The Lee brothers (two far right) want to educate audiences about delicious, fresh ingredients available for purchase locally. | Courtesy of SEWE

The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) returns Feb. 17-19. During this celebration of the great outdoors, local chefs, farmers and purveyors have a chance to shine on the Fresh on the Menu stage in Marion Square. 

The South Carolina Department of Agriculture teams up with local food authors Matt and Ted Lee to curate 12 to 18 hours of educational cooking. The live demo features chefs and farmers on stage, followed by a tasting. Local restaurant chefs, catering chefs, private cooks, instructors and more will join “farmers,” which encompasses fisherman, crabbers, butchers and others, according to Matt Lee. 

“That’s the miracle of this event,” he said. “You’re getting festival quality and stage culinary entertainment, but it’s free.”

This year’s lineup includes an array of talent from across the Lowcountry and the state. 

Chef and co-owner of Vern’s Daniel “Dano” Heinze, who was recently nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award, is paired with Jonathan Cox of Lowcountry Fungi to work with king trumpet mushrooms at 1 p.m. Feb. 17.


“We have been working with Jonathan of Lowcountry Fungi since we opened Vern’s,” said Johnsman, who is distantly related to Meggett. “His king trumpet mushrooms have been a staple on our menu since day one and we look forward to being able to display them on stage at SEWE and talk about how they are cultivated and prepared at Vern’s.”


Recently announced 2023 S.C. Chef Ambassador Marcus Shell of 39 Rue de Jean is partnered with Marvin and Jada Ross from Peculiar Pig Farms at 3 p.m. Feb. 17 to showcase pork belly. 

“It’s really exciting that we choose chefs based on their reputation, but then their reputation expands,” Ted Lee said. “And their talent expands and their awards expand, even from the time we asked them to the time that they appear on our stage.”


Day two kicks off with Emily Meggett, known as “the Matriarch of Edisto Island,” and Edisto neighbor Greg Johnsman of Marsh Hen Mill preparing a Hoppin John recipe at noon Feb. 18. 

“Emily is the matriarch of my island, but she’s part of my family,” Johnsman said. “Over the years, I’ve had the chance to cook with local chefs, but it’s a true honor to do rice and peas with her. It’s just so pure. You just feel the home and the love in what she does because it’s done right.”

Johnsman is also a co-owner of Millers All Day, which will have a food truck in Marion Square with a special SEWE-inspired menu featuring items like duck wings. 

City Paper contributing writer Amethyst Ganaway teams up with Tia Clark of Casual Crabbing with Tia during a 3 p.m. crab soup demonstration.

Day three highlights include chef Shaun Brian from James Island’s CudaCo cooking hot pork-fat clams on the half-shell provided by Jeff Massey of Livington’s Bulls Bay Seafood in McClellanville. Local clams have never been featured on the main stage, according to the Lee brothers. 

“It’s my first SEWE, and I’m so passionate about it as a chef, hunter, gatherer and waterman,” Brian said about his appearance. “We have some of the best clams in the world. Sorry, Martha’s Vineyard.”

Ted (left) and Lee (right) call themselves “circus ringmasters” when curating the show. | Courtesy of SEWE

The Lee brothers said they do their best each year to incorporate the entire foodscape of the area, and not just limit the guests to famous fine-dining restaurant chefs.

“I think before our involvement, it was pretty reflexive — just put some Charleston restaurant chefs or hotel chefs up there, get it done and make it more of a lesson,” Lee said. 

The Lee brothers joined the event in 2018. “[Ted and I] were like, no, this is a fun entertainment moment with a food takeaway that highlights the close connections between South Carolina products and South Carolina chefs of all kinds.

“We decided to mandate that every chef appear with a farmer on stage, so you get much more exciting stories unfolding,” he added. “Watching chefs cook is attractive and fun, but especially if they’ve got some fun stories to tell. It feels casual and natural, and always more like a team on stage.”

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

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.