We love Tombo Grille’s fresh take on everything they serve. The Summer Menu stands out: Get your palate revved with an appetizer from the Small Bites section: May we suggest smoked salmon spring rolls featuring cabbage, carrots and cream cheese and served with mango chutney. Then a delightful summertime treat – heirloom tomato salad arugula, avocado crème, candied bacon and fried onions with white balsamic vinaigrette. For your entree, you’ll love the Palmetto Farms Cornish hen (much larger than a traditional Cornish hen!) served with ricotta gnocchi, zucchini, fava beans, oyster mushrooms and Madeira jus. OMG!
Tombo Grille’s executive chef, JT Simms, has a food philosophy:
“I believe the key to making great food is to start with the best ingredients – fresh, as local as possible and of the highest quality… then I take those ingredients and don’t manipulate them much. I let the foods shine on their own by cooking simply – no heavy sauces or spices that cover up the natural flavors. I just do things to enhance the natural flavors.”
Here’s the rest of the story:
Foodie News: Where did you grow up and what influenced you to become a chef?
JT: I grew up in Columbia and Myrtle Beach. I have a clear memory of trying to get off the school bus fast and hurry home to watch “Great Chefs” on TV. I have no idea why I got interested in that show. I just liked it, and I still like it. My mom was a great baker which inspired me to pursue cooking.
JT: I learned on the job. I have been cooking for 17 years. I’ve worked a lot of places… my first job as a cook was at Saluda’s. I’ve also cooked in several high end resorts in Las Vegas, a small farm to table restaurant in Wisconsin, and Cyprus in Charleston. When I moved back to Columbia I got the opportunity to be the chef at Tombo Grille.
Foodie News: Tombo Grille offers guests both daily specials and their seasonal menu. What goes into developing your daily specials and your seasonal menus?
JT: Daily specials are designed daily – I don’t generally know what we’ll offer each day until I see what kinds of seafood or meats are available that day. I am always looking for the best of everything. I choose the daily specials based on finding the best cuts, the best catches, the freshest vegetables. Our seafood suppliers deal directly with the fishermen… and they know I am picky. So they only present me with really great catches. Same thing with meats. And I go to the Farmers Market and pick produce myself. As far as the seasonal menus, obviously I am thinking in terms of lighter, cooler foods in the summer and warmer, filling foods in the fall and winter.
Foodie News: What kind of cooking do you most enjoy?
JT: I really like cooking anything. I find cooking to be kind of therapeutic. I like spending 2 or 3 hours on a pot of soup. And, since I grew up in Myrtle Beach, I love fish. I like grilling a really great fish, and coming up with an Asian or Hispanic sauce to complement it.
Foodie News: What is most rewarding about your job at Tombo Grille?
JT: Knowing that our customers love our food! We have clientele who dine with us weekly and some with us daily. I have come to know some of our customers so well that I can tell you who is in the dining room from the food they have ordered!
I also really appreciate the freedom that Len and Gini, the owners, have given me. I really feel I am able to cook without limitations. So many times chefs have limitations put on them, but that doesn’t happen here. I have worked at very fine restaurants in Vegas and Charleston, but I didn’t have the creative freedom I have here. I really like that freedom.
Thanks JT and Tombo Grille for creating food that we all love and congratulations again on winning BEST Mac & Cheese Peoples Choice! *Foodies, if you have not been to Tombo Grille it is a must try—savor every moment + bite.