"If you stick to one style of cooking throughout your career, you limit yourself as a chef," says Scott Crawford.
After spending more than two decades working in high-end restaurants, most recently as the executive chef at Herons, a five-star restaurant in Cary, North Carolina, the James Beard nominee is on the cusp of mixing things up—by going more casual.
This fall, Crawford is slated to open Standard Foods in downtown Raleigh, a modern, all-in-one restaurant and grocery. It will have a backyard garden and an in-house whole animal butchery; it will sell meat, produce and house-made stocks and sauces.
The grocery will also act as an enormous pantry for an 80-seat restaurant. But this time around, the chef is keeping the menu unfussy while sticking to his trademark style of Southern cooking, which relies more on flavorful stocks and fresh ingredients than it does on butter or cream.
We caught up with Crawford in his home kitchen, where he's been tweaking recipes, as he made his chilled butter bean soup (see the recipe).
The dish is deceptively simple: He makes the soup from only freshly shelled butter beans, leeks and olive oil, puréed together with a little water.
Crawford's distinctly Carolina twist comes in the form of a tangy, vinegar-spiked relish made from fresh cherry tomatoes, corn and boiled green peanuts. Being the chef that he is, he plates the crunchy garnish alongside the soup in a gorgeous slender half-moon sprinkled with chive flowers, although it's just as delicious spooned on top.
"What I love about Southern cooking is that it's so much about seasonality and tradition," says Crawford. "But when you learn how to modernize it, that's when it really becomes exciting."
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