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Guerrilla Cuisine: It's what's for dinner -- underground

Posted: Aug 17, 2013 6:22 PM EDTUpdated: Aug 19, 2013 12:14 PM EDT
Co-founder and creator of Guerrilla Cuisine, jimihatt.Co-founder and creator of Guerrilla Cuisine, jimihatt.
Guerrilla Cuisine logo.Guerrilla Cuisine logo.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- "jimihatt" is the unique name of Lowcountry Dad and co-founder/creator of Guerrilla Cuisine, an underground supper club in the Holy City.

"Prince, Madonna, Sting, the Rock; it's a culinary nickname that I've had for 15 years," jimihatt said of his one-of-a-kind name. "Without the capitalization, I'm not putting myself up on a pedestal."

He's a man as unexpected as his name suggests and he has a look of a character straight off the popular A&E reality show "Duck Dynasty." He's no newbie, either -- jimihatt exploded onto the Charleston culinary scene 22 years ago with stints at Med Deli, TBonz, Magnolia's, and McCrady's to name a few.

jimihatt will be the first to tell you that he's never been on the chef racetrack to be the most well known or critically acclaimed chef in the Holy City at the "in" restaurant of the moment.

Instead, he had a more unique idea than just spending his days in the kitchen, and it would be something the Charleston culinary scene had never tasted before.

"I just want to be a commoner who puts on these awesome dinners," he said.

Enter an unlucky, or perhaps lucky, turn of events.

jimihatt said his world changed when his good friend Kenny Lowe was about to leave for California 15 years ago. jimihatt went to California to go visit his friend when he met an acquaintance of Kenny's who hosted an underground supper club called ‘Ghetto Gourmet.'

"I went out there and visited them and had dinner and was so stoked and then I wanted to bring them to Charleston," jimihatt said.

But the owner of Ghetto Gourmet didn't accept the invitation and never came to Charleston. jimihatt said he realized he could modify the concept of the underground dinners and do it on his own.

"I was lucky enough to have an idea and some friends that thought my idea was shot-worthy," jimihatt said.

And thus was the birth of a new culinary animal for Charleston -- Guerrilla Cuisine.


A pop-up restaurant

jimihatt is the first to tell you planning an underground dinner party is anything short of organized chaos. But with no time to waste, jimihatt hit the upper-ground running, pushing the idea and trying his hand at wooing a local chef to prepare a dinner at a secret location.

"I came up with the name Guerilla, like warfare," jimihatt said. "We storm the beach. Cook proper food and get out of there."

November 2007 was the first underground dinner with two Guerilla Cuisine's in one week. Now in it's sixth season this year, the concept and mystique of the evening still carries the same weight.

"Food is the focus," jimihatt said. "It's food for the people; that's our logo."

Dinner guests buy tickets online and don't find out the location of where they will be dining until the night before. Then comes the fun part -- popping up a makeshift restaurant at a cool location with music, art, and a six- or seven-course meal.

Tickets for a Guerrilla Cuisine dinner range from $55 to $66 each which rounds out to about $10 dollars a course.

"Ten dollars for a salad might seem like a lot of money, but 10 dollars for steak, mash potatoes and gravy is cheap," jimihatt said. "It's very fair and very affordable and we do a BYOB because don't want to fool around with all the red tape."

But what jimihatt does fool around with is the highly-anticipated secret locations. Underground dinner spots include venues on East Bay Street to Westbrook Brewery to discreet locations on Wadmalaw Island.

"Rarely do we do a dinner in the same location and about 30 tickets are sold for each dinner," jimihatt said. "We invite the farmers, the musicians, the artists -- it's a one-of-a-kind dinner. Like a tasty snowflake; no two dinners are ever the same."


Dessert is served

The icing on the cake to jimihatt's growing-a-restaurant-overnight concept is that each dinner gives a percent of the profits to a charity of the guest chef's choice.

"We did a warm and fuzzy," is what jimihatt likes to say when talking about the charitable component to his business model. "It's about giving unknown chefs the opportunity to do some things, not just putting the rock star chefs in front of the people."

Guerilla Cuisine has had over 100 dinners by now and jimihatt said he's not throwing in the towel anytime soon. He's currently working on a second cookbook and already has his head spinning in planning the upcoming fall and winter harvest Guerrilla Cuisine dinners.

"It's just a special organism that creates this collective effect when all the people are brought together in a space and the energy grows and grows," he said.

For more information on the Guerrilla Cuisine underground supper club click here.

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