SC chef makes second appearance on Food Network show with Guy Fieri

Sarah McClure is the fourth generation in her family to work in the restaurant business.

It wasn’t always the life she wanted. She majored in art history at Wofford College, went on to graduate school at the University of Georgia thinking she wanted “a life of the mind in a big city,” she said.

Instead, she has a life of experimenting and massaging flavors for Southside Smokehouse, her family’s restaurant in Landrum, South Carolina, a town of 2,500 not far from the North Carolina border.

And she’s competed on the Food Network show Guy’s Grocery Games twice, the most recent show aired May 17. It will be broadcast again at 8 p.m. June 28.

She was runner up in the four-chef face-off the first time she was on the show hosted in 2020 by legendary chef and restaurateur Guy Fieri, who also hosts Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on Food Network.

On the most recent show, she and another chef tied and were both sent home after the first round.

McClure said she fell in love with cooking when she worked at The National, an upscale restaurant in Athens, Georgia. Her first time in the so-called “back of the house.”

Her dad kept asking whether she was ready to come home. That went on for two years.

Then she and her husband Robert Hall decided to give it a try. A year, tops.

That was 10 years ago.

He is the bar manager doing his version of experimenting and massaging with cocktails.

The meat and three items of a traditional BBQ restaurant remain on the menu, but Hall and McClure put their own spin on food and drink. Like blackened red drum in a Creole sauce. Or Blueberry Mint Mojito and Watermelon Cilantro Margarita.

Okra is fried but split down the middle to create spears or added to other dishes. Many of the specials come about based on what’s available at the Farmer’s Market.

McClure said she came to the attention of Guy’s Grocery Games — known as triple G — when she was a chef ambassador for the state of South Carolina, promoting both tourism and agriculture.

McClure said both episodes were filmed at a grocery store in Santa Rosa, California, that was built specifically for the show. It has everything you’d see in a regular grocery. Perishable food not used is donated to area food banks; scraps to a farm for animal feed.

The experience is very much like what you see on the show. When they say 30 minutes to shop and cook they mean 30 minutes. No stopping. No retakes.

They are told the parameters of what they are supposed to cook and decide on the fly. For the most recent show, called Redemption, all four chefs had been on the show previously and lost. They were tasked with using one ingredient that caused them to go home on the first show.

For McClure, it was ricotta cheese. Last time, her grits weren’t cheesy enough.

“Go big or go home” is her motto.

She made grilled lamb soaked in a ricotta solution (think buttermilk), morel mushrooms and fiddleheads. Lemon mint ricotta sauce. Mashed sweet potatoes with ricotta cheese.

She had 10 minutes to shop, 20 minutes to cook.

“It is stressful and a lot of fun,” McClure said.

Her customers wanted to try it so she’s making it in the restaurant.

She hopes to convince Triple G producers to come to Landrum for Diners Drive-ins and Dives (Triple D).

And she’d like to appear on other food shows, particularly Beat Bobby Flay.

Her mission is to show that Southern cooking is more than fried and full of butter.