Lowcountry Food Scene

claude uli fullChef Claude Melchiorri was born in the heart of the Pays d’Auge, famous for its apple brandy, Calvados, in the Normandy region of France. “My father was Italian and my mother was French and I was the youngest of 13 children, so instead of helping my dad in the construction business, I helped my mother in the kitchen.” explains Melchiorri. Cutting his teeth on his mother’s apron strings launched a stellar career cooking in world-renowned restaurants including Maxim’s in Paris, the Connaught in London and Ernie’s in San Francisco. He made his way to Orlando in 1980 where he opened his first restaurants, La Normandie and Caruso’s. He and Uli, a native of Austria and Claude’s partner and wife, then came to Hilton Head Island in 1994 where he established his reputation at Le Rendez-Vous Café, La Normandie, and now at Claude & Uli’s Bistro in Bluffton, at the foot of the Hilton Head Island bridge, since 2005.

March is a great month for pho, a traditional Vietnamese rice noodle soup often made with beef or chicken, because winter is still hanging on a little; having a steaming bowl of pho can take the chill off. The way to correctly pronounce "pho" is as in "do re mi FA so..." I learned this during a kitchen session with Chef Di Wang, owner of Relish Café.


Chef Eric Sayers is the first to admit his story is not the typical sentimental one that involves cooking at his grandmother’s apron strings.

“I'm from Connecticut and started as a busboy at a conference center. I was really wanting to work the back of the house and so the chef put me on salads and desserts,” he said. “Eventually, an Austrian chef with fiery red hair and enormous hands named Hakken Blakken was hired and he made these elaborate food designs on mirrors. He took me aside and showed me his secrets on how to make chocolate mousse and other dishes. I wish I had taken notes.”

Owning a restaurant as a family gives new meaning to the words “family meeting,” but the Whiteheads have a special dynamic that makes it all work.

“Our motto is ‘Friends, family and fun’ because we want people to know that we are all about families, and we welcome them,” says Rocky Whitehead, whose family opened the popular restaurant Bomboras Grille in 2011. Thanks to the recent addition of a new chef and an expanded menu, the family has decided to rename the restaurant Rockfish Seafood & Steak at Bomboras.

jeffmartinJEFF MARTIN, general manager, Red Fish Bluffton

Question: How many years have you been at Red Fish?
Answer: Twelve years as of this past October. I've been at the Bluffton location since June.

Q: How are you liking the Bluffton location? 
A: It's great being in Bluffton, just a longer commute. Our "locals to tourists ratio" is a lot higher in Bluffton. I like that.

Q: What makes the Bluffton location different from the Hilton Head Island spot, if anything?
A: We are "the same but different." We have some of the same signature items on our dinner menu, but the menus are not identical. Our lunch and early dining menus are very different from the island location. Two things we have that the island doesn't are our bar menu with great values on food, drinks, beer and wine, and we serve brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.

Olives are everywhere: swirling around in crystal martini glasses, pressed into luxurious extra-virgin oil used by Michelin chefs, and even on the coat of arms of the United States: recognizable on the cover of your passport and other official documents, the American eagle clutches an olive branch with 13 leaves, representing the 13 original colonies. Many people also use olive oil on their skin and hair as part of their beauty regimes — a ritual that may have started with Cleopatra. Or whip up a batch of homemade furniture polish by using the least expensive olive oil at the market, some white vinegar and a few drops of essential oil for scent, and watch as your scuff marks polish away. There are so many ways to use this impressive fruit.