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rooted: Will Lacey is the Anchor’s new food columnist

The ability to introduce myself via an article is an introvert’s dream.  However, I am tempted to treat this like the first day of class. And since I lack willpower, here goes my “what I did last summer” story.

Hi, y’all, my name is Will Lacey. I was born in Charleston, but after “The Hurricane” hit a few days before my fourth birthday (which took away my Chuck-E-Cheese birthday party—BUT I’M NOT BITTER), my family began our journey from the Holy City to Soda City.

Splitting time between the farm (oh, yeah. I was born onto a cattle farm) and our state’s capital, I quickly learned that I loved fresh food, and really all food.

Surprising, right? I mean food is delicious—hence my propensity for sneaking “hamburger snacks” growing up, and also my continued belief that mac & cheese is a vegetable. It’s ok; I work out every day because of my shame with these facts. I’ve accepted it.

In my house, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by some incredibly talented artists in the kitchen. However, I was not included in this group for much of my life. I was a dishwasher for the longest time. I hadn’t earned the opportunity to cook for the family—well, let’s be honest: they probably didn’t trust their ability to survive a meal cooked by a young Will Lacey. And if you ask my sisters, the self-anointed designation of “dishwasher” of the family is probably stretching the truth. But…I got to eat. A lot. And I’m totally ok with that.  

Fast forward to my mid-twenties, angst-filled period of “what am I to do with my life?” This was a time when I found myself bartending and working in the kitchen at Bar None. It was the perfect home and the perfect other family. They were pivotal in me finding my passion and my way into the kitchen, and I will always be appreciative of everyone there. Seriously, you won’t find a better group of human beings.

You can here find a more detailed account of what brought me further into the kitchen: “I Felt Like I Was Nothing: Savvy Foods’ Owner Opens Up about Struggles with Mental Illness.”  For those that are waiting for this to be over, I will just tell you that I have suffered from anxiety and depression. The kitchen was my refuge from my dark places in life. And it saved me.

In typical fashion, life decided on its own (without consulting me, gah), that this was my path. With the blessing of Bar None’s owner, Marty Dreesen, I began doing a few specials here and there. I loved the interaction with the guests (Chef Alex Suaudom de Monde of Baan Sawan particularly comes to mind with various renditions of poutine). One thing led to another, and I started doing very small orders out of the Bar None kitchen for friends and family friends. This, in turn, led to bigger orders and a catering company, Yellow Dog Barbecue (with the huge assist from Lou Hutto from LowCo BBQ, as he was my “barbecue sherpa”).

From that start, I turned to pop up food tents at Conquest Brewing Company, then worked with various Columbia establishments in their kitchen and on their menus. I did all of this while working to launch a specialty food company, Savvy Foods, using the products I developed during my “kitchen therapy sessions.” This launched and grew across the East Coast and garnered international interest, and I found myself doing pop-up dinners from Columbia to Richmond, Va., to Boston, Mass. Basically, I blinked, and people were eating my food, and I was forced to do some public speaking (help!). I still can’t piece it all together.

And here I am now with Midlands Anchor. I am here to write about food, and, let’s be honest, probably some lifestyle topics, too.  That way, I can throw in occasional blurbs about my dog (because she is amazing).

You can expect a lot of lighthearted banter, because to me, food is not a status symbol. It is a vessel in which we can gather to enjoy one another’s company and grow as a community. Food is not about exclusion, but about breaking down the barriers between ourselves to enjoy things that are outside our “normal.”

You will be reading about my adoration of the variations of shrimp and grits and how they are the “mole of South Carolina.”  I’ll share recipes for you to follow, and, because I detest writing down recipes, you guys get to help me be a better person. You will see my experiences doing pop-up dinners, visiting other restaurants (as a guest and a guest chef), talking with chefs, farmers, and producers, as well as any related special events.

I look forward to starting this chapter of my life, and I am eager to grow with y’all. I’m done growing vertical, and don’t want to grow out anymore, so let’s just grow within. Deal? Stay hungry, everyone. And let’s eat.

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