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15 Minutes With: Gingerline executive chef Taylor Cunningham on her tropically inspired menu and tips for holiday cooking

15 Minutes With: Gingerline executive chef Taylor Cunningham on her tropically inspired menu and tips for holiday cooking
December 2022

Gingerline’s menu fuses Latin, South American, and Southern cuisine, incorporating local produce and seasonal ingredients



CM: Where did you get your start in the F&B industry?
TC:
I actually studied criminal justice at Ferrum College, a tiny school in Virginia. Needing to pay the bills after graduation, I stumbled across the nearby Airlie resort, where I ended up falling in love with the heat of the kitchen. After two years there, I served as sous chef at Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, and transferred to sister property Hotel Bennett in Charleston. I spent four months earlier this year as a speciality chef at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington DC, before moving back to the Lowcountry.

CM: How does Gingerline’s menu fuse Latin, South American, and Southern cuisine?
TC:
When we wrote the menu, we really wanted to highlight citrus, which of course grows all over the world, but our name actually stems from the color of kumquats, which flourish in Charleston. And, although our menu is Latin and South American, most of our ingredients are sourced locally; we use that lovely Carolina Gold rice, and our chickens and ducks are from nearby farms. This city is all about bounty, and I take a lot of pride in supporting those around us and creating new flavors with that bounty. 

CM: Southern folks may not associate tropical food with the holidays; how is Gingerline celebrating?
TC:
We are hosting a lot of holiday parties in the 1670 room, our event space. Though we will be closed for Christmas Eve and Christmas, our holiday menus reflect what’s in season, with more warm, spicy flavors. Since we’re moving into apple season, we’ll incorporate those into ceviche, for instance.

CM: Are you into the holidays or are you a Scrooge?
TC:
I love the holidays! Being in food-and-bev, it’s a little bit hard because, for me, Gingerline is my home and family. We want to have a staff meal where we can all bring in foods we grew up with. Some people who work here don’t have families in this state, so we all get together and support the different flavors and cultures of everyone who makes the restaurant.

CM: Speaking of family, what kind of holiday meals did you eat growing up?
TC:
I would say very traditional. One side would always bring turkey, the other side would bring ham. There was always a broccoli casserole, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, which I don’t understand all the fuss about! When I was young, I’d be in the kitchen with my grandma, peeling potatoes, snapping the ends off green beans, and watching her make her corn pudding. I don’t have a big sweet tooth; don’t give me a birthday cake, just put candles in that corn pudding! Even if I follow her recipe to the letter, it doesn’t taste the same. I think it’s the love she puts in it.

CM: What holiday tips do you have for the home cook?
TC:
Brine your turkey! It changes everything—even if it’s for 24 hours. I’m big into citrus and herb brining. You can season a turkey all you want, but first you need to put that time, love, and patience into it. When we started cooking, my brother and I would do a turkey cook-off. He would fry his turkey, and I would brine mine before basting and roasting. I would win every time! 

Listen to our Hidden F&B interview with Taylor Cunningham