Everyone knows that the Palmetto State is a destination for foodies. From high-end dining to freshly shucked oysters and pulled-pork barbecue, everyone can find something to love on the menus of our restaurants in communities large and small. South Carolina’s Chef Ambassador program recognizes chefs throughout the state through a unique program that unites agribusiness and tourism—two of South Carolina’s largest industries. Every year since 2014, a fresh group of chefs has been selected to represent South Carolina at food festivals and media events, sharing their love of our state’s wonderful produce, meats and seafood through their dishes.
For 2022, three talented chefs were selected representing three regions of South Carolina—the Coast, the Midlands and the Mountains. No matter where you travel in South Carolina, you can find a restaurant helmed by a Chef Ambassador close by. See a list of all of our Chef Ambassadors here.
Chef John Ondo
The Atlantic Room at Kiawah Island Golf Resort | Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Executive Chef John Ondo of The Atlantic Room grew up playing in the tidal creeks of the Lowcountry, which left an indelible mark on him, as he has spent his 20-plus-year culinary career in Charleston drawing inspiration from the region’s fields and waterways. Chef Ondo has developed enduring relationships with local farmers and fishermen, and often stops by to visit and discuss how crops are coming in and to pick up produce that will appear on diners’ plates that night at The Atlantic Room. With his wry sense of humor and affable nature, Chef Ondo is a recognizable spokesperson for Lowcountry foodways.
Chef Chris Williams
Roy’s Grille | Lexington, South Carolina
As owner of catering company William Christopher’s and of Roy’s Grille, a beloved local restaurant inside an Exxon station, Chef Chris Williams stays busy. He grew up in Olar in Bamberg County, where his family grew their own vegetables and raised their own pigs and chickens. On the Roy’s Grille menu, you will find house-smoked and cured bacon, house made pimento cheese, barbecue and signature barbecue sauces.
Chef Haydn Shaak
Restaurant 17 at Hotel Domestique | Travelers Rest, South Carolina
A graduate of the culinary program at Greenville Technical College, Chef Haydn Shaak has spent most of his life working in kitchens. His father was also a chef, so cooking became a significant part of his life from an early age, and at 16 he began an apprenticeship under his father at the Greenville restaurant City Range Steakhouse Grill. Over the next five years, he worked his way through the kitchen ranks at several establishments, eventually heading up prominent restaurants in Greenville and Travelers Rest before taking over Restaurant 17 in 2018. Haydn’s focus on local and seasonal ingredients, along with his dedication to classical techniques has elevated the culinary program at Restaurant 17.