There’s a new shrimp and grits champ in town. Chef Curtis Epps of the Albergotti Grill at Beaufort’s Holiday Inn & Suites wowed the crowd with his recipe and took home the People’s Choice Award for best shrimp & grits in the Lowcountry at last weekend’s Bridges Prep School’s annual Block Party – Shrimp and Grits Cook-off presented by Ameris Bank.
Epps was followed by second place winner, and 2016 and 2017 champion, Jason Dangerfield of Cooking Just for Fun.
Rounding out the top three was Chef Tony Pope of Crosta Pizzeria.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better day on Paris Avenue,” said organizer Amy Painton, vice-chair of Bridges PTO. “The weather was picture perfect, our chefs all had different approaches to the Lowcountry tradition of shrimp and grits, and everyone looked to be having a fabulous time enjoying great food, live music and more.”
For Epps, his philosophy on cooking is “to do the best that you can with what you have to work with. Creating lemonade out of lemons. Taste, presentation, and overall appeal is essential. One of my sayings I live by is, today’s preparation is tomorrow’s performance.”
So what is the secret of his success at the Bridges Shrimp and Grits Cook-off?
“When I first moved to the Lowcountry in 1997, the different culinary cuisines here influenced me and I fell in love with shrimp and grits,” he said. “I would try them in different restaurants and then put my own interpretation on it as I created my recipe. My shrimp and grits is different from most because I’m using flavors and ingredients that actually connect. But the real secret is the grits.”
Working beside him at the cook-off were Ann Yelinek, a server and bartender at the Albergotti Grill, and Misty Singleton, sales coordinator with the Holiday Inn & Suites. Epps and his teammates came in determined to win and take home the prize for best recipe.
Throughout the competition, you could hear the team talking each other up and focusing on the win. They even had a cook-off theme, “Kiss my Grits.”
His favorite part of the day, Epps said, “was competing against all the different establishments and chefs.”
In addition to Epps, Pope and Dangerfield, competitors included Hank Yaden of Hank’s She Crab Soup, Anita Singleton Prather of Aunt Pearlie Sue’s, Arturo Hoyte of Johnnie Mae’s Caribbean and Soul, Dimitri Cherny with Cherny for Congress, and Mary Jenkins with Morningside of Beaufort. All teams brought a different twist to their shrimp and grits recipe but at the end of the day, there could only be one People’s Choice Award for best shrimp and grits.
For the event, Sea Eagle Market donated fresh local shrimp for the chefs and Piggly Wiggly donated the grits for the Cook-Off. Bridges Prep’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) produced the event and it is the key fundraising event for Bridges Preparatory School.
Epps was born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia. He and his family moved to South Carolina and spent time living in Chesterfield, Cheraw and Bennettsville. Epps moved to the Lowcountry in 1997. He studied Commercial Art and Graphic Design. He was a Food Service Specialist in the United States Marine Corps. After his time in the Marines, he worked in various culinary establishments, private clubs, golf communities, restaurants, assisted living facilities and hotel properties.
Congrats Chef Epps!
For more information on Chef Curtis Epps, Albergotti Grill and their food services through Holiday Inn & Suites, please contact him via email, email@example.com