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Saturday, January 29, 2011


by Wendy Swat Snyder

Chef Ken Vedrinski established himself in the early 1990s as an advocate for farm fresh ingredients heading up the kitchen of the acclaimed Opus Restaurant in the former SwissĂ´tel Atlanta. He went on to garner the only Mobile Five-Star ranking awarded to a South Carolina restaurant at the Dining Room at Woodlands Inn. With the opening of hisTrattoria Lucca, Vedrinski, who learned to cook at the side of his Italian grandmother, has brought his culinary journey full circle.

Lucca - named for the town in Western Tuscany that produces his favorite olive oil - is a tribute to Vedrinski's Italian heritage. A semi-finalist for "Best New Restaurant" in the 2009 James Beard Awards, its menu showcases Lowcountry staples, particularly freshly-netted fish and local produce.

Recently, Slow Food Charleston asked Vedrinski to help raise awareness of the predatory lionfish now patrolling the waters of the East Coast, and he was completely on board.

"I'd just read an article about the lionfish," says Vedrinski. "They eat everything, and are threatening to wipe out the natural species unique to South Carolina."

Vedrinski also read that the lionfish is delicious, and that the best strategy for controlling it is increased consumption, so he's teamed up with guest chefs Mike Lata of FIG and Celina Tio of Julian to prepare a four-course dinner to support this sustainable initiative. The lionfish will be the centerpiece of the January 30 event, "Eat the Lionfish", as well as a new dish on Lucca's menu. Local lionfish hunter (and Lucca lionfish supplier) Vic Depuis will give a presentation.

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