Two weeks ago James Island’s newest restaurant, Stereo 8 (951 Folly Rd.) opened. The concept: Asian-meets-Latin street food with a summer concert feel. Restaurateurs Joe Walker and David LeBoutillier wanted the place to reflect their “shared love of music,” according to Eater. But in advance of the opening talk shifted from the choice of tunes to the choice of chef when sitcom writer Vanessa Middleton was named to the exec role.

Middleton, a former writer for SNL, Cosby, and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, told Eater, “I made good money that allowed me to eat well, and I always wrote my best scripts in restaurants. I always thought, ‘I want a restaurant.'” Well, her time at Stereo 8 was a short lived show — just days after opening, Middleton is out and former Two Boroughs Larder chef de cuisine Jeffrey Stoneberger is in.

“I want to make Stereo 8 very, very approachable without watering down the food,” says Stoneberger who officially takes over the kitchen Mon. Aug. 10. The former mortgage broker is something of a culinary gypsy. The way he tells it, when he was in his early twenties, he “made a shit ton of money in banking and finance.” But unfulfilled and suddenly un-engaged, he decided to ditch it for what he’d always wanted to do — cook. He worked at Fat Duck in England and the French Laundry in California, then did a stint with chef and entrepreneur Bryan Voltaggio.  Prior to working at Two Boroughs he worked at Butcher & Bee as a pastry consultant.

“Everything in Charleston has been patchwork for me,” Stoneberger explains. “The thing with Butcher & Bee, I was like, if Emily [Cookson] is leaving, I can come over there and work as a pastry consultant for three or four months.” Then the opportunity with Two Boroughs arrived, but all the while Stoneberger has been planning his own restaurant, something he hopes to eventually make a reality with Stereo 8’s LeBoutillier, a founding partner in such successful places as Poe’s and Taco Boy.  

“I’ve wanted to do a Japanese bar/Izakaya concept,” says Stoneberger. “David and his incredible wealth of experience are what brought me to Stereo 8.” But before he can make that restaurant dream a reality, Stoneberger plans to get Stereo 8 on solid footing. “Think about the party that you want to go to on James Island,” he says explaining the plan for the new spot. “It will have serious energy, great bands. Charleston needs a taco food truck kind of vibe. A blending of Asian and Latin kind of cultures.”

But while the chef knows some menu changes might be in order, he doesn’t plan to make any until necessary. “Instead of going in and telling them they’re wrong. I let failure pop its head out and say ‘Hello I’m here.’ If food doesn’t work, we’ll make changes,” he says. For now everything from Korean bulgogi tacos to steak tartare are available on the eclectic menu.

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