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April 25th, 2018
By Sally Boman
Greg McPhee says his primary job as a chef is “trying not to mess things up.”
He’s talking about the fresh, locally sourced ingredients that shape the heart of his menus at The Anchorage. Judging by the community’s reaction, he’s done a pretty darn good job not “messing up” anything.
The Anchorage, a West Greenville restaurant co-owned by Greg and his wife, Beth, has received overwhelming local and national praise since it opened last year.
“From the second we opened our doors, we’ve been busy every night ever since. It’s been unbelievable,” says Beth.
The McPhees are serious about their commitment to buying local. Their ingredients come from farms mostly within 50-100 miles of the restaurant. The wine list offers an impeccably curated selection of sustainable, family-owned labels. Even the decor is as locally sourced as possible — paintings and ceramic dinnerware from right down the street, light fixtures from a studio on Paris Mountain.
It’s certainly not the path of least resistance for a small business, but for Greg and Beth, it’s a labor of love.
“There’s plenty of incentive to support local food,” says Greg. “Whether it’s keeping local dollars local, or the romance of the small farmer, or the fact that it just tastes better and lasts longer because it didn’t sit on a shelf in California for a week.
“We’re a small restaurant, but if we can help sway people by getting good feedback, by getting national recognition, we hope more people will say ‘maybe they’re doing it right — maybe we should be doing this too.’”
Beth says Greg has always wanted to open his own restaurant. “As long as I’ve known him he’s been very passionate about local food and farmers. He has a philosophy where the ingredients write the menu — not the other way around,” she says.
Originally from Atlanta, Beth has a background in marketing, PR, and event planning. She met Greg in Charleston where he was part of the opening team at Husk. Greg, who grew up in Connecticut and moved to the Upstate when he was 13, attended Riverside High School and then culinary school at Johnson & Wales. His resumé includes well-known food destinations like The Cloister, Motor Supply Company, Husk, High Cotton, and Restaurant 17.
The Anchorage, housed in a historic building in West Greenville, is stunning inside and out, although it required massive renovations. “When we walked into this restaurant, it was plain brick walls and a falling-in second story,” says Beth. “But Greg saw the vision for it immediately. I took... a little more convincing.“ Now the building, which features a highly Instagrammable exterior mural by local artist Sunny Mullarkey, is a community landmark.
Greg and Beth, who were married at Greenbrier Farms in 2015, team up to handle different aspects of running The Anchorage. Beth handles marketing, events, and other business operations, while the food is Greg’s domain.
The Anchorage specializes in vegetable-forward local cuisine, with plenty of small plates to share. It takes a lot of time and effort to source food locally — from the logistics of managing orders, to visiting sites, to the actual transportation. “Every single day Greg gets texts from our farmers or fishermen, saying what they have. He decides what he wants, brings it in, and writes the menu around that,” says Beth.
The benefit to this method is the quality and variety The Anchorage is able to offer. “It means we can keep it fresh and the menu never gets stale in the eyes of the consumer,” Greg says.
Greg can list where he gets his ingredients with relative ease: Hydroponic lettuce from Tyger River Smart Farm in Greer; Chicken eggs, duck eggs, and lamb from Bethel Trails farm in Gray Court; Ossabaw Island hogs from Fraylick Farms in Travelers Rest, fresh trout from High Valley Farm in Pickens.
Many of the items on the menu are heirloom varieties that customers may not be accustomed to eating. “I wouldn’t imagine you could go to most grocery stores and find squash like Turkish Turbans, or North Georgia Candy Roaster Squash, or Kobochas,” Greg says. “All of these different squash give you so many different flavor profiles and so many applications.”
Clearly these flavor profiles are hitting the mark. The Anchorage has been lauded in outlets like Vogue and the Food Network, and Greg was recently honored on the prestigious James Beard Award shortlist for “Best New Restaurant.”
The high-quality items The Anchorage uses do cost a bit more — a common complaint laid against farm-to-table food. But Greg says that mentality stems from skewed perception. “People are used to subsidies, the nostalgia of the 49-cent cheeseburger, etc. Those prices were fabricated, because that wasn’t the true cost.”
This is especially true for livestock, which can take a year and a half to reach maturity. “If I commit to buying seven pigs, I have to sell those seven pigs. That’s quite a bit of money for someone with a small farm,” says Greg.
Lack of cash flow, weather events, and mounting development pressure can make Upstate farmers’ jobs even harder — sometimes impossible. However, money spent on local produce and livestock goes directly into the local economy, providing the cash flow that small farmers need to survive.
Greg tries to help his farmers out, even beyond giving them his business. If The Anchorage can’t purchase certain items at the quantity needed, he often makes recommendations on how to sell the products more effectively elsewhere.
This kind of cooperation has helped Greg forge strong relationships with his suppliers. “One of the biggest senses of accomplishment is knowing that we’re able to help farmers buy those tractors, pay those mortgages, get a new truck to deliver to us.”
Greg is encouraged by the growth of local food hubs, grants, and CSA programs, which contribute to more reliable cash flow for Upstate farmers. “Community is a group of people pushing things forward, which we’ve got. The big thing is just keeping your word, genuinely supporting those people and realizing there are a million reasons why you should. We’re mutually working towards each other’s success.”
For more information, visit theanchoragerestaurant.com