Former NY Cab Driver Wins Taste of the South Recipe Competition Judged by James Beard Award Winners
Former NY cab driver Doug Ducap was named the Grand Prize Winner of the Taste of the South Recipe Competition which was judged by Matt and Ted Lee, the James Beard Award winning authors of The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners.
Unlike most traditional chili recipes which rely on the usual beef and beans, Charleston Chili was created using succulent pulled pork barbecue, country ham, boiled peanuts, and black-eyed peas.
Ted Lee described the combination of the flavors in the Charleston Chili as, “…fantastic…clearly an original idea that followed through.”
The full recipe for Charleston Chili is available here. The recipe will also be showcased in a future issue of Southern Living.
“Boiled peanuts have become an obsession since moving to Charleston.” says DuCap.“It got me to thinking about peanuts as vegetables rather than peanut butter. Using them as a bean was a natural leap to making the chili.”
Sold at dozens of roadside stands all over the state, boiled peanuts were named the official snack food of South Carolina in 2006. They are also popular in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, as well as parts of Texas and Florida.
A passionate foodie and former NYC cab driver, DuCap’s southern food inspiration was his friend the late James L. Gulledge, a noted ornithologist who did pioneering work in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and Venezuela.
Gulledge was a major force in the revitalization and expansion of Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library in Ithaca, NY which has become the largest archive of animal sounds and related video in the world. Sounds from the library have appeared in such films as The Incredibles, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Mosquito Coast.
In his last years, Gulledge vividly remembered the beauty and the foods of the coastal Carolina area where he grew up. Jim was raised in the historic Exeter Plantation in Moncks Corner, SC, a gem of classic Southern architecture constructed in 1726, which was lost to fire in 1967. (The site has since become the Berkeley Country Club.)
Due to illness, Jim no longer had the energy to do much cooking, which he had once enjoyed, so Doug saw an opportunity to help.
“I tried to bring back the flavors of his childhood. Working from Charleston Receipts and other books, I learned to cook Southern food. And being the Southern gentlemen he was, he didn’t laugh too hard at my mistakes.”
As the former co-editor of The Zuzu’s Petals Literary Resource, which was named one of the 30 Best Websites of 1997 by Entertainment Weekly, Jim’s stories about the people, places, and the food of Charleston, SC sparked Doug’s interest.
After Jim passed away, DuCap and his wife came intending to spend three months in the area. That was years ago.
“I love it here and this is home now,” says DuCap, who is working on a book about his time cooking for Jim as well as a book celebrating seafood and the vanishing lifestyle of the commercial fishermen of the coastal Carolinas.
Doug DuCap is also the author of the Knack Fish & Seafood Cookbook: Delicious Recipes for All Seasons with Linda Beaulieu (Globe Pequot Press/Knack Books).
“Charleston will always be a part of me, and I have Jim to thank for that.”