On a recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina, I met Benjamin “BJ” Dennis at the James Island Sunday Brunch Farmers Market. We pause in front of the Simmons Farm stand to shake sand out of my shoes — we are, after all, on a barrier island. Meanwhile, Dennis grabs a handful of okra, his favorite vegetable and a staple on his menu. Okra soup. Okra caramelized with rice and shrimp. Okra greens. “People tend to forget that okra leaves were a stew eaten a long time ago,” the 37-year-old tells me. Dennis is a classically trained chef, born and raised in Charleston, who does catering gigs around town. Farmer Frank Simmons agrees the man is wild about okra: “He don’t be jiving. He comes and he spends money.” More of my conversation with Chef BJ on KCRW’s Good Food blog.


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