By Carson Moore
Beaufort is full of hidden treasures, but one of the most exciting — and certainly one of the most delicious — has been operating under our noses for years. Christopher and Bethany Hewitt, the husband and wife team that owns and operates Southern Graces Catering, live to create culinary masterpieces that showcase the Lowcountry’s natural cuisines, as well as a variety of other flavors, including French and Southwestern.
Bethany Hewitt, a Tennessee native, explained that food has always been her passion. “When I was in eighth grade, I would sell tickets to my friends to come to my house for afternoon tea. We actually had to go to two seatings, because so many people wanted to come.”
Even as a child, Hewitt experimented with new ways of creating food that would excite people. Her afternoon tea events were highlighted by homemade filo dough pastry bowls filled with fruit and cream, served on her grandmother’s china by costumed waiters and waitresses. “My mom and stepfather would dress up for these things,” she said, laughing.
As she grew up, Hewitt knew that cooking was definitely the career choice she wanted to pursue. After attending Belmont College and earning a communications degree, she travelled to Europe to broaden her horizons. “I had an opportunity to go to the Netherlands, and studied at a nontraditional cooking school where we lived on and worked for a farm that supplied food for the village we were living in,” she said.
Both Bethany and Christopher have had incredibly well-rounded culinary backgrounds. Christopher, a New York native, graduated top in his class from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, and “has had a very formal culinary education,” as Bethany describes it. Thanks to his more formal introduction to the food business, Christopher had the opportunity to work closely with celebrity chef Bobby Flay and compete on the Food Network show “Iron Chef” — twice. For 12 years, he ran Flay’s Mesa Grill in Manhattan, before he and Bethany decided to move Southern Graces from its pre-existing location in Knoxville, Tenn., to Beaufort.
After moving their catering business here, Bethany and Christopher partnered with The Beaufort Inn to create not only an event catering service, but a bistro in which patrons can come eat lunch, tea, dinner and even a special Sunday brunch. “We’re now in our fifth year of partnering with them,” Hewitt explained, “And it is, without question, a natural fit for us to be a part of The Beaufort Inn.” Southern Graces controls all of the food and beverage that The Beaufort Inn serves, and makes it the only place in Beaufort where 365 days a year, guests can be served gourmet food for almost any meal of the day.
Partnering with The Beaufort Inn has not only allowed the Hewitts to fine tune their everyday dining menu, but has also given them an opportunity to interact with the community through catered events such as weddings, graduations and birthday parties. “We do this because of the connections that form between people when they sit down to eat together,” Hewitt said with a smile.
In the past couple years, the Hewitts opened Southern Graces Soiree downtown at the old firehouse building so they could create an additional venue to host weddings, galas and events. Certainly, Southern Graces does its best to make every experience special and unique for all the people involved. “I want the weddings we do to be more about the bride and groom,” Hewitt explained, “I want people to come in and say, ‘This is exactly what I imagined this couple would have at their wedding.’ ”
That philosophy carries over, not only into the company’s wedding celebrations, but into their other catered events as well. For instance, Southern Graces has partnered with Porsche of North America, which has approached Bethany to be their National Event Coordinator, and the company caters many car launches. They will even be putting on events for Gulfstream this summer. For the Southern Graces crew, these events are a chance to really get outside their comfort zone and expose people to combinations that they had never considered.
“We love to do different stations,” Bethany said, “For the Gulfstream event, we’re showcasing our local flair with a tomato carving station. We’ll have red tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, green tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, Black Cherokee tomatoes — just basically everything tomato, and people will be able to make their own caprese salad, with herbs and fresh mozzarella.”
The event will also feature a watermelon station, called Freshly Southern which will highlight watermelon with fresh slices of melon, a watermelon-shrimp ceviche, as well as watermelon shots: a carved melon shot glass filled with a shot of housemade herb vodka.
With all these exciting prospects, you’d think that the folks at Southern Graces would have their hands full, but luckily for the Beaufort community, that’s not the case at all.
“We’re going to be opening up a more casual restaurant in town,” Bethany said, “It’ll be called Burlap, and it should generate lots more creativity, and tons more ideas for us here.”
While the Hewitts solidify plans for the new restaurant, they’ll continue running the bistro, and the catering company in full force, and plan on introducing more fresh foods to their menus as the local availability changes.
To find out more about all that Southern Graces has to offer, visit www.southerngracescatering.com. Call 843-379-0555 to make a reservation or to discuss catering your next special event.