Ruka’s Table in Highlands has earned a regional reputation for the sheer variety of its inventive dishes, showcasing sophisticated Southern flavors.
The restaurant proudly partners with local farms to source fresh proteins and produce in support of the local slow food movement. Every dish is made from scratch, including the cheese, with seasonal and local ingredients, to invoke a homemade feel along with its authentic and rustic menu.
Behind all this is Executive Chef Justin Burdett.
His talents in the kitchen have earned him a berth on the cooking team at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival’s New and Notables Dinner in March, an honor extended to three rising national chefs. Burdett will team up with chefs Brett Cooper from Outerlands in San Francisco, Michael Toscano from Perla in New York City, pastry chef Jenna Hodges from Colt & Gray in Denver and and Charleston chef Jason Stanhope from FIG.
This selection comes on the heels of Burdett’s receiving a Carolina Rising Star Award from StarChefs.com, the online magazine for culinary insiders that honors the up-and-coming American chefs.
“Putting together tasting menus is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen as it keeps everything fresh, artful and vibrant,” said Chef Burdett about creating his four-course tasting dinner for the StarChefs team. “My menu took months of preparation and I really challenged myself by doing dishes like the all-black dish and my nose-to-tail pork dish. The idea was to surprise the taster with a flavor profile that they’re not expecting based upon the color of the dish.”
Burdett’s first course was his silky, butternut squash soup with peppered apples, crème fraiche and local peppers. The second course consisted of North Carolina sheepshead, buttermilk fried fish cheeks, brain ravioli, red-eye gravy consommé and gremolata. The third all-black course featured Brasstown New York strip sous vide in squid ink, Yukon potatoes in squid ink, fermented onion pureed with squid ink, lardo, bone marrow and anchovy vinaigrette, Maldon salt and chives. The finale highlighted a cabbage and okra kimchi stuffed pork trotter, sorghum-glazed pork ribs, and braised tongue-and-ear salad in blackberry vinegar.
Following his bravura performance in Charleston, Chef Burdett will prepare a five-course dinner at the James Beard House in New York City on April 4 to support the foundation whose mission is to celebrate, nurture and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that inspire and educate. Menu highlights include Passed Hors D’oeuvres of Cured North Carolina Lamb Heart, mint gelee, English pea crackers, and radish; North Carolina Trout Terrine with turnip greens, pickled turnips, fermented and puffed rye, sumac mustard; South Carolina Oysters, frozen buttermilk, and vegetable ash; the First Course — North Carolina Flounder, carrot and Meyer lemon broth, and country ham; the Second Course — Nose-to-tail Rabbit, ramp textures, celery and beets; Third Course — Cheerwine Glazed Pork Belly, boiled peanut puree, stewed mustard greens, and rhubarb mustard; Fourth Course – Venison, fermented onion, smoked lardo, and foraged mushrooms; and Fifth Course — Kumquat Cake, lemon gel, pine sorbet, and strawberry.
By Luke Osteen