Meet Your Guides: Q&A with Chef Eric Fulkerson

There is a new face in the kitchen at The Cliffs at Keowee Springs. We took some time to get to know Chef Eric. 

OK, Chef, you have to create a five-course meal to impress your favorite celebrity or sports star. No limitations. What’s on the menu? 

The funny thing is that I would want to know what they liked. They may want me to make the meatloaf that their grandmother made them as a kid. Very seldom do we, as Chefs, get absolute freedom. When I do have limitless freedom, I go French. 

Where did you get your first start in the restaurant industry? When did you decide this would become your passion and career? 

I started cooking at 16 years old. I was lucky enough to have to only work summers in high school. My dad handed me a tie and said, “come back with a job.” I ended up getting a job at Red Lobster. I kept going back to restaurants to work because it’s good money, fun, and easy. By the time I was 23 or so I knew I wanted to stay in restaurants. I’m incredibly blessed to be able to do my passion every day.

Restaurant kitchens exist in a highly competitive labor market. What do you think attracts skilled culinarians to come to The Cliffs?

The Cliffs and Country Clubs, in general, pay a higher wage than almost any freestanding restaurants. There is a tremendous amount of variety in dishes, cuisine, and service types. This is especially good with ambitious young cooks and culinary students.

What stands out most about the ingredients you use, and how important is it to have access to organic farms around our area? 

Freshness and variety stand out the most. With me being new to the area I am still learning what the local farms have to offer. I’m looking forward to exploring all that I can find.

Can you describe how you put that special Chef Eric Fulkerson flare on our menu?

I focus on showcasing the main ingredients of the dish. Not covering it in a sauce or relish, but letting the main protein stand out and be complemented by what else is on the plate.

If you had to give credit to someone who has helped you in your career that you typically don’t give enough credit to, who are they and why? 

Chef Gerald Schmidt. He is currently at the Greenville Country Club. We worked together for almost 9 years. He hired me right out of Johnson & Wales and took me under his wing. He taught me about how to be a cook, a Chef, and a manager. He taught me how to go talk to tables, to be able to stand in front of a room full of members/guests, and describe the food or tell a story. He has a very heavy French background, but I also learned his grandmother’s recipes. Fine dining, banquet cooking for hundreds, 8-course Chef’s tables, all this is because of him.

What foods do you like to pair together and why? Is there a love-hate relationship depending on the season? 

I use fresh thyme in many of my dishes. It’s a very versatile herb and brings a light flavor to many dishes I create. Fresh Blue crab and sweet corn is one of my favorite Summer pairings. In Fall it’s braised meats with gorgonzola or mushrooms. Never so much a love-hate.

How do you wind down after a long night in the kitchen?

A glass of old Bourbon, Armagnac, or Chartreuse. The commute that I have allows me to deprogram from my day of work. When I get home, not every night, but every so often a glass of older bourbon helps to relax.

One trip, one restaurant, anywhere in the world. Where you are going and who are you bringing with you?

Bouchon in Beverly Hills. I’ll bring who I went with the last time I was there, my parents and my brother. Bouchon was the last place we all had dinner together and it’s been several years. My parents are in Santa Barbara and my brother is in Hong Kong.

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