Chef Craig Deihl grew up in a quintessential American household, “Ozzie and Harriet” style. Every evening, dinner was on the table by the time his father was home from work; his mother, an “unbelievable” cook, graced the family’s table with homespun meals he recounts today with the kind of reminiscence that makes mouths water. They ate -- every night –- together as a family.
For Deihl, this table-time ritual remains one of the biggest influences he has had as a chef. Lauded for his rich interpretation of Southern cuisine, he is actually no son of the South. He grew up in Danville, Penn., on a seven-acre farm inherited as a wedding gift to his parents from his grandfather. But it’s how people relate to food –- not their gastronomy -- that matters most to this two-time James Beard award nominee.
Lured to the South by the culinary program at Johnson & Wales University (then in Charleston), Deihl began working after graduation at Charleston’s beloved Magnolias, where he worked for nearly five years before opening Cypress. Deihl would be the first to say that he cooks Southern food with a Pennsylvania accent, placing on Cypress’ menu the same types of dishes his mother would have crafted.
In 2007, Deihl penned Cypress, a cookbook that focuses on the American and global food laissez-faire that has garnered him an international reputation. At its center are the global flavor profiles he uses of hot, sour, salty, sweet and bitter, combining recipes of his signature menu items and highlighting his simple, eclectic style. Deihl was chosen in 2010 as Chef of the Year by the Charleston chapter of the American Culinary Foundation. That same year, he was a semi-finalist for a prestigious James Beard Foundation award for best chef Southeast. He was a nominee for the award in 2011 and is again in 2012.
Deihl is a founding member of the Butcher’s Guild, a network of meat professionals that promotes responsible butchering through education and community. Since 2011, he has led Slow Food Charleston’s Chefs-in-Schools program, which places local chefs in schools and educates students on healthy food choices through classroom demonstrations, after-school programs, tastings and professional development. Deihl is also a steadfast observer of the Sustainable Seafood Initiative, a program that works with partner chefs to help ensure future fish populations and promote the use of sustainable and local seafood in South Carolina’s restaurants.
Through a partnership with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) and farmer Gra Moore of Carolina Heritage Farm, Deihl had the opportunity to be the first chef in over 100 years to utilize the rare American Guinea Hog. This same passion for preserving meat prompted him to adopt a CSA-like concept for meats he calls the Artisan Meat Share. Started in November of 2009, participants receive local charcuterie and local farmers, in turn, receive support from the increased product demand in what Deihl describes as a win-win scenario for both. Part of preserving is the commitment to utilizing every part of the animal, and Deihl takes pride in the over 80 types of charcuterie prepared, stored and cured in-house at Cypress.
Deihl lives on James Island with his wife, Colleen, and their daughter, Keegan. He loves spending time with his family at Charleston’s beaches and parks when he’s not in Cypress’ kitchen.
He's on Twitter and Cypress is on Facebook.