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Cooking in the summer sun

Think charcoal & gas are only for burgers and hot dogs? Think again.

Story Barry Kaufman + Photography by Kim Smith

Meet the Chef. Robert Wysong is the executive chef at Colleton River Club. For 30 years, he has called the Lowcountry home.

When Robert Wysong steps up to the grill, he’s not just cooking. Instead, the accomplished grill artist and executive chef at Colleton River Club is continuing what he refers to as a journey through grilling.

“Many years ago, I was righteous about a live fire grill, whether charcoal or smoking wood chips – I was in. That ushered in the propane years,” he said. “Convenience, speed, instant results – I’ve arrived!” However, the rush to the convenience of propane in his younger years went cold, as the chef realized nothing beats the real thing. “All that is behind me now, as I am back to advocating the live fire grilling experience. Drafting smoke near a slow fire and taking the time to dry rub and marinate carefully… It has been rewarding and delicious.”

And while the inimitable flavor profiles and lush textures of a meal prepared over live fire are what truly brought this chef full circle, this time around he’s perfected the art of cooking with fire. And with the arrival of summer dovetailing against a national meat shortage, he’s taking a healthier, more veggie-centric approach to his art.

Grove to grill

While proteins are the undisputed lords of the grilling realm, there is a growing fanbase for vegetables, roots and other homegrown goodies grilled to perfection.

“People usually think about portobello mushrooms on the grill, and everyone’s familiar with street corn now,” he said. Inspired by these up-and-coming healthy options, Wysong has begun crafting summer dishes for the grill that skew away from the beef, pork and chicken that usually rule the coals.

The charred mushroom, spinach and grilled pears dish whose recipe you’ll see here is proving to be one of the most popular. “It can be a side dish, or you can put it over pasta,” said Wysong.

The first step in creating a mouth-watering veggie grill-up is ensuring you’re working with the freshest ingredients.

“I have a gentleman’s agreement with my produce supplier. I don’t want to inspect it, and I don’t want to have to call you about anything,” he said. “I want everyone involved, and if it’s not good, don’t take it off the truck.”

That also includes being picky about what ingredients he’ll bring in. Wysong praises simplicity above all else, and that extends to the types of produce he’ll bring into his kitchen. “I don’t ask for crazy produce. I have great relationships with people on the West Coast, but I don’t do that often. If someone says chanterelles are coming into season, they can be hit or miss. So I wait until they’re really nice.”

As with all things grilling, patience is key.

Colleton River Club executive chef Robert Wysong created the perfect summertime meal for LOCAL Life with three dishes — bacon ranch grilled corn, summer grain salad and charred mushrooms, spinach & grilled pear. For a memorable afternoon, recreate all three. Grilling season has not been canceled!

Grow Your Own

To truly personalize his dishes, Wysong employs a host of herbs that he grows himself. This not only lets him tailor his signature flavors, it gives him a chance to get creative based on what’s growing that year.

“We did a lot with mint this summer. Last summer was Thai basil. I had that coming out of my ears,” he said. From his garden he’ll bring in fresh oregano to add a pop of flavor to squash and zucchini, fresh basil to complement the acidic sweetness of tomatoes and, “fresh parsley for everything.”

Beyond his home-grown herbs, he’ll lean on fresh sprouts and dried spices to help each dish come together with subtle simplicity. “We want it to taste really good and enhance what we’re using. We’re mindful not to overdo it,” he said.

Grilling in the Time of COVID-19

While the pandemic that has gripped the world has been particularly hard on the restaurant industry, Wysong has seen an opportunity to serve them using the grilling skills he’s acquired over his long journey.

In addition to pick-up meals and sundries available to members, the Colleton kitchen set up grab-and-go with a grill on the golf courses to serve it up right at the turns.

“That’s been fun,” he said. While hungry patrons have snapped up burgers, grilled chicken and to-go sandwiches, being out in the open has given Wysong a chance to reconnect. “It’s more about starting to reacquaint with members and letting them see us.”

That said, as we spoke, Wysong was preparing for the first steps back to normalcy as the dining room opens back up. “Opening back up for dining, it’s a very interesting time,” he said. “We’re really excited about it.”

In a time when we feel so far apart, Wysong is using the great equalizer of delicious food to bring members at Colleton River together.

Step Up Your Spice Game

Want to truly put your signature on that home-grilled meal? Wysong urges you to explore herbs and spices, creating a blend that’s truly your own. While he says seasoning is personal, quality is universal. As are a few helpful staples. “Add a pinch of turbinado sugar to lift the flavor and texture,” he said. “Freshly ground black pepper is a must. Fine sea salt and coarse kosher salt are both useful in their own applications.”

Colleton River Club – Charred mushrooms, spinach & grilled pear

(Serves 4)


5-6 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed, gills removed

4 Bosc pears, peeled, halved, seeded

8 ounces spinach leaves, stemmed

3 ounces dry sherry

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Directions [1] Grill the pear halves until tender. Slice when cool. [2] Brush with olive oil, season and grill the portobello mushrooms until tender. [3] Broadly slice the mushrooms. [4] In a pan combine the sliced mushroom, diced pear and spinach leaf. [5] Season, drizzle with sherry and combine. Serve warm or room temperature.

Colleton River Club – Bacon ranch grilled corn

(Serves 4)


4 fresh corn ears, shucked, trimmed

6 ounces smoked bacon, cooked crisp, drained, and finely chopped

2 ounces ranch spice

4 ounces dry aged jack or other crumbling cheese

Fresh Italian parsley leaves

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

Directions [1] Brush corn with oil, season with ranch spice (recipe below) and grill until tender. Reserve. [2] Crumble the soft cheese and sprinkle over the corn. [3] Sprinkle the chopped bacon over the corn. [4] Drizzle with more olive oil and garnish with parsley

Ingredients (ranch spice)

1 tablespoon dry ranch dressing mix

1 tablespoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried dill

Directions Combine all ingredients.

Colleton River Club – Summer grain salad

(Serves 4)


1 cup red quinoa, cooked and cooled

1 cup Bulgur wheat, cooked and cooled

1 large cucumber; lightly peeled, split lengthwise

2 ripe avocados; split, seeded, sliced

2 large shallots; peeled, roasted, sliced

Fresh mint leaves

Fresh Italian parsley leaves

Juice of 1 lemon

Olive oil

Salt & pepper, for grilling

Curry spice, for finishing

Directions [1] Trim, season and roast shallots in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes until very tender. [2] Brush with olive oil, season and grill the cucumber slices until lightly caramelized. [3] In a bowl, combine quinoa, cracked wheat, sliced – roasted shallots, sliced avocado, diced cucumber, picked mint and parsley leaves. [4] Season with olive oil, the juice of one lemon, and curry spice (recipe below) to taste. Garnish with fresh mint and parsley leaves

Ingredients (curry spice)

2 teaspoons yellow curry powder

1 tablespoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions Combine all ingredients.



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