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The Dish: Charleston pitmaster John Lewis' recipes

The Dish: Pitmaster John Lewis
The Dish: Charleston pitmaster John Lewis 03:14

Barbecue has long been an obsession for pitmaster John Lewis. As a teenager in Texas, his parents gave him a meat smoker as a birthday gift. At age 18, he headed to Austin, eventually helping Aaron Franklin open the influential Franklin Barbecue where he developed the flavors that put Austin-style barbecue on the map.

Two years ago, John packed up his custom smokers and moved to Charleston, South Carolina. His Lewis Barbecue opened in 2016. This spring, he premiers Juan Luis, featuring Tex-Mex dishes inspired by his favorite childhood food memories in El Paso, Texas. 

Here are some of Lewis’ signature recipes:

Hatch Green Chile Corn Pudding

10 servings


1⁄2 cup chopped roasted Hatch green chile (about 4 or 5 chiles)

1 lbs frozen corn kernels, pureed

1⁄2  cup all purpose flour

1⁄2  cup yellow cornmeal

1⁄4 cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking powder

1⁄2 tsp granulated garlic

5 ea large eggs

3⁄4 cup heavy cream

1 cup mild cheddar cheese cut into 1⁄2 in cubes

1 3⁄4 cup corn kernels, freshly cut (about 2 ears) 

4 tbsp butter

1⁄2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese


  1. Roast the Hatch green chilies over a hot open flame until the skins blacken and separate (about 4­5 minutes each side.) Place the roasted chilies in a ziplock bag and allow them to steam in their own heat for 1 hour. Peal the skins and remove the seeds. In a food processor, roughly chop the chiles.

  2. Defrost the frozen corn kernels and chop in a food processor until pureed.

  3. Combine the flour, yellow cornmeal, granulated sugar, salt, baking powder, and granulated garlic in a mixing bowl and blend together until homogeneous.

  4. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the eggs and whisk in the heavy cream. Add the frozen corn puree, chopped roasted Hatch green chiles, cubed mild cheddar cheese, and fresh corn kernels.

  5. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Whisk together until homogeneous.

  6. Preheat the oven to 375° F with a large cast iron pan.

  7. Take the heat cast iron pan out of the oven and add the butter. Allow butter to heat until foaming and milk solids are lightly toasted. Be sure to allow the butter to fully coat the bottom.

  8. Pour corn pudding batter into the hot cast iron pan with foaming butter. Sprinkly the shredded mild cheddar cheese of the batter and return to the oven.

  9. Cook for 30 minutes at 375° F. The cheese should be nicely browned and the pudding should be set, but not firm in the center.

  10. Allow to rest for 10 minutes and serve.

Buttermilk Potato Salad

10-12 servings

Dressing ingredients

2 3⁄4 cups sour cream

1 cups Duke’s mayonnaise

1 cups whole grain mustard 

3⁄4 cups buttermilk

1⁄2 cups lemon juice

2 tbsp kosher salt

1 tbsp black pepper, butcher grind 

1⁄2 tsp white sugar

1⁄2 tsp celery seed


Combine all ingredients and whisk together until homogeneous.

Salad ingredients

2.5 lbs yukon potato, large dice

2.5 lbs red bliss potato, large dice

2 lbs bacon, cooked and rough chopped

1 bu green onion, 1⁄8” slice on the bulb, 1⁄4” slice on the green

1 ea buttermilk potato salad dressing 


Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix together while crushing potatoes with hands. Dressing is fully incorporated when the dressing goes from glossy shine to matte.

Cole Slaw

Serves 8-10

Slaw ingredients

1⁄2 head green cabbage, shredded (1⁄8”)

1ea green bell pepper, sliced (1/16”)

1ea red onion, sliced (1/16”)

1⁄2 bu curley parsley, picked (about 1.5 cups) 

Dressing ingredients

5 fl. oz. canola oil (10 tbsp)

3 fl. oz. red wine vinegar (6 tbsp)

2 ea garlic clove

2 Tbsp white sugar

1 Tbsp kosher salt 


Combine all ingredients for dressing and blend in a blender. Pour dressing over slaw mixture and allow to marinate for at least one hour or up to 24 hours before serving.


Serves 4-6

Dough ingredients

2 cups selecta flour (can substitute with ap flour) 

2 tsp sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp table salt

1 tsp canola

3⁄4 cup milk (warm)

Cinnamon sugar blend ingredients

1⁄4 cup powdered sugar (10x) 

1 tsp canella, powdered


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and table salt. Sift flour through hands THOROUGHLY. *You may use a sifter, but the salt tends to be sifted out. Sopaipillas will not fully puff if the ingredients are not complete ly sifted together. 
  2. Add the canola oil and incorporate using the tips of your fingers. Pour the warm milk into the bowl and mix in by hand until a ball forms. Continue to knead the dough for about 1 minute. 
  3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and rest for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours at room temperature. 
  4. Portion dough into 4 oz pieces and form dough balls by hand. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes. 
  5. Using a rolling pin, roll the balls out into 6-7” circles (1⁄8” thick). Cut dough circles into quarters and fry in a deep fat fryer of tallow or lard at 350°F. 
  6. Using a metal spoon, baste the tops of the sopaipillas until they fully puff. Flip the sopaipillas and continue to baste until light golden brown. Generously dust using cinnamon sugar blend. Serve with warm honey on the side.

Mesquite Agua Fresca

Makes 6 drinks


9 oz. Virgil Kane Bourbon 

3 oz. Mesquite agave (combine 1.5 tsp mesquite powder, 3 oz. agave)

3 oz. coconut cream

12 oz. orange juice

¼ habanero


Combine ingredients, stir or shake in pitcher, and pour over ice.

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