Sean Brock | Executive Chef {back to team page}
Many chefs have their first exposure to cooking at a young age. For Sean Brock, who was born and raised in rural Virginia, it was the experience of his family growing their own food that left a deep impression. “This was a coal-field town with no restaurants or stoplights,” he explains. “You grew and cooked your own food, so I really saw food in its true form. You cook all day, and when you’re not cooking, you’re preserving.” These were the building blocks that Brock would not forget as he began building his career as a chef.
Leaving Virginia to attend school, Brock landed at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, SC. He began his professional career as chef tournant under Chef Robert Carter at the Mobil Four-Star/AAA Four-Diamond Peninsula Grill in Charleston. After two years at Peninsula Grill, Brock was executive sous chef under Chef Walter Bundy of Lemaire Restaurant at the AAA Five-Diamond Award/ Mobil Five-Star Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, VA. His success in Richmond led to his promotion within the Elite Hospitality Group in 2003 to executive chef at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, TN. Brock spent just under three years fine tuning his craft in Nashville before accepting a position as executive chef at McCrady’s Restaurant.
Shortly after his return to Charleston, Brock began the development of a 2.5-acre farm on Wadmalaw Island. “While I was growing there, I began dabbling in resurrecting and growing crops that were at risk of extinction, such as those indigenous to this area pre-Civil War,” he says. These experiments have led Brock to become a passionate advocate for seed preservation and he continues to grow a number of heirloom crops, including James Island Red Corn (aka “Jimmy Red”), from which he makes grits, Flint Corn, Benne Seed, Rice Peas, Sea Island Red Peas, and several varieties of Farro.
Today, Brock maintains a 1.5-acre parcel of land on Thornhill Farm in McClellanville, SC, where he continues to plant heirloom seeds and cultivate new crops. Thornhill is also the home of a 100-acre farm utilized by Our Local Foods and Adaptive Gardens of the Lowcountry, which are run by Maria Baldwin and supply fresh, local, organic produce to the public and some restaurants via its community-supported agriculture program. “The majority of the produce we cook at McCrady’s comes from this farm,” Brock notes.
Working with local purveyors and vendors has had a great impact on Brock’s cooking, which he terms “modern farm-to-table.” “Gone are the days of a chef sitting in the kitchen creating recipes and then picking up the phone to order food from wherever it needs to come from,” he says. “At McCrady’s,  for example, we might get three suckling pigs, three whole lambs, half a cow, and upwards of 450 pounds of fish, as well as  mountains of vegetables. We only take it when it’s ready, so it shows up and we have to start piecing the recipes together; it’s like a game of Jenga.” Drawing from his early education, the chef also pickles, cans, and makes preserves from the produce that cannot be used immediately, saving it for a later date and for new creations.
Brock pulls from his memory of ingredients and their flavor profiles to create McCrady’s menu depending on what is delivered to the kitchen. It’s a modern approach to cooking that comes from a pure appreciation of the food itself. The results are constantly changing offerings for McCrady’s diners that always surprise. “Food should be a treat for the emotions as well as the palate—at once comforting, exciting, and entertaining,” he says.  
Brock’s abilities have resulted in a number of awards and accolades, both locally and nationally. He has twice cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and was the winner of the “Next Great Chef” episode of the “Food Network Challenge.” He will also soon appear on “Iron Chef America.” In addition, he was nominated in 2008 and 2009 for the James Beard “Rising Star Chef” award, and in 2009 and 2010 nominated for the James Beard “Best Chef Southeast” award.

In addition to his kitchen duties, Brock maintains a blog for McCrady’s at and regularly posts on Twitter about the food coming in to his kitchen. When he does carve out free time, he’s often at his home just outside of Charleston, which he shares with his three dogs and his wife, Tonya, to whom he proposed while cooking at the James Beard House. He’s also currently adding to what will become a half-sleeve tattoo on his arm depicting, of course, his favorite vegetables, including Jimmy Red Corn.

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