinary powerhouse, with restaurants such as Spartanburg’s The Kennedy dressing up classic fare like pork belly and grits. “It really speaks to the Upstate,” executive chef Jamie Cribb says of this menu staple. “There are a lot of good values in that dish.”
Cribb cures Greenbrier Farms pork belly for 24 hours and then braises it to achieve fall-off-the-bone tenderness. “Then we crisp it up with pork-rind chicharrones,” Cribb says. He fries the pig skin and grinds it down to add texture to “every single bite,” while an apple cider glaze adds acidity and a hint of sweetness to cut through the fattiness.
The grits are milled daily at Colonial Milling Co., a nearby farm that preserves nearly extinct heirloom grains that Cribb says were once “a part of everyday cooking here in the Carolinas. It’s beautiful yellow corn that’s been around since the 1850s, which they brought back.” He cooks the grits with fresh bay laurel and ample helpings of butter and heavy cream.
The Kennedy also sources its eggs—called “Grant’s egg” on the menu—from Colonial Milling Co., where the owners’ 9-year-old son, Grant, tends the farm’s 150 pasture-raised chickens. Cribb cooks the egg sous vide, because “a poached egg is more delicate and shows more finesse. When you pop the yolk, it’s super-runny and almost orange, which creates a creamy sauce for the grits.”
Cribb garnishes the dish with whatever produce is available that day, such as chives or colorful nasturtiums from a farm just down the road. “The flowers and chives give a freshness to a dish that can seem heavy,” Cribb says. “They all complement each other very well.”