Every chef has that one tool they refuse to cook without. For Will Cisa, Executive Chef of Jettie Rae’s Oyster House, it’s a book - The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee (which is part of a much larger collection of cookbooks from days past). Growing up with an abundance of fresh seafood in Charleston and cooking at some of the Holy City’s top restaurants like FIG and Xiao Bao Biscuit, Cisa combined his experience with his love of these classic writings, to guide his cooking style in a simpler, unpretentious direction.
Through his work at the helm of Jettie Rae’s kitchen since the restaurant’s opening in 2020, Cisa fully embraces the restaurant’s philosophy, “Honest food done well.” Opting to honor the history and tradition of classic seafood traditions like the Crispy Clam Strips of New England and the Crab Rice of coastal Carolina Gullah communities, he presents a menu of deliberately straightforward dishes. Oysters, of course, occupy the limelight at Jettie Rae’s, carefully curated and shipped in every few days from Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, MA.
Cisa’s culinary creativity shines through not by reinventing dishes, but by experimenting with fewer ingredients, avoiding overly trendy or flashy techniques and quickly pivoting to new menu items based on supply chain challenges and pricing spikes. In fact, one of Jettie Rae’s most popular dishes, Francina’s Crab Cakes, is derived from Will’s grandmother’s home cooking. A teacher in lowcountry South Carolina, Grandma Francina taught herself to pick and cook crabs and soon came up with a recipe for the perfect crab cake:
Francina’s Crab Cakes
1 lb. crab meat
1 tsp Old Bay
1 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tsp. dry mustard (to taste)
Salt to taste
1/4 sleeve of saltines, crumbled by hand
Mix gently, form into patties and fry in butter until nicely browned and hot all the way through.