Executive Chef, Jim Spratling Cooks with Passion
By Wendy Pollitzer
Featured in The Island News
Apr. 29, 2010
Chef Jim Spratling
Jim Spratling is passionate about food. As the Executive Chef for Plum’s, Inc., Spratling knows a thing or two about the restaurant business, and it shows!
A graduate of The Culinary Institute of Charleston, Spratling not only learned how to cook, but also how to manage the kitchen. And, since he moved to the Lowcountry thirteen years ago, he’s been wooing Beaufortonians with his tastefully prepared dishes.
Spratling does a heck of a job creating a fun and eclectic menu. He pairs ingredients with confidence and delivers the product with stylish presentation. And he does so for three very different restaurants, Plum’s, Saltus and Patois, all part of Plum’s, Incorporated. He serves as executive chef for all three establishments. He oversees three chefs de cuisine: Brian Waters at Saltus, Will McClenagan at Plum’s and Penn Tenyck at Patois.
He’s also consulted on some projects in Costa Rica and Peru. He helped open the Rip Jack Inn in Playa Grande, Costa Rica, and a barbeque joint in Mancora, Peru. An avid surfer, Spratling was quite satisfied traveling to these destinations for weeks at a time. When he wasn’t preparing menus and training staff, Jim enjoyed the waves. Now that’s the life!
“The language barrier was tough, but I love the rush of opening a new restaurant,” exclaims Spratling. “I mean, I spent six or so hours a day in the kitchen and surfed the rest of the time. I could definitely do that again!” And he may. For Plum’s, Inc., his duties include menu making, costing, staffing and general ordering tasks, all of which can be done from afar.
He also said he’d like to open a few more restaurants here. He and Lantz Price, owner of Plum’s Inc., have a mental menu and design for a restaurant at the marina on Lemon Island, which is owned by Dick Stewart and destined to become the location of a boater-friendly dining establishment. The project, however was temporarily postponed when Shipman’s Gallery closed, and Price jumped at the opportunity to expand Plum’s to front Bay Street. We are enjoying the spacious new accommodations at Plum’s, and we also look forward to the fulfillment of the Lemon Island project.
Spratling is also excited about his new purchase for Saltus. He’s been experimenting with molecular gastronomy, and just bought two emersion circulators for the restaurant. An emersion circulator keeps the temperature of a fluid uniformly constant, unlike heating a vat on a hot surface. The food is packaged in a water-tight bag, immersed in the liquid and slow-cooked at precise temperatures. The final product will have better flavor, color, texture and aroma with minimal loss of juices. I don’t know about you, but that excites me! If you read my Lunch Bunch column, you know I’m really into good food.
It is very evident that Spratling loves what he does. “I like teaching younger chefs and nurturing them in the trade. The camaraderie in the kitchen is similar to an athletic team. We have to work individually and together, and we all do it with big smiles,” says Spratling.
Both of Spratling’s boys are showing an interest in cooking too. Jackson (10) and Miles (6) like to help daddy in the kitchen, and they also like to surf. “Whenever we can, we’re doing something on the water, whether it be surfing, fishing, boating, whatever.” There is no better place than Beaufort to teach your kids to love the ocean and to appreciate the seafood that comes from it.
Clearly Spratling enjoys Beaufort, and he expresses his gratitude to this area by trying to purchase all of his seafood and vegetables locally. Thus he helps the Beaufort economy and ensures the freshness of his food. Spratling is proud that Plum’s, Inc. is a member of Certified SC Grown and Fresh on the Menu because ”Nothing’s Fresher and Nothing’s Finer” than locally grown in Carolina!
Jim Spratling has worked in restaurants from Portland, Maine, to Key West, Florida, since he was 15 years old. He has a knack for delivering fine food to his patrons. Once you taste his creations, you’ll be hooked. I know I am.
Thanks, Jim, for a delightful interview. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working.