There’s nothing to compare to the taste of a fresh-grown tomato in a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich – especially during those warmer months. But even within the world of BLTs, there’s certainly nothing to compare to the taste of Christina Halstead’s version of this classic summertime sandwich.
The combination of flavors in a BLT makes you wish you could go back and take that first bite all over again. Now, imagine the whole package in a biscuit made with pimento cheese in the dough, and top it off with the zing of red pepper jelly. It’s enough to make you beg for more!
None of that comes as a surprise to Travelers Rest resident Christina Halstead. She created this masterpiece and went straight to the top with it.
But you don’t get to be a prize-winning chef with one recipe. It takes a lot of work, and some pretty strong influences.
Christina, who has lived in Travelers Rest since she was 10, first thought to work in meteorology and communications, attending USC Upstate and Greenville Tech.
“I waited tables all through high school and college,” she says. “And I would talk to, and when possible, train with every chef I met over the years.”
Good thing for us, she decided, instead, to become a chef.
Today, Christina works as the executive chef at The Cafe at Williams Hardware, right here in Travelers Rest. She loves the “at home” feeling she gets at her workplace, and, like many who live here, she is influenced by our lovely hometown.
“TR has a Southern charm all its own. Our focus on active, all natural, and sustainable living heavily influences my cooking,” she says. “I am very ingredient driven when it comes to my daily specials. Whatever is in season here in TR is my muse, inspiring me to create a dish that represents Southern cuisine and features the best ingredients in town.”
Christina enjoys cooking “comfort food” in the winter and the fresh veggies we get in the spring and summer.
“But my favorite is autumn: the sweet potatoes, apples, and Halloween, of course!” she adds.
Whatever the season, Christina likes to take her time with her cooking creations.
“When you create a recipe for a restaurant, you’re limited by the amount of time you need to prepare and expedite the dish. So if I want to try something new, I start by creating and preparing the dish with no time limit. Then, the process of making the recipe viable for service in the restaurant begins. It’s easy to make something beautiful and delicious at home, but it takes much more to make it relatively quick, beautiful, and delicious,” Christina says.
Quick, beautiful, and delicious it is. Watching Christina in action is like having a front row seat to a tornado!
She mixes the dough, cuts the biscuits, briefs the kitchen assistants, checks on other dishes, and even explains the process while she’s doing it all.
All of these things contribute to that mouth-watering BLT on a pimento cheese buttermilk biscuit, which stole the grand prize in the recent General Mills Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest.
“I was completely shocked to get into the top six, and when I saw the other five recipes, I didn’t know if I had much of a chance,” Christina remembers. “But, when they narrowed it down to the top three, I had an overwhelming feeling that we had it.”
Not only did Christina win the grand prize of $50,000, but she also had the pleasure of donating another $10,000 to the non-profit of her choice.
“We are giving the $10,000 to Foothills Family Resources in Slater. They do amazing work for our community, and I am thrilled to be able to give something back to TR,” Christina says.
Good food and good will. That’s a pretty winning combination.
Writer: Melinda Long
Editor: Celeste Hawkins
Photography: Cathy Church / From Chapel to Cheers
Source(s): Interview with Christina Halstead