The intricate beauty of a sunset is defined by various integral elements, which are affected by the changing mood of the early evening weather. No matter how brilliant or how subdued, a sunset offers great satisfaction to those who take the time to appreciate the moment. This symbolizes Chef Tim Peters and his daily creations at Motor Supply Co. Bistro. Tim’s chef-driven menu changes daily and is defined by the ever-changing availability of fresh ingredients that arrive at Motor Supply’s door each day from local, sustainable farms. Tim considers the day’s bounty, and he handwrites the menus about an hour before lunch and an hour before dinner. Customer satisfaction and appreciation is what it is all about.
With a childhood spent growing up around farms in New Jersey, Tim knows produce, and he knows the importance of quality ingredients. “I like simplicity,” he explains, “and it takes good technique to make simplicity shine.” Tim, along with Motor Supply’s owner, Eddie Wales, has proven the value of supporting local farmers. Tim shrugs and says, “It may cost more, but it makes a huge difference.” Eddie agrees, adding, “We spend a lot more on brands like Wil-Moore Farms eggs and Heather’s Artisan Bakery Bread, but our customers confirm that it is 100 percent worth it.” Tim’s pale blue eyes virtually roll into the back of his head as he describes the red jelly bean tomatoes plucked from the vines of a local gardener, the fresh produce from City Roots Farm, the pork from Caw Caw Creek Farms … and the list goes on.
Tim attended culinary school at Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York and Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. He studied under Chef Marc Meneu at L’Esperance, a three-star Michelin property in lower Burgundy, and Chef Rick Kangas at Grouse Mountain Grill in Colorado. He then ventured south to the kitchens of Charleston, where he worked as sous-chef at Anson with Mike Lata, a James Beard award-winning chef who is now at Fig, and with Chef Frank Lee at Slightly North of Broad. After this lengthy stint honing and expanding his culinary skills, Tim decided to take a year off from the kitchen and go back to his roots. He worked on an organic farm, The Green Grocer on Wadmalaw Island, and he also worked as a wine merchant with O’Hare & Flynn in order to increase his knowledge of wines. “That was one of the best years of my life,” Tim says. “Working on that farm every day and taste testing wines at O’Hare & Flynn was revitalizing therapy.”
Eddie recalls, “It was the experience I saw on his resume and the confidence in his voice that persuaded me to hire Tim when I called him in 2005 about possibly coming to work as the chef at Motor Supply Company.” Motor Supply was founded in 1989, and Eddie had purchased the restaurant in 2000. “Motor Supply’s long-term success is consistency – there have been more flows than ebbs,” Eddie laughs. “It helps to have the owner of the business working the business, someone who cares and understands and makes the customers their priority. And Tim has taught me a lot and talked me into doing a bunch of new things. For instance, our sauces, mustards, Worcestershire, are all made in-house. Little things like that keep us on the edge, and we are always trying to make things better.”
Eddie also muses on how Tim’s growing relationships with local farmers has been a key factor in the restaurant’s success. “These farmers used to be hard to find, but now they are finding us!”
Tim adds, “There is a wealth of chef talent in the Columbia market that is bringing our restaurants up in quality and is opening entirely new markets for farmers. In fact, some of these farmers are working with local chefs on business plans. They are asking us what we want them to grow.”
Each meal at Motor Supply offers new soups, salads, appetizers and entrees. A small sample of Tim’s daily choices might include crispy poached Wil-Moore Farms eggs over grilled asparagus, saddled with a tangy red wine hollandaise; cornmeal fried catfish with spicy creole sauce and Adluh stone ground grits; sauteed South Carolina shrimp tossed in smoked pork jus over creamy jasmine rice; sweet cornbread and dried fruit stuffed pork loin with Bing cherry jus; or house made pappardelle pasta topped with red pepper marinara. Because Tim loves to cure and smoke bacon, the charcuterie is made in-house. He even bones whole pigs for roast suckling. Cook Malcolm Hudson makes fresh pasta in “the noodle shop,” and the in-house creations do not stop with food. “We infuse liquors in-house with various flavors and offer special infused drinks and classic cocktails daily,” says Tim.
“Besides infusions, our craft beer list has really stepped up. We probably have the best restaurant selection in town,” Eddie adds.
The wine list is extremely impressive, too. A year after starting as chef with Motor Supply, Tim added wine director to his job description. He carefully hand selects artisan wines crafted by small producers, not only to pair with his gastric creations but also to affirm a selection sure to please the pickiest of oenophiles. Tim also confirms the rumor that he keeps a special stash (as if the hundreds on the menu aren’t enough) for his regulars and fellow wine nerds.
This pleasant, easy-going chef has a wild side which would make rock star Ted Nugent smile. Since childhood, Tim has loved to hunt and fish, so during his time off he is often in the woods. Tim modestly shares that he has a talent with a rifle, having made it as far as Olympic and Pan-Am shooting trials. “If I am deer hunting, I typically use a pistol to shoot the deer in order to give it more of a sporting chance,” he says. “I also love squirrel hunting because I love fried, roasted or squirrel fricassee.”
Tim is also a forager of mushrooms, which he uses for at-home cooking. He often does this with the assistance of Greg Vandervelde, a local wild edible plant expert. “I will try anything once,” Tim proclaims. The worst thing he has ever eaten? “Sea urchin roe.”
Motor Supply has earned a reputation as the state capital’s pioneer of New World, made from scratch cuisine. By making every effort to support the local, sustainable farming community and acquiring all other ingredients as close to home as possible, Tim Peters and his staff have proven that local is better … from all perspectives.