Chef Ambassador Program

Meet the Chefs

Kiki Cyrus

Owned by Kitwanda “Kiki” and Tyrone Cyrus, Kiki’s opened its doors in 2012 and has been serving delicious, homemade soul food dishes to raving customers ever since. Best known for our signature dish — four crispy fried chicken wings seasoned to perfection on top of a warm, Belgian waffle — we also serve a variety of home-cooked meals, from fried green beans and sweet cream corn nuggets to smothered pork chops and salmon patties. And don’t forget dessert! Our famous red velvet waffle with cream cheese frosting is unmatched. Customers from all over Columbia and surrounding cities return — not just for the food but for the atmosphere. We pride ourselves on prompt service, friendly staff, and a family-friendly atmosphere. With events like open mic’ night and live jazz, Kiki’s is more than just a place to dine; it's a place to entertain, where everyone is family.

Michelle Weaver

An Alabama native, Chef Weaver was raised with a passion for cooking and learned at an early age the importance of farm-to-table. Her formal training at the New England Culinary Institute combined with her Southern roots and global palette have come together to create a unique and spectacular culinary experience. Sourcing from local farmers and fishermen, her dishes also include some of the richest and highest quality ingredients from around the world. After 16 years at the restaurant, and five years as Executive Chef, she continues to carve out a lasting legacy while developing the reputation of culinary excellence at Charleston Grill.

Sarah McClure

Chef Sarah McClure received a BA in art history before deciding to become a chef. In Athens, GA, she worked under Chef Peter Dale at The National before coming back to her hometown to take over the kitchen at Southside and reinvigorate the family business with her new and exciting cuisine.

Heidi Vukov

Heidi Vukov moved from Pennsylvania to South Carolina in the early 1990’s, and shortly thereafter opened Croissants Bistro and Bakery in Myrtle Beach. Since then, she’s been named South Carolina Restaurateur of the Year and Croissants has become a destination restaurant on the South Carolina coast. Heidi lives in Myrtle Beach with her husband, Gary, and has four children scattered across the United States in Utah, Tennessee, Washington, D.C., and California

About the Program

Four chefs in South Carolina were named official Chef Ambassadors on December 8, 2017, and will spend a year representing South Carolina at key tourism and agricultural events.

The chefs are Kiki Cyrus of Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles in Columbia; Michelle Weaver of Charleston Grille in Charleston; Heidi Vukov of Croissants Bistro & Bakery in Myrtle Beach; and Sarah McClure of Southside Smokehouse in Landrum.

The Chef Ambassadors program seeks chefs who embody the best of South Carolina’s food scene, both in the quality of their provisions, as well as their dedication to using healthy, locally-grown ingredients.

“At the Department of Agriculture, we work to increase demand for all things grown in South Carolina,” said South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers. “The Chef Ambassador program helps us connect South Carolinians with their food and those who grow it, and helps us tell the food story to locals and visitors alike.”

Throughout the year, the chef ambassadors will participate in a number of culinary and tourism-specific events, hosting cooking demonstrations, conducting educational seminars and discussing the offerings found in the cities in which their establishments are based.

“Representing fantastic parts of our great state, this program allows these chefs to put a unique spotlight on not only their culinary talents, but the place in South Carolina in which they live, work and play,” said Duane Parrish, director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism. “We encourage visitors and locals alike to make the trip and dine in each of these top-notch restaurants. You won’t be disappointed!”

In its fourth year, the South Carolina Chef Ambassador program was an initiative Governor Nikki Haley enacted in June of 2014 after Chef Brandon Velie, executive chef at Juniper in Ridge Spring, brought the concept to her.