Once I finally had the opportunity to meet Ted and Matt in person a couple of times at events like the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival and Big Apple BBQ Block Party, I discovered they are completely genuine in the easygoing demeanor they show on television. These are two of the most down-to-earth guys who ever hit it big in the world of culinary celebrity.
Their first book, The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook met with a little bit of acclaim. Like it won the Julia Child Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the James Beard Award for Best Cookbook. (You liked it! You really liked it!) They describe that book as their "culinary coming-of-age story," and the easy narrative style and deeply personal anecdotes about learning to cook and appreciate their native cuisine make it an excellent read.
Their second book emphasized simpler recipes. Simple Fresh Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down-Home Flavor shows how two brothers who spend much of their lives on the road can still find the time to cook and serve delicious Southern meals to their families. Ted lives in Brooklyn, so he may have to look a little harder to find good collards than his brother does in Charleston, but they both prove you can get it done.
Their latest book is The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen and concentrates on the hot cuisine of their hometown. While I was at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival last month, Ted and Matt were presented with the Laura Hewitt Culinary Legend Award for their contribution to the community, so they are clearly appropriate carriers of the city's foodie flame.
The book is much more than just a cookbook, although the recipes for such low country classics as Boiled Peanuts, Savory Benne Wafers, Frogmore Soup, Hoppin' John and the ubiquitous Shrimp and Grits are clearly written and full of interesting historical details. What raises The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen above the level of a typical cookbook are the personal essays that serve as palate cleansers between recipes. In addition to profiles of some of their favorite Charlestonian residents and traditions, the Lee Brothers share maps of walking and driving tours and even their favorite places to forage for loquats and chicken mushrooms. The photography documents their city from the perspective of someone lucky enough to spend the day walking around Chucktown with two of the city's favorite sons.
And if you'd like to be the lucky one who gets to spend some time with Matt and Ted Lee, then all you have to do is make sure you get to Parnassus Books on Tuesday, April 2, beginning at 6:30 p.m., when they'll be signing copies of their latest work. I'm sure if you'd like to buy one of their earlier books, they'll autograph that as well.
Get there early, because these are two popular young men who are so full of Southern graciousness that the line might move a little slow as they take the time to visit with their fans. Then again, you would expect no less from gentlemen who Pat Conroy describes as "charming, ebullient men as elegant as the city they were born to praise."
The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen book signing with Matt and Ted Lee
3900 Hillsboro Pike