The aroma of freshly-baked rosemary chicken—soon to be plated with candied yams, rice and baked mac ‘n cheese—permeated the small kitchen.
Sweat beads gathered along Gerald Pringle’s forehead as he checked the oven, packed food boxes and scrambled with other kitchen hands inside “Kitchen 27” to put the finishing touches on a gourmet lunch for Volvo employees.
But it was the day’s specialty, also filling the kitchen with fragrance, that lit up Gerald’s eyes as he described the beloved Lowcountry dish: shrimp ‘n grits. Complete with Cajun shrimp—or salmon for seafood fans—featured a Parmesan cream sauce, fresh asparagus and andouille sausage, said Gerald—as he shouted across the kitchen for another order of chicken wings to-go.
Without skipping a beat, he simultaneously scurried around the confined space spooning out portions of the mouth-watering cuisine and chatting about his life story to an SCETV reporter and photographer on July 24. The interview with the state-based media outlet was part of the broadcasting network’s upcoming “Backroad Bites” series.
The digital series, the first SCETV one to stream solely on Facebook and possibly later on TV, is set to air in September, according to series producer and SCETV digital media manager, Tabitha Safdi. In addition to the Pringle family’s Ridgeville-based eatery, the series will feature 9 other smaller-sized food operations hidden throughout the Palmetto State’s rural towns.
“There’s something about small towns in South Carolina,” Safdi said, pointing out the state’s unique blend of people and cuisine. “Even though we’re one state, we’re vastly different—you know the diversity in the state; and really where that comes out and most, that I find, is food; and so we thought if we kind of captured that—captured the essence of what food in South Carolina means—that it would make a really great series.”
The busyness inside Kitchen 27 during the July 24 taping isn’t uncommon for the business, open weekdays during the lunch shift. Gerald said his two-man team—he and mom Mildred Pringle—frequently pump out Southern staples and other comfort food for large, local industries—Boeing, Mercedes-Benz Vans and Sundaram-Clayton also frequent customers of the business.
Gerald said for Mercedes alone, he’ll even shut down the kitchen and reopen it in the evenings just to prep meals for the automotive plant’s second-shift “lunch” employees.
“They really want us to have a food truck (out there); I’m like, ‘Baby steps, folks. We just opened four months ago,’” Gerald said with a grin. “It keeps us pretty busy.”
The brainchild of Gerald and one of his three brothers, Michael Pringle II, the specialty catering and delivery operation officially got underway this past spring. It was birthed from the Pringle family’s passion for food and entertaining—and also partially to meet Volvo’s need for area food places to feed its team.
“There weren’t many food options…and different things that (Volvo) needed,” Gerald said.
Hearty, holiday meals with dozens of friends and relatives were the norm for the siblings while growing up in Berkeley County’s small, rural Pringletown. From an early age, the brothers would watch and help their mom prepare Thanksgiving feasts. By age 10, cooking the tasty bird entrée was Gerald’s responsibility.
“My mom did all the cooking, but after a while, my brother and I took—we took over so she just sat back,” he said. “So that’s how it all kind of started.”
The business is not only named for Highway 27 location but also its niche size.
“We knew that we wanted to be just a kitchen and not necessarily a dine-in establishment,” Gerald said. “We kind of wanted to keep a community feel to it.”
These days, the brothers stay more than busy—each “bi-coastal,” Gerald said. While he travels across the nation every two to three weeks to the West Coast, auditioning and performing in Los Angeles—his main residence as a professional signer—Michael works as a professional hairstylist and barber.
And because Michael—though he also owns Kitchen 27, has been living the last year or so in South Korea—soon to return to the Cross area—Gerald and Mildred have been the main ones cooking and running the local business.
“So we had outside things going, but we felt, you know, it’s our community; something’s needed,” Gerald said of why the brothers started the food venture.
According to Gerald, it’s also not uncommon for him to bounce melodies off the kitchen walls as he simultaneously cooks and sings. But ask the 36-year-old which passion—cooking or singing—he enjoys most, and his answer is simple.
“I like doing both…but singing is the passion, definitely,” Gerald said.
In addition to comfort food, the mother-son duo often concocts international dishes reminiscent of the brothers’ global travels. Another top priority for them is meeting customers’ needs and satisfying cravings.
“I always say, ‘If we have it at the kitchen, I’ll do it,’” Gerald said of meal requests. “We try to literally cater to people when they call.”
More than anything, the goal of the fare-focused business venture is to unite people around good eats.
“(Eating is) communal,” Gerald said. “It brings family together; it brings friends together. Food just makes people happy.”
For more information, visit Kitchen 27 on Facebook or follow @kitchen_27_cuisine on Instagram.