Pastry chef Andrea Upchurch makes an easy weekend meal of shrimp-and-bacon quiche, spring onion salad, lemon “cheesecake,” and grapefruit-gin cocktails
PHOTO: After a busy week, pastry chef Andrea Upchurch (left) joins husband Nate and son Dewey for a relaxed lunch of quiche, lemon cake, and gin fizzes.
Andrea Upchurch calls herself a “well-seasoned South Carolinian,” having pin-balled around all areas of our state during her youth. Though her family changed locales frequently for her parents’ business, gatherings around the table for weekend suppers remained fixed. “Sundays always meant fried chicken and cornbread,” she reminisces.
Now as the executive pastry chef for Magnolias and Blossom—as well as mama to two-year-old Dewey and wife to husband Nate—Upchurch has a lot on her plate. During the workweek bustle, the chef usually cobbles together simple, fresh, quick dinners from whatever may be in the pantry or fridge. And she’s grateful to have her mother, Carolyn Lever, living in the house for help. “She continues to teach me Southern home cooking, and I get to show her more complex things,” Upchurch notes. “Of course, I still haven’t mastered the fried chicken as well as Mom.”
Weekends often allow her to slow down, enjoy family, sip a gin fizz, and flex her gastronomic training. She plays up her pastry skills in a Lowcountry quiche brimming with fresh-off-the-boat McClellanville shrimp, pimiento cheese, and hickory-smoked bacon, all nestled into a cornmeal crust crafted with Geechie Boy Mill’s stone-ground kernels. “I enjoy creating something that people can connect with, while still pushing it outside the box in my own way,” says Upchurch, whose dish pays homage to local farmers and purveyors. She opts for Magnolias’ whole-olive pimiento or the spicy jalapeño variety from Palmetto Cheese, and then shops Ted’s Butcher Block for bacon. Thick-cut slices that have been crisped and hand-crumbled provide a crunch to the otherwise creamy main course.
To juxtapose the rich dish, Upchurch turns to peppery arugula dressed in a spring onion vinaigrette. “Not only does the salad look pretty on top of the quiche, it also tastes great with it,” she notes. “Make sure to eat it all together.”
As she’s quickly advanced through the ranks with Hospitality Management Group, Upchurch has earned a reputation for reinventing classic desserts, but some dishes hold fast through the years. At home, her Nanny’s lemon “cheesecake” recipe remains largely unchanged since it was passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter. The bundt cake is drizzled in a glossy lemon-curd glaze and plated with macerated strawberries for a bright finish to the meal.
In the Kitchen with Andrea Upchurch
Lives: In Mount Pleasant with husband Nate, son Dewey (two), and mom Carolyn Lever
Works: As the executive pastry chef for Magnolias and Blossom
In Season: “Come spring, my go-to dishes are grilled seafood, roasted vegetables, and fresh salads,” says Upchurch. “We’re usually pretty heavy on the veggies.”