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Fried chicken, grits, mashed potatoes, and gravy are indulgences worthy of a spot on any traditional Southern menu, but what if we told you these these tried-and-true classics came in healthier alternatives that maintain their original, crave-worthy taste? You’d think we were joking, right? We’ve all heard this schtick before.
For Chef Sam Talbot, experimenting with farm fresh ingredients and offering more nutritious options is not only a choice, but a passion.
“I love Southern food. I do it well. It’s in my DNA,” he says. “[But] everything that goes into my body counts.”
This commitment to healthy foods is at the forefront of Talbot’s cooking philosophy. At his Williamsburg-based Pretty Southern, basic ingredients like butter and whole milk are substituted for coconut oil and hemp milk, respectively. The simple change not only makes dishes more healthy, but provides a unique taste modification that introduces customers to flavors they may not have experienced before.
“These ingredients create longevity,” he says. “You cook from the soul internally, but you also cook from the soul of the earth.”
Since so much value is placed on the wholesomeness of his dishes, Talbot will only prepare meals with foods that are seasonally in peak. Whether it’s a persimmon in the fall or a strawberry in the summer, you’ll never find something that “takes on the taste of transport” on your dinner plate.
“For me, its about cooking from the season. I just roll with the seasons and keep it real,” he says.
By keeping it real, Talbot’s cooking always tips its hat to the bounties of Mother Nature. This doesn’t mean his Southern cooking lacks the essence of comfort and indulgence in the process. In fact, it’s the mindfulness to pure and unprocessed meats and produce, all while preserving the familiar sights, smells, and tastes of his North Carolina childhood, that makes each bite all the more satisfying.