Long before he was one of the island’s most celebrated chefs, Michael Cirafesi was just a kid in a kitchen. Already showing promise while still in high school, trading classes in the morning with advanced culinary instruction in the afternoon, he started in the kitchen at the now-closed Jefferson House restaurant at just 15. 

Growing up in the Bronx, Chef Josh Castillo latched onto an unlikely role model early on in life. As one of the few kids who watched Julia Child religiously, he stood out. “My grandmother would say, ‘Why are you watching this old woman cooking on television?’ I just liked what she was cooking.’” 

Long before “gastropub” had entered anyone’s lexicon, there was Street Meet. When he opened his north-end eatery 16 years ago, Carey Basciano wasn’t chasing a trend. He was simply trying to recapture a piece of lost Americana. 

For Ackeem Chambers, the act of cooking is something he feels truly passionate about, even if he fell into it completely by accident. 

“It started with my grandma. She broke her arm at one point when I was 13 or 14 and I had to help her cook,” he said. “I grew a passion for it after that, began to love it so I made it a career.” 

Growing up in rural Georgia, Scott Pearch came to view cooking not just as a way to create a delicious dish, but as a vehicle for bringing families together. 

“Wednesdays and Saturdays I would cook with my grandmother, and grandma always had a table full of food,” he said. “And my dad was one of those home chefs who has every type of cooking appliance you can imagine.” 

Coligny Plaza

Being Hilton Head Island’s downtown for more than 60 years doesn’t just mean that Coligny is the premier place to shop, explore and enjoy the island. It is, in fact, all of those things, but if there’s one thing that more than anything else makes this south end treasure a true downtown — it’s the dining. 

Tucked in and among the shops you’ll find any number of welcoming eateries to please any palate, from fresh local seafood to upscale pub fare and plentiful options for a quick and easy lunch. Every bite is a new delight at Coligny Plaza, where your appetite for something fresh and delicious is never more than a few steps away from being satisfied. 

Fun fact about Chef Chris Carge: as a kid, he was a child actor, with his biggest role coming in Steve Martin’s film Parenthood. 

As for his role in the culinary arts, that started in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio at the 5-Diamond Columbus Athletic Club. He and his wife eventually made their home in Hilton Head, with Chris working at various Italian and seafood restaurants. He had always wanted to join the SERG family, which he finally did as the Executive Chef at Black Marlin. He then went to Poseidon, where he became a partner, and now he oversees four SERG restaurants, including the newly launched and much anticipated Nectar Farm Kitchen. 

Chef Nick Unangst has spent nearly 40 years as a butcher and a chef. From St. Louis to Chicago — working at the legendary seafood restaurant Don’s Fish Market — to Hilton Head, where he became a partner after helping to open both Frankie Bones and Black Marlin. 

Subsequently, he went on to help open WiseGuys, Skull Creek Boathouse, Poseidon, Dockside, and the soon-to-launch Nectar. 

Chef Tim Nelson literally grew up in restaurants. He started washing dishes in his grandmother’s restaurant at just 12 years old. 

A trade program in high school introduced him to cooking. He was hooked and told his dad that was what he wanted to do. 

Fortunately for all of us, his dad told him to “do what makes you happy.” 

For Chef Brad Blake it’s all about “thirst for knowledge.” He started in the business as a teenager and quickly rose through the ranks with a hunger for the “adrenalin rush of being on the line,” along with this quest to explore and learn. 

“One of the beautiful things about this business is you get to explore and create things,” he said. “You get to be a scientist and an artist.”