For 24 years, Dan Huntley was a reporter/columnist for The Charlotte Observer. As a recipient of the Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan, he had the opportunity to travel and cook in Buenos Aires, Istanbul, and the Greek Peloponnese. He soon realized that the Carolina pig pickings that he’s done since he was a teenager were part of a much larger food world. He then developed his own bbq sauce, Carolina Pig Pucker, co-authored a book, Extreme Barbecue, and started a catering business, Outdoor Feasts catering. He developed his interest in regional cuisines while working as a commercial fisherman in the Caribbean with a Cuban cook and Panamanian crew, and has worked several humanitarian relief missions in Nicaragua and Honduras. He has won several national writing awards in investigative reporting, short fiction and poetry. He lives in York, SC and lectures on Southern food traditions while serving pig pickings, legal moonshine tastings, oyster roasts, catfish frys, and Lowcountry shrimp boils. You can reach him at
Favorite Midnight snack? Boursin cheese melted under the broiler on sliced baguettes.
Favorite out-of-the way place to eat in Charlotte? Portofino, a small Italian restaurant at Ayrsley, brick oven, best Margherita pizza since I ate in Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy.
Dish your mom made you when you were sick as a child? Take-out pepperoni and anchovy pizza from Shakey’s on South Boulevard in the early 1970s. First pizza chain in Charlotte, a goofy theme restaurant with a player piano but that pizza rocked. Because there were no pizzas in the grocery stores, my mom would buy 3-4 to go and freeze them. It’s like the music you fall in love when you’re a teenager, that sound — that taste –is the first love for the rest of your life.
Guilty food pleasure? Sushi-grade big eye tuna flashed for 30 seconds on a white hot iron skillet, and then dressed with toasted black sesame seeds and then dipped in Pearl River Bridge Dark Mushroom Soy mixed a tablespoon of fresh raw garlic. It’s a crazy fusion burst of flavor in your mouth.
Most exotic food you’ve ever tasted? Down a crooked stone alley of spice merchants on the banks of the Bosporus, we kneeled by a tiny toothless woman working a Döner Kebab. She sizzled lamb chunks studded with finger-tip sized ginger and garlic over a hand-fanned charcoal box. No words spoken. She served the lamb on fresh baked pita with a dollop of Pomegranate molasses. It was the most other worldly dish I’ve ever tasted, and to be standing at the patch of earth where Europe meets Asia, well….. the backdrop was almost as good as the lamb.