A Conversation with the Owner of Hall’s Chophouse, Charleston, SC
Recently I was fortunate to spend some time with Mr. Bill Hall, the owner of Hall’s Chophouse. We had dinner there a few weeks ago and I posted my blog entry about our terrific experience. I was approached by their PR person, Jennifer Heisler, to see if I’d like to meet the Hall’s and off I went. It is the beginning of my new blog section entitled “Conversations with the Owners”.
After a very long and successful career all over the country in the hotel industry one day Mr. Hall told his wife he’d be home by noon. When she asked why, he responded, “Because I’m resigning.” He had had his fill of “corporate” life and wanted to embark on his lifelong dream of opening a restaurant.
After 22 moves in 39 years for jobs around the country, Mrs. Hall got to pick their new city, and Charleston it was. By the time Mr. Hall arrived home that day airline tickets were purchased and they were off to Charleston the next day.
|Porterhouse At Halls|
Mr. Hall’s son, Tommy was also on the brink of needing a change after running a very high volume top of the line steakhouse in Dallas for many years. The two met for dinner and Tommy said, “Dad, let’s do this.”
The whole family got involved at this point. Mr. Hall’s daughter was living in San Francisco at the time but had gone to college in Charleston. She forwarded her father a map with areas in the city circled that she thought would be good places to start looking for a location. She felt strongly that “Upper King” would continue to go through positive changes that, at that time were slowly getting underway. They found their current location at 434 King St., a building built in 1867, and began the transformation.
They painstakingly took the time to save the original elements of the building that they could. Although the boards underneath the floors upstairs were rotted, the floor itself, though painted, could be saved. All the boards were taken out of the restaurant and refinished. The tongue and groove flooring was then reassembled. That’s the floor that you see there today.
The 40’ plus brick wall that adorns the entrance to the restaurant was crumbling and damaged. Four masons worked for months to bring it back to its original beauty. They worked at “all hours of the day and night”. Five in the morning, ten at night it didn’t matter. Here’s the fun fact that I also learned. The masons had to rely on the weather to determine when they could work. If it was too hot or too cold, the mortal would not set properly. Who knew?
|Tray Of Steaks|
As I entered the restaurant I was greeted by Mrs. Hall and Billy (another son who helps run the restaurant). Before I knew it there were many trays of meat coming toward us and being placed at a high top in the bar, where we would meet. Apparently Mr. Hall gives very few interviews and as he was thinking of this one he realized that they never feature a discussion of the meats they offer in any of the conversations. So I was going to have the pleasure of learning about their steak and lamb offerings and how the magic of this restaurant comes to life.
One of the things that resonated loud and clear is the culture within the restaurant that Mr. Hall has created at Hall’s Chophouse. He considers the people on his team “family”. That includes everyone from the Executive Chef to the busboys. His business is about “relationships” and relationship building with team members, customers, suppliers - you name it. I also noticed that as the staff was assembling for the evening shift they were very respectful and kind to one another, overtly so. I don’t know if Mr. Hall has carried over some of his experience from his Ritz Carlton days where “ladies and gentlemen serve ladies and gentlemen,” but it was very nice to see.
A young, reserved gentleman, Executive Chef Matthew Niessner directs the culinary operations for Hall’s Chophouse. With over twenty years of experience, Executive Chef Matthew Niessner directs the culinary operations at Halls Chophouse. Before he served as Executive Chef at the Sanctuary on Kiawah Island, Matthew spent time with some of the country’s greatest chefs in some of the country’s finest restaurants. He was so passionate about his products it was refreshing. He began to describe the steaks that were overwrapped on a “steak plate”. This is a merchandising tool that the staff uses for tableside suggestive selling and education about the steaks.
I learned that Hall’s Chophouse gets their steaks exclusively from Allen Brothers in Chicago. Allen Brothers offer the highest quality grade of beef you can buy. Executive Chef Niessner has spent a lot of time with them working to perfect the Chophouse standards. He mentioned that they are relentless in providing the highest quality product. The steaks are dry aged (45 days) or wet aged (21 days). I thought that the “aging” process itself was also very interesting.
|Inspecting The Meat|
The cuts of meat are aged in a climate controlled room with an ultra violet light. They are then rotated on a daily basis until the aging process is complete. Even when the cuts are rotated this is done only by the glow of the ultra violet light to ensure the meat is aged correctly and the environment is perfect. Zero, I’m talking zero natural light is allowed in as mold could form and destroy the meat. This process also creates a “bark” around the cut of meat that seals in the juices.
Chef Niessner described the steaks like a “fine cabernet” with depth, character and complex flavors. He showed me a bone in filet, something I had never seen before. He mentioned that he runs it occasionally as a special. Here’s another steak tidbit; only FOUR bone-in filets can be produced from a whole cow. How rare is that?
|Kitchen At Halls|
I also learned that the steaks are cooked on a 1600 degree broiler. This allows the steaks to “char” or “blister” to lock in flavor. Did I mention I don’t even eat steak? I might just start after this.
I was additionally able to take a tour of the back of the house. It was immaculate. The walk-in wasn’t that large, but it was organized to a letter with that night’s specials, steaks, steaks and more steaks. (The do serve lamb, seafood and a few other dishes…) They receive daily deliveries and he personally checks everything in. Talk about pride of ownership.
|Seafood At Halls|
My time with both Executive Chef Niessner and Mr. Hall was educational and very enjoyable. They were happy to share any/all details about the restaurant. It made me want to come back since I saw all of the effort that goes into creating such a memorable experience. The restaurant is open 7 days a week, and Sunday they feature a gospel brunch.
We can’t wait to go to this Sunday’s Gospel Brunch. Hope to see you there!!
#tidal #restaurant #chef #owner interview