There are plenty of cookbooks that reveal the cooking secrets that brought their celebrity chef/authors fortune and fame. But we're developing a fondness for the cookbooks that take it one step further. Yes, these books tell us about a particular restaurant's food and how to make it. But we also get the back story, learning the restaurant's history and meeting the people who helped bring it to life over the years. This latter approach gives a fuller sense of where the cuisine came from, and a better idea of how it might work at an operation like yours.
All of which is true of Soby's New South Cuisine (Table 301; $37.50). The 150 recipes included here — many from Soby's menu, others conjured up just for the book — put a contemporary spin on Southern favorites. Equally instructive is the tale of how the authors — owner Carl Sobocinski, chefs Rodney Freidank and David Williams — found such huge success serving this food in Greenville, SC.
They've had an 11-year run in this midsized South Carolina city. Greenville is economically strong, thanks to recent corporate arrivals like Michelin (its U.S. headquarters are here) and BMW. But it still takes a lot of skill and savvy for an independent restaurant serving relatively fancy fare to prosper.
How'd they do it? Great food. Consider this omen: Before it was even open, Soby's won top prize in Fall for Greenville, the town's annual food festival. Since then, Soby's has extended the reach of its New South cuisine.
Which is comprised of…what? Freidank defines it this way:
“First, the ‘South.' We committed ourselves to using fresh ingredients, as Greenvillians had for generations, by building relationships with local farmers and producers of fine artisanal products. We chose authentic ingredients and flavors from all parts of the Southeast — Virginia to Louisiana — to serve as our culinary foundation.
“Next, the ‘New.' We wanted to create dishes that would reflect Greenville's changing population and increasing stature as an international business hub by incorporating Asian, Latino and Mediterranean ingredients and cooking techniques. We weren't so much aiming to create cutting-edge cuisine, but to provide guests with satisfying, comforting food that surprises and delights.”
In other words, hip, contemporary food that embraces its local roots.
When you try recipes from this book. we'd suggest starting with Fried Green Tomato Napoleon; Sweet Potato Gnocchi; or Lobster Cobbler. All three fly off the menu at Soby's. You'll also want to test out Soby's White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie. It's a huge seller, too.
As good as the food is here, the spirit of hospitality Soby's leadership has created among its staffers is an equal partner in the restaurant's success. We think you'll love the food presented here, and will be inspired by the authors' approach to the restaurant business. Their book? A self-published gem.