Read about her latest cookbook, Steak and Cake, which offers complementary baking and grilling recipes
CM: How did you become an authority on grilling and barbecue?
EK: I have always been fascinated with food—how people eat, what they eat, why they eat it, and how they prepare it. Food is a direct reflection of culture, personality, rituals, and tradition and a true window into the soul. You can’t fake food. Early on in my career, Weber grills was my client. I fell in love with grilling and barbecue and truly believe that it’s the best way to cook protein, vegetables, fruits, and pizza! Along the way, I also met many legends on the barbecue circuit, and they were generous enough to teach me everything that they knew. So some of it was learning from other people, and some of it was trial and error.
CM: So why Charleston?
EK: As a North Carolina native, I visited Charleston and the South Carolina beaches frequently. I moved here because it’s the perfect balance of suburban and urban living and you can live outside all year long, which means it’s easy to grill and barbecue all year long! There’s history, culture, tradition, and a lot of the benefits of a big city, but the beaches still feel small town and are naturally beautiful. It’s the best of both worlds, not to mention the mouthwatering vine-ripe tomatoes, peaches, and local shrimp.
CM: Tell us about your company, Karmel Culinary Consultants.
EK: I am known for grilling, barbecue, and Southern food, as well as the restaurant menus and recipes that I created in NYC—Hill Country Barbecue Market and Hill Country Chicken. But behind the scenes, I have always consulted. I started my career in marketing and public relations and I have 360-degree experience as a chef, food writer, recipe developer, cookbook author, marketer, publicist, spokesperson, teacher, product developer, and home cook. I never intended to “do it all,” but my innate curiosity led me to each area organically.
CM: We hear you also have a new Substack newsletter.
EK: Yes, with my good friend Anthony Underwood. Anthony is an Emmy-award-winning television producer, who produced food stories at Good Morning America for many years before he left to help create The Chew. So many friends and family ask us for recipes and cooking advice that we decided to start a free, weekly newsletter called What’s 4 Dinner? It is casual and fun and geared to the home cook.
CM: How are the restaurants in New York doing?
EK: The original Hill Country Barbecue Market is still open in New York’s Flatiron neighborhood, as well as in Washington, DC. Sadly, Hill Country Chicken did not survive the pandemic. After focusing on the restaurants for 12 years, I left the day-to-day operations, but they still serve the food that I created.
CM: What’s the most important thing you are doing today?
EK: Since I just moved here, I’m focusing on getting to know my new town and the people in it. I recently set up a kiosk of my books and favorite products at the Sweetgrass Ace Hardware & Mercantile in Mount Pleasant. And, I have to say that I have never lived in a town as friendly as this one.