It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t swingin’ towards the future. Prohibition owner James Walsh is all about progressing — and progress he will with new head chef Greg Garrison. Chef Garrison is heading down South from Boston, where he worked as sous chef at L’ Espalier under James Beard award-winning chef Frank McClelland. Oh la la.
For Walsh, L’Espalier is the No. 1 French restaurant in Massachusetts (and Yelp reviewers would seem to agree), so he is excited to have Garrison onboard. “I’ve had a lot of really select food experiences. I would put him [Garrison] up against the best,” says Walsh.
There may be another reason Walsh is excited — namely, things are looking up. Prohibition has had its share of obstacles over the past few months. Head Chef Stephen Thompson (a carryover from Mercury, which previously held Prohibition’s spot on King) started the food truck Dashi and took two kitchen guys with him.
“Stephen came up with incredible dishes. He was a very creative talent. Unfortunately, he wanted the food truck,” says Walsh. Thompson isn’t the only one who wanted something else: Prohibition’s former co-owner John Teevan recently left to open his own restaurant.
“What I’ve learned is that Prohibition is more than one person. It’s bigger than the chef, it’s bigger than the bartender, it’s bigger than myself,” says Walsh. “We don’t have time for egos,” he says, adding that he thinks Chef Garrison is a humble guy. Garrison is also organized and efficient, with experience overseeing 20-plus kitchen staff.
“He worked in this massive luxury setting — a $4 million kitchen. Our kitchen’s the size of a food truck,” laughs Walsh.
Apparently the small size did not deter Garrison, who was one of 17 chefs who interviewed for the spot of Prohibition’s head chef. Walsh says so many Southern chefs he interviewed were “rehashing the same old things” and that Garrison brings a “fresh perspective.”
How fresh? Walsh can’t speak to elements of a new menu yet (Garrison’s just starting, like, today), but he says that the new chef wants to spend the first few weeks in Charleston soaking up the local food scene and getting a feel for what the small kitchen can produce. Garrison has already spoken to some local farmers and food purveyors and he intends to use as many fresh, local products as possible. Walsh says that people can expect more fish on the menu too.
You can also look forward to 30 new cocktails (yes, 30) from head bartender Jim McCourt, who has been working on this extensive list which features both “classic” and “progressive” drinks, for the past nine months. I guess we could say it’s his baby.
“The kitchen is the heart of it. The cocktails, too. You see bartenders in the kitchen, kitchen guys behind the bar,” says Walsh. “We want to invite locals to experience great food and give them some value. We want to be comfortable with value.”
Walsh says that while some entree price points may rise, the appetizers and shared plates will stay in the mid-range of $12-$18. Walsh considers this the price of passionately created food.
“Cooking is Greg’s life,” he says, “When the food comes out, you’ll see.”