There are a good many familiar faces in the culinary scene in this city. If you've spent enough time eating and liking your way around town, then you probably know who they are: faces you become accustomed to seeing when you stop in your favorite places.
"The General" and Janet at Wiley's BBQ come to mind. Gerald Schantz on Tybee at Gerald's Pig and Shrimp. Stratton Leopold behind the counter during a run on ice cream, while Mary brings out chicken salad sandwiches. Nick at Olympia. You walk into Rancho Alegre, and chances are you may have a chat with Juan.
Our city is no different than any other, really. Dozens of names and faces, and those are just a few. We are all used to our routines, so when change comes, you notice. Quickly. That's why my jaw dropped when I heard about a local chef moving on.
Darin Sehnert was the chef and instructor at 700 Drayton Cooking School inside The Mansion on Forsyth Park. I say was, because Darin's last day at the school was Dec. 26.
If you've never heard of Darin, that's OK, too. He's a fixture in Savannah's food scene, single-handedly making the school at 700 Drayton Trip Advisor's No. 1 thing to do in Savannah, year, after year, after year. Yes, it's that much fun.
Frankly, I was invited many times, but never participated in one of his classes. I did, however, watch a number of them, and they were popular for a reason. Darin is informative, funny, creative and thorough. It was pretty much everything anyone could ask for at one of those classes, whether it be Lowcountry cuisine, Italian or brunch.
Classes with Darin are great because he makes them so. He's also a great ambassador for the city.
We traveled to New York City with Visit Savannah last year to throw a party for national media types.
Darin was there, charming the crowd, talking about all of the wonderful food we have in Savannah and preparing a delicious pork tenderloin dish with red eye gravy.
He was also one of the very first people to allow us into his kitchen to do some test run shoots of some cooking show no one had heard of back in 2009. Darin was actually the first to appear with me in a few segments that were released only online - long before there was a television show.
Sounds like a funeral, doesn't it? Hardly.
Darin has left the building for a new set of challenges in 2014. He was with The Mansion since it opened in 2004. It's been a long run, but change is life's gift. So now it is on to bigger, and hopefully for Darin, better opportunities!
"It was time to do my own thing," he tells me. "I'd been working on my business plan in my spare time for about three years.
"Everything is falling into place," he adds.
So, what are we talking about? Darin is opening his own hands-on cooking classes in Savannah.
"I want everyone to know I love it here and am not leaving," he says. "Just moving to a bigger space where I can do my own thing."
Darin says the space, located near Abercorn and Victory Drive, will be about 4,000 square feet, with lots of room for hands-on instruction or private classes.
"I've always had a vision for what I wanted a class to look like," he says.
Sounds very exciting. Details will come soon enough, but Darin will still be in town. He can give private classes in your home and a variety of other instructional offerings. You can find more on his website.
I'll have more on his space and the plans for it as we move forward. I can tell you, however, that this sounds like another big shot in the arm for Savannah's growing culinary scene.
So what becomes of the cooking school at The Mansion? I'm told it isn't going anywhere. A search has been in the works for a replacement, and they are looking to make some changes and improvements to an already wonderful Savannah experience. Stay tuned.
See you on TV,