Very few lodges have ascended the Who’s Who list of Top Georgia Quail Destinations as quickly as SouthWind Plantation. The meteoric rise has been the result of aggressive land acquisition, the development of world-class hunting and lodging programs, and a full-out commitment to the highest level of service and hospitality. Also playing a role in SouthWind’s burgeoning reputation is the food. Guests rightfully expect an elevated dining experience at fancy lodges, and SouthWind excels in that area as well. In fact, in early August the lodge upped its game with the hiring of chef Russell Keane.
SouthWind’s ownership and management are very excited about the addition of the 48-year-old chef, and it’s easy to see why. Russell has an extensive background that includes landing his first restaurant job as a teen, using his GI Bill money to attend one of the best cooking schools in the nation (Johnson & Wales), owning a hugely popular Hilton Head farm-to-table restaurant, and six years of prior experience chefing at a hunting lodge. “From seafood restaurants to famous steakhouses to cooking for the officer’s mess on a naval ship, I feel like I've done just about everything,” Keane said. “I have cooked at a hunting lodge before, but cooking for the guests at SouthWind has me particularly excited. My task here is to take an already high standard of cuisine and raise it to another level.” It’s a challenge that Keane already knows how to tackle. Because SouthWind has a huge number of repeat clientele, many of whom have favorite dishes from the lodge’s menu, Keane is going to resist making extreme changes to the culinary offerings. He will instead work on improving and refining the current items, like the popular Grouper Over Shrimp and Grits. “SouthWind has served a very nice Shrimp and Grits,” Keane said, “but my extensive Lowcountry experience will enable me to make a few tweaks that will send that dish into the stratosphere. Same thing with our steak. I’ll be basting our ribeyes and fillets in handmade Worcestershire butter, which has been an instant hit with just about everyone who’s tried it.” Another refinement to the menu will be to greatly increase the amount of locally sourced ingredients, including items grown on the SouthWind property such as collard greens.
What Keane looks forward to more than anything is that the new SouthWind gig will enable him to cook more wild game than he has previously. He already is experimenting with a rosemary-and-wine-marinated rack of venison roasted over charcoal, and he sees a world of possibilities when it comes to gamebirds.
When asked about the challenges of chefing at a hunting lodge, Keane quickly points to the diversity of preferences among the guests. “When you have two guests seated at the table with one having a very ‘adventurous’ palate and the other very conservative,” he said, “you really have to draw on all of your skills as a chef to provide an outstanding dining experience for both of them.”
The Smith family, who owns SouthWind, and the lodge staff are very proud of the extremely high rank their quail plantation has achieved. They are also strong believers in the benefits of constant improvement. The addition of Russell Keane to the operation is a strong testament to that.
SouthWind Plantation is a full-service Shooting Sportsman Endorsed Lodge. For more info on SouthWind Plantation, call 800-456-5208 or email [email protected].