You might recognize Emily Hahn, a current contestant on Top Chef, if you've been watching Season 14. But you probably won't recognize her latest pizza creation as anything you've ever seen or tried before.
At Charleston's Warehouse Bar + Kitchen, where Hahn is the executive chef, she's topping her pizzas with an ingredient that will stun anyone expecting an ordinary pie: buttery, garlicky escargots—usually seen on their own on retro French menus, not loaded on top of a pizza.
“At Warehouse, we are very much a bar setting,” she tells The Feast, “and I like to be fun and playful with the menu, drawing from dishes around the world. We had a shrimp congee on for a while and currently have a feta-stuffed lamb meatball, for example." As for the idea of using escargots as a pizza topping?
"One day recently, I brought in some snails and sat down with our sous chef, Chris Wildes. I told him I wanted to do something with snails that wasn't [the usual] escargot, and I was looking for ideas. He suggested a pizza. I immediately thought, ‘That’s genius!’”
Escargot Pizza photo courtesy of Angel Powell.
The Escargot Pizza has plenty of familiar flavors, like roasted mushrooms, raw pesto, ricotta (which they make in-house) and a charred, flatbread base. Then she adds a sprinkling of pickled pearl onions and a multitude of garlic, butter-poached French snails.
“One of my favorite things about this, and the thing I think the customers really love, is in the way we serve it,” Hahn says. “I use extra snails to infuse a butter before service. I then pour a serving of it an empty snail shell. I place the shell in the middle of the pizza, so that guests can pick it up and drizzle the butter themselves."
Remind you of anything? "We are not too cool to admit that every once in a while, we really love Papa John’s cheesy breadsticks and garlic sauce,” she says, laughing. “Who doesn’t? This is like our fancier, better version, I suppose.”
The Escargot Pizza debuted in early January, and it was such a hit, they’ve now added it on the brunch menu with a fried egg on top.
Emily Hahn photo courtesy of Paul Cheney.
The best night to visit Warehouse if you’re a fan of Top Chef is on Thursday nights at 10 p.m EST, when the show airs. You might not see Hahn if she’s busy back in the kitchen, but when the television turns on in the bar, you can watch her and the remaining chefs in the latest episode as they duke (and dice) it out for the title of Top Chef and $100,000.
“It’s been a lot of fun having the whole Top Chef experience,” she says. “We filmed from May to July, and I was really happy to get back inside my kitchen too.”
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