“Chef Forrest Parker’s Undiscovered Charleston is a delicious walk through history”
By Melissa Hayes, Charleston City Paper
Chef Forrest Parker (aka Gump) asks us to meet him at the Pineapple Fountain at 10 a.m. on a mid-July Saturday morning. This gives him just enough time to get to the farmers market to pick up local, seasonal ingredients like chanterelles and heirloom tomatoes for the lunch he will later prepare, drop his haul off at Bistro a Vin, and meet our group at the fountain for a two-hour walking tour ahead of the midday heat. He has a small group of five today — an ideal size for navigating narrow sidewalks and historic alleyways (though he says he can handle groups of up to 16 or 20).
Parker is not one of those overly animated or hokey guides that goes on about ghosts and Yankees in an exaggerated drawl. The entire experience feels more like a laidback chat with a knowledgeable chef-historian than a scripted performance. He’s simply himself — Chef Forrest Parker, history, culture, and cuisine devotee — who spends more time championing the city’s culinarians than speaking about the more than two decades of achievements under his own chef’s hat. “I want to evangelize,” he later says. “I’m getting out of the game. It’s very clearly not about the ‘me’ show. It’s about the ‘we’ show.”
So what you may not hear him say is that in 2016, Gov. Nikki Haley selected him as South Carolina’s Chef Ambassador. He’s also the only licensed and certified chef tour-guide in Charleston. He’s done extensive work as an agricultural archaeologist and has studied and helped revive a number of heirloom varieties. You can read about them on Undiscovered Charleston, a blog that he’s maintained since 2011. He even hopes one day to write a book detailing Charleston’s culinary history.