Dining is a social experience, and no one understands that better than our own Chef Bobby. If you haven’t met him yet, pop by the Beach Club and say hello. He’d love to get acquainted and hear about your favorite foods. In the meantime, you can get to know Bobby a little better from this recent interview.
Tell us a little about your background.
I was born in Long Island and grew up in Pennsylvania. After a stint at the University of Dayton, I traveled the United States and Europe, and then worked on Wall Street before realizing cooking was my true passion. I graduated in the top ten from The Restaurant School in Philadelphia and further honed my skills in classical French cooking under Chef Jean-Pierre Tardy. In 1989, I became sous chef at the prestigious Le Plumet Royal in Princeton. Three years later I opened my own restaurant. I ran that for many years earning impressive scores from the Zagat Survey, and praise from The New York Times and other reviewers.
From 2013-2019 I was the chef at Kiawah Island Club’s private beach club (located about halfway down the island from here). Then I joined Chef Teddy Folkman at Timbers Kiawah and couldn’t be happier!
Why has Timbers Kiawah been a good fit for you?
I enjoy getting to know the people who eat at my restaurant and developing close relationships with them. The Owners here are a lot of fun. I love interacting with them in many different ways, including cooking demonstrations overlooking the oceanfront pool and in-residence private dinners. Learning what they like and finding a way to deliver that gives me immense satisfaction. And at Timbers Kiawah, we have the freedom to adjust what we do to best serve Owners’ needs and preferences.
How has the Beach Club innovated to best serve the Owners?
From living on Kiawah myself, I knew the benefit of being able to grab a hand-held breakfast while running out the door to go fishing, bike the trails, or put in a full day of golf at one of the seven courses. So we started offering grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches and those have been a huge hit.
When the local restaurants closed at the start of the pandemic, we didn’t want people to give up amazing dinners while on vacation, so we started offering two dinner options each night that could deliver to your residence either ready to eat right then, or prepared to reheat at your convenience. (Tonight for example we’re offering crab cakes or country fried steak.) Even as places open back up, these delivered dinners remain in high demand!
Then there’s the Owners Pantry. Originally this had raw burgers and hotdogs for grilling on your own balcony. I’ve expanding it to include meals prepared sous vide so all an Owner has to do is boil some water, drop the vacuumed bag in, and a half-hour later voilà — amazing meatloaf, short ribs, lamb shank, green beans almondine, mash potatoes, etc. So if you don’t feel like going out you can still enjoy fine dining with your family at your beautiful Timbers Kiawah residence watching the sun set over the ocean.
How would you describe your culinary style?
Early in my career it was a blend of Mexican, South American, and classical French which I coined “French-Mex”. Since moving to South Carolina, I’ve added a Southern flair and get rave reviews for my collard greens, fried green tomatoes, and shrimp and grits.
When I create a dish, I build it one layer at a time, incorporating different flavors and textures. But my motto remains, “Keep it simple, fresh, and most of all fun.”
What are your signature dishes here?
From my time in Manhattan, I created the “The Wall Street” a deluxe breakfast sandwich with everything in one bite: hash browns, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and American cheese on a brioche bun.
Also from up north, my crab cakes go very quickly!
I’ve worked with pit masters in North Carolina who taught me a lot about rubs so we’ve taken the smoked meats people are used to and elevated them. We smoke our own brisket, wings, and pork. We had a “barbecue night” every Friday where we put together a platter of mac and cheese, collard greens, and a sample of brisket, pork, wings, and those would fly. I’m looking forward to bringing that back after the pandemic.
My version of rack of lamb, which I call “lamb lollipops” has converted many people who thought they didn’t like lamb.
But really it’s whatever the individual Owner likes. That’s the dish I’m most excited to prepare.
Is that why Timbers Kiawah’s general manager calls you “The Yes Man”?
(Laughs.) They way I look at it is, “no” is never a word that should be said. We can always figure something out. It’s all about the Owner having a terrific experience here at their second home. We want to make everyone happy. We cater to gluten-free and other dietary restrictions and preferences. Substitutions are always welcome, we don’t mind. We just want the opportunity to feed you something incredible and make your day.
That plays into the Timbers Touch…
Absolutely. Our work becomes even more fun when we get to whip up a special birthday dinner for your wife who loves oysters. Or a shrimp platter for your husband and his buddies watching the game. Or lunch for your daughter, who at the moment is only eating foods that are orange.
When we know certain people are coming we try to serve their favorites. We know who likes Carolina Gold on their pork sandwich, and who prefers the traditional red sauce. Who likes extra mushrooms on their pizza, etc.. Whatever you want, we want to make it how you like it, so you are comfortable and feel at home.
I love hearing people say, “Hey Bobby, can you make me the usual?”
Any stand out moments so far?
It’s really been a joy, but there are two stories that come to mind.
First, there’s OFSS — the “Old Fashioned Secret Society”. Our Beach Club is designed to be family friendly, so there is no bar area per se. But we do have a tall table we use for the cooking demos. One day we arrive at work and discover an Owner has personally purchased and installed six bar stools, in the Timbers Kiawah turquoise blue no less, to put around the table for him and his pals who like to drink Old Fashions together at the Beach Club. It’s terrific!
Another one that makes me grin from ear to ear is young Jackson. Jackson loves mac and cheese, and loves it super creamy and gooey. Every time his family comes, I put a quart of his custom mac and cheese in their fridge beforehand, with a special label the concierge team made just for him. He brings the empty container back each visit for us to refill!
For me, these show that the Owners have made Timbers Kiawah their own place.
Anything you’d like the Owners to know?
We aim to provide a four-star restaurant experience, but we aren’t stuffy at all. Come by and stay a while. Let’s have some fun! When we see Owners at the Beach Club making new friends, laughing and enjoying themselves, that’s the best reward. So don’t be shy, please come see us!