Celebrity Chef Simeon Hall Jr. wears several chef hats; but when he isn’t hosting his signature masterclasses at Bahamar’s The Kitchen, mentoring burgeoning Bahamian chefs at the University of The Bahamas, or acting as a private chef for a who’s who of celebrities, he’s serving up Bahamian fare for people from all over the world.
Last week, the highly-sought after chef, who just came off of the heels of being featured in a monthly dinner series at the Louisiana-based Senegalese restaurant, Dakar NOLA, cooked for another hungry crowd at the 2023 Charleston Wine + Food Festival.
The Charleston Wine + Food Festival is a culinary event featuring a collective of both American and international top chefs, winemakers, brewers, farmers and culinary enthusiasts who are committed to telling stories, piquing curiosities and forging meaningful connections through food. In fact, it was at this festival that Chef Hall met friend and owner of Dakar NOLA, Chef Serigne Mbaye a year prior.
The five-day event has been hosted annually in Charleston, South Carolina since 2005 and has welcomed over 370,000 attendees since its inception.
Chef Hall, who participated in the festival for the first time in 2022, was featured in both the ‘Island Time’ and ‘World of ‘Cue’ events, where he and his all-Bahamian team served the following dishes: ‘Sundee BBQ’; pigeon peas “slaw”; goat pepper pork rinds; pigeon peas chili with bennie toppings; and his culinary brainchild, conch sausage dogs with house made relish, muddasick sauce and banana ketchup.
“The Charleston Wine + Food Festival is becoming one of my favourite international events,” said the New Providence native.
“This year, with ‘Island Time’ and ‘World of ‘Cue’, we were paired up with some of my favourite chefs from around the world. Chefs like Digby Stridiron, Alain Lemaire, Paola Velez, Oscar Johnson, and Lamar Moore, to name a few.”
He continued: “Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been pushing and celebrating Bahamian food culture publically for at least 16 years. Events like the Charleston Wine + Food Festival allow me the chance and the stage to do that for the world.”
Not only was Chef Hall able to serve his curated menu items, but thanks to a sponsorship from the The Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Development Corporation, and Bahamian distillery, Pin Drop Rum, he was able to take some local goods to the festival as well. Though this latest culinary gig joins a growing list of international opportunities for the celebrity chef, Hall says that cooking in Charleston “feels right at home”.
“The first time I went to Charleston, I thought for certain that someone had dropped me off in a Bahamian town.”
He added: “The Gullah-Geechee locals are our kin and sound almost identical to Eleutherans and Brilanders. Not only that, but we share commonalities in our food and culture as well, ” said the avid food historian.
This commonality in culture and appreciation for diasporic cuisine translated in an overwhelmingly positive response to the Bahamian dishes served at the festival.
“The response was amazing. At any event, the best way to measure your success is with long lines, happy guests and running out of food. At both events, our tables had all three happen.”
He continued: “Ask any of the three Bahamians that traveled with me what they thought about the event and I’m sure you’ll get nothing but prideful beams.”
“They got to see and appreciate how much the world admires our food. This is why I do these events.”
Chef Hall is set to participate in the Charleston Wine + Food Festival again March 6th-10th, 2024.
More photo highlights below: