Lowcountry Food Scene


Aiden McCarthy didn’t want to be a firefighter or policeman or superhero for Halloween when he was 2. He wanted to be a chef. It was a precursor to the passion that would land him on an episode of the Food Network’s “Chopped Junior” 10 years later. 

“He was just in it from the beginning,” said his mother, Leah McCarthy, of Aiden’s passion for cooking. She and her husband, Ryan, own the Downtown Deli in Old Town Bluffton, a catering company and a food truck. “He has always shown interest from a young age. He’d always ask, ‘Can I help? Can I stir? Can I measure?’ He just wanted to do everything, and was always, always, always in the kitchen wanting to help.” 


Q: Your restaurant has been serving locals and tourists for 35 years. What role has it played in your life? 

A: My relationship with our family restaurant has definitely been one of both love and hate. Since I can remember, I have been working in the restaurant. The restaurant has provided me with many experiences through travel, which have given me a broader perspective of the world. More than anything, working in a restaurant is quite humbling, and teaches you a lot about human nature. Lastly, it has provided me with a strong work ethic. The show must go on is not just for theater.

cocktail partyThe RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing is a fantastic excuse to throw a great cocktail party. Just remember, a spectacular soiree takes more than just excellent drinks. The food must be on point as well. To help turn your Heritage cocktail party up a notch, we reached out to two catering experts for recipes that are both easy to make and guaranteed to please.

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.