My friend Cathryn, a Gaffney native who is now living in Cambridge, Mass., (a town that couldn't be more culturally opposite than the peach capital of South Carolina) says she must tune in to some Tyler-related programming at least once a week to help keep her homesickness at bay.
Also on the list are Chef Donald Barickman, founder of Magnolias in Charleston, and Chef Anthony Gray, the executive chef of High Cotton in Charleston.
Magnolias is a Chucktown staple that has delicious menu items like "Fried Chicken Cordon Bleu" and "Banana Pudding Napoleon." Great stuff. And Chef Barickman is also the author of my favorite restaurant cookbook, Magnolias Authentic Southern Cuisine.
Shamefully, I've found some of the book's recipes to be above my skill level. This isn't because they're difficult, exactly. It's just that some are quite involved, and I can be quite lazy. Many of them, though, are right up my alley and surprisingly basic, like the pan-fried catfish with collards and black rice, the chocolate chip bourbon pecan pie and the tasso gravy.
While I don't have a cookbook for High Cotton (and I'm not sure there is one), I will say this: Hands down, it is my favorite restaurant in Charleston and one of my favorites on the planet. And I think that's saying something since Charleston is teeming with superb dining establishments.
Speaking of which, the majority of chefs on the list are associated with Charleston restaurants. Not surprising since that fair city is a culinary hot spot. It does, however, make me wonder how other Southern states stack up against South Carolina in the department of acclaimed chefs. Surely Louisiana, Florida and Georgia have more than their fair share. And I'm aware of several here in my home state of North Carolina, including Chef Marvin Woods (I have his cookbook too!). But I've found that whether an establishment has a world-class chef or just a grandma-trained cook, Southern restaurants get it right more often than not.
Side note: I couldn't mention Gaffney without including a gratuitous picture of the town's famous peachoid. Here you go: