From left to right: Chef Chris Williams, Chef John Ondo and Chef Haydn Shaak | Photo provided

Gov. Henry McMaster named three South Carolina chefs as the 2022 S.C. Chef Ambassadors during a press conference Wednesday: John Ondo of The Atlantic Room at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Chris Williams of Roy’s Grille in Lexington and Haydn Shaak of Restaurant 17 at Hotel Domestique in Travelers Rest.

Chef Ambassadors are appointed by the governor, Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers and S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism Director Duane Parrish.

“These three talented Chef Ambassadors honor South Carolina’s diverse culinary heritage and local ingredients,” said Weathers in a press release. “Chefs connect with and promote our state’s farmers and help teach us all how to eat fresh, local food in season.”

Ondo is a Charleston restaurant veteran, spending time in long-gone kitchens like Il Cortile del Re and McCrady’s before opening Lana on Cannon Street in 2005. After closing Lana but before heading to Kiawah, Ondo helped launch Kairos, a quick-service Greek restaurant with locations in West Ashley and Mount Pleasant.

Shaak also shares a Charleston connection: Hotel Domestique, where he cooks, is owned by Beemok Hospitality, the Charleston-based company owned by businessman Ben Navarro. Beemok purchased the landmark Charleston Place hotel downtown last year.

As state Chef Ambassadors, Ondo, Williams and Shaak will be Southern food advocates, sharing traditional South Carolina ingredients and dishes during food festivals, media events and more. Ambassadors build close relations with the state’s farmers through the Certified South Carolina program to help encourage the use of local food sources and support small farms.

Previous Charleston Chef Ambassadors have included chefs Kevin Mitchell (Trident Tech), Michelle Weaver (Charleston Grill), Marc Collins (Circa 1886) and Sean Mendes (Gillie’s Soul Food).

The Chef Ambassadors program was established in 2014 to showcase South Carolina cooking and promote the state as a culinary destination. Over the years, it has also helped to bridge a gap between two of the state’s largest industries — agriculture and tourism.

These three chefs from different regions of the state will also spend the year showcasing local produce, meat and seafood in their culinary creations.

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