Russell Keane: Owner of farm-to-table gastropub worked his way up from the bottom

russellkeaneRussell Keane, executive chef and owner of Neo restaurant at Moss Creek Village, has been developing his epicurean skills since he was a young boy, when he and his military family lived in Germany and in various cities around the United States

Keane, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Charleston and longtime contributor to the Hilton Head Island culinary scene, got an early taste of kitchen life when his mother him to work at the age of 13 in the restaurant where she worked as a staff accountant.

He started peeling shrimp and shucking oysters in the fish market of Bowden’s Seafood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and worked his way into the kitchen of the main restaurant.

“I started as a gopher and slowly worked my way up the kitchen ladder, ‘’ he said.           

He later shared his growing cooking expertise while serving in the United States Navy during the first Gulf War in 1991.

After he was discharged, he honed his cooking skills while working his way through culinary school at Magnolias, one of Charleston’s fine restaurants, where he started as a butcher.

As the father of two daughters — one is in high school and one is in college — Keane became more and more aware of food sourcing and the importance of natural and freshly prepared ingredients. 

After years of success working with some of the Lowcountry’s finest restaurants, Keane decided to open his own establishment, one where he could offer a fresh, locally sourced dining experience in a fun atmosphere.

In 2012, Neo, a farm-to-table gastropub, was born. 

Keane is known for his adventurous neo-classic cooking style, entertaining spirit and passion for using fresh, premium ingredients, so the farm-to-table movement is a perfect fit for him. He sources his ingredients from local growers and suppliers, and 90 percent of his menu is sourced from within 90 miles of his kitchen.

He said his ingredients are certified organic, and when they can't be, he tries to ensure they are pure and natural. 

“We believe fresh food just tastes better, and these folks provide the best ingredients straight from their farms to your dish,” he said.

Among the most popular dinner dishes on his “eclectic Southern menu” are calamari, filet mignon and tuna lettuce wraps.

Neo offers many local Southern-inspired dishes such as Lowcountry shrimp and grits and shrimp and lobster succotash.

His lunch and dinner menus also include several fresh-made flatbread pizzas and various vegetables, meats and seafood.

His lunch menu features grass-fed beef and buffalo burgers, as well as sandwiches featuring salmon and catfish and a unique short rib sloppy Joe.

“We offer something for everyone,” he said. “Our bar offers whimsical craft cocktails, thoughtfully selected wines and craft beers. There is something for everyone to enjoy.”