When Chef Robert Carter announced to his guests at Peninsula Grill that guest chef David Burke, of Townhouse and many other acclaimed restaurants, was not going to be in the house that night, they let out a collective groan. “It was surprising to me,” recalls Carter, who felt a small flicker of panic until another guest, actor and local part-time resident Bill Murray, stood up and said, “Hold on. I’m a first responder. We have a crisis and I’m a celebrity, and a celebrity chef didn’t show up. Us celebrities stand together.” At that point, Murray took Carter’s chef hat and apron and basically entertained the crowd for the next two hours.
Of course, Murray had been tipped off about the crisis the day before. Carter had found out — from the Charleston Wine + Food Festival organizers — that Burke, a friend of his who played a part in his engagement and attended his wedding, would not be coming for the Friday night Dine Around event at Peninsula Grill.
“We have a history,” says Carter. “But he didn’t call me. The festival called me.” But being a professional, Carter put aside his own hurt feelings and brainstormed a way to mollify his guests, the 94 people who had paid $175 a head to be fed by a celebrity chef.
“On Thursday, I was freaking out,” he said.
So, he did what anybody with connections would do. He called his pal Mike Veeck, who (along with Bill Murray) is one of the co-owners of the RiverDogs, to see if Murray might come to the dinner. He had attended the year before, when Tyer Florence was the guest chef, and had had a great time. Carter thought just having Murray there would help preserve some street cred with his guests. Veeck told him it wouldn’t hurt to ask.
Carter got Murray on the phone and explained the predicament. Murray acknowledged, “You’re in a pickle” and told Carter he’d help him out.
On Friday night, Murray not only helped him out, he totally committed to a two-hour act. “He put on latex gloves and started clearing tables,” laughs Carter. “He went to every table between every course, just cutting up.” At one point, he took singer (and dinner guest) Darius Rucker into the kitchen to serenade the staff
The night ended with a flaming coconut cake — “We put like 300 candles in it and took it in the dining room,” says Carter — and guests streamed out, realizing that they’d probably had the best guest celebrity experience of the festival.
Carter says as they were all leaving, Murray tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Carter, that was for you.”
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City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.