Osteen Legacy of Learning
by Marlene Osteen
In partnership with the Culinary Institute of America, Highlands Food & Wine Festival has established the Louis Osteen Legacy Scholarship.
This is a new scholarship at CIA specifically designed for students from the Highlands/Cashiers area that hope to follow Louis’ extraordinary culinary path. Louis Osteen, the James Beard award-winning chef, whose influential South Carolina restaurants elevated the Southern cuisine we enjoy today, passed away in Highlands in 2019. His influential work at the Pawley’s Island Inn and later at the Charleston Grill, was the foundation of the restaurant scene in Charleston and throughout the South. While Louis had no formal culinary training, he was very connected to French cooking and applied those techniques to Southern cuisine. In addition, Louis loved guiding those working in his restaurants and coming up in the restaurant scene.
Highlands Food & Wine is actively raising funds for the scholarship. Please consider donating and helping the next generation of great chefs follow in Louis’ footsteps.
We’ve asked our own Marlene Osteen, Louis’s widow, to tell us more about this remarkable man and his extraordinary legacy.
Luke Osteen, the passionate and enthusiastic editor at Laurel, asked me to write “a couple paragraphs” for this story “about what Louis meant to me” Alas, after 44 years of co-habitating it would take a tome, so I write instead on behalf of those whose shoulders Louis touched along their way.
I write on behalf of Marion, a CPA now, but years ago a frightened victim of the South Carolina education system whom you ushered through enrollment at Johnson & Wales; I write on behalf of Essau, who taught you to listen when you can’t read, how to put your ear to the deck oven and hear the crème brulee bubbling when it’s done; on behalf of South Carolina Governor Joe Riley, on who’s literacy council you served; and on behalf of the hundreds in our zip code who you helped overcome this handicap; on behalf of Katherine who baked her first cookie in your bakery more than three decades ago and today bakes tens of thousands of cookies; on behalf of Michael, who first came through your restaurant 39 years ago and was there leading your last kitchen six years ago with equal passion and skill; on behalf of the “Susan’s,” who you championed when they left your employ to open their restaurant, which they did artfully for more than 25 years; on behalf of Sarah, your “fourth daughter,” whom you mentored and encouraged and loved from the age of 14; on behalf of Forrest, whom you taught how to gently form a crab cake; on behalf of Tyler, who started in your kitchen and went on to TV stardom; on behalf of Deenie, whom you sent to school in San Francisco to learn baking and wild yeast starters; on behalf of photographer Frank, who today stays true to your teaching that “simple, unfussy is beautiful;” on behalf of Nick and Rachel, forever thankful to assist you at the James Beard House; on behalf of the thousands who relished your pimento cheese, adored your ‘light as air’ biscuits, and devoured your crab cakes and inhaled your shrimp and grits.
And I write as well on behalf of the wisdoms you shared – to respect our ingredients and each other even more; to speak softly in the kitchen and loudly in defense of oneself; to keep our knives sharp and our wits sharper; to “have fun,” that more’s not better, that being better is better; and, in the end, if you can’t have a smile on your face, then try to keep one in your heart.