My favorite part of being a travel writer is meeting passionate, talented people. During a recent visit that took me to Charlotte, NC and Greenwood, SC, I met two women — both young, both highly motivated, both energetic and both making a difference in their chosen professions.
First let me introduce you to Miranda Brown, the 24-year-old Executive Pastry Chef at The Asbury in Charlotte, NC. Did you catch her age and her title? She also serves as a Sous Chef to Executive Chef Matthew Krenz, giving her a chance to work in the savory area once in awhile. Can you believe how fit and trim a pastry chef can be? No doubt, she is possessed with great genes, but she is also always on the move and probably has little time to just sit and consume calories.
Miranda loves to start with a fruit or other single ingredient and uses that as her inspiration as she creates. Miranda trained under Ashley Boyd at 300 East, and Boyd’s teaching continues to echo in Miranda’s mind, especially when she incorporates fresh herbs into her desserts. A recent one, for example, is White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Fennel Gel, Pickled Shaved Fennel, and Apple Relish. That makes a dessert sound positively healthy, don’t you think?
Sticky buns stuffed with country ham and goat cheese icing are also signature items on The Asbury’s menu. Miranda oversees the baking of hundreds of these every day.
The Asbury is adjacent to The Dunhill Hotel at 237 North Tryon Street in Charlotte. I highly recommend that you try both the restaurant and the hotel when you are in Charlotte, and, by all means, save room for dessert!
Next, I traveled to the Old 96 District in South Carolina and stayed at the Inn on the Square at 104 East Court Avenue in Greenwood, SC. That’s where I met Claire Griffith, the hotel’s General Manager, a delightful whirlwind.
Claire started out in the food and beverage side of the hospitality industry by watching her mother work and doing everything she was told to do — even as a child. The work was hard, but she loved the excitement of it all. Her mother also pointed her in the direction of hotels, and she got the first job she ever applied for in that area. Love brought her to Greenwood, S.C. when her boyfriend (now husband) wanted to move back to his hometown. At the time, there weren’t many openings in the hospitality field, so she joined a catering team at Lander University.
All the while, she kept her eyes on a property in the corner of Greenwood’s Uptown, and she was elated when Jim McGuinness and Wesley Oldham bought it and started the renovation. When the time was right, she marched in and announced to the men, “You need me!” Never mind the fact that she was seven months pregnant at the time, they believed her and had the good judgment to hire her. The hotel opened for business on October 1, 2015, and she gave birth on November 10, 2015. Talk about a Superwoman!!
Claire almost seems to be everywhere all the time. She gave me some time to talk about the hotel’s history at the end of a full day, and we saw her again early the next morning when she breezed through the dining room to grab some coffee — obviously gearing up for another busy day. Inn on the Square is indeed fortunate to have her energy and her zest for the job. I hope they will keep her at the helm for a long time to come.