Sandra Inman and Theresa Leake recently moved to the Hammock Coast, so when they saw a promotion for the annual Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce Business and Community Expo, they decided to check it out.
They’re glad they did!
Attending the expo, they both agreed, was a great way to learn about the region they now call home.
Inman and Leake also decided to sample some shrimp and grits, which was an unfamiliar cuisine to them. Luckily, the Lowcountry favorite was the culinary delight featured as part of the Expo’s special cook-off event.
Both parts of the night – the expo and the tasty shrimp and grits, which was prepared by eight competing teams – met with approval from the new Hammock Coast residents.
“This whole experience is new for us,” Leake said, “and we enjoyed it!”
Hundreds more plucked down $1 each for delicious samples of shrimp and grits. The expo, which featured more than 50 local business exhibitors, and the cook-off were held jointly in the Pawleys Plantation Conference Center Thursday, April 11.
Cook-off winners were Morningside of Georgetown, which took the Judges’ Choice Award, and The Lakes at Litchfield, which won the People’s Choice Award.
Other teams competing represented local restaurants and caterers. They were Hanser House, Bagel Café and Southern Comforts, all of Pawleys Island; Wedgefield Plantation and Hopsewee Plantation, both of Georgetown; and Drunken Jack’s of Murrells Inlet.
Chamber President and CEO Beth Stedman personally delivered steaming samples of each entry to the judging panel, which consisted of Trey Paul, anchor for WPDE ABC 15, Charles Swenson, editor of the Coastal Observer newspaper, Jamie Sanderson of Georgetown Foodland, and Corinna Whitehead with Carolina Food Tours.
Stedman said it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the two winners were both from assisted-living centers. After all, she said, the centers are often praised for exceptional dining.
“We know our area has become very popular as a retirement community, and this might give people an idea why,” she said of the winners’ culinary chops. “The food at these assisted-living centers is the tops.”
Staff members at Morningside of Georgetown said they were excited to win the Judges’ Choice Award. Renee Reed, lead cook, and Danasha Anderson, cook, who created the winning recipe with Head Chef Victoria Carroll Williams, said they were just having fun.
Reed was hesitant to share the secrets of their award-winning shrimp and grits, but she did share some insight. “It is all about love and dedication,” she said. “One thing that is very important is heavy cream. That is one secret.”
Michael Keough, director of dining services at The Lakes at Litchfield in Pawleys Island, said he was glad everybody enjoyed his shrimp-and-grits recipe, which featured a creamy mixture of shrimp, vegetables and, of course, grits.
“They either loved my shrimp and grits or it was my boisterous personality that won it,” he said with a smile.
Stedman said the turnout for the entire event was very good.
“The shrimp-and grits-cook-off contest,” she said, “helped bring in more people from the community who might not have attended Chamber events in the past. Hopefully, it gave them a chance to learn more about our local businesses.”
Attendees agreed, saying that the shrimp-and-grits theme was a great idea. Laura Wilson, who works in community relations at Tidelands Health, said the theme added a fun element to the normally business-themed event.
“Everyone is having a good time with the theme and everything is decorated beautifully,” she said.
Sherron Lane, who works at The Litchfield Company, agreed. “I didn’t realize that this many people wanted to come and eat shrimp and grits,” she said. “This is an amazing event.”
— Story by Clayton Stairs of Pawleys Island.