Dan Sheppard

Inlet Prohibition Company
Parkersburg, W. Va.
Chef Swap Ingredient:
Lima Beans
Cuisine Style:
Southeast American

Dan Sheppard likes simple food with surprising zigzags that allow classic ingredients to showcase themselves cleverly. He enjoys teaching and learning from others to keep the current culinary ideas strong.


About Dan Sheppard

Dan Sheppard has a little black book, but unlike most around the world, it doesn’t hold names and numbers – instead, it holds hot ideas he thinks will be bestsellers at the Inlet Prohibition Company.

The restaurant, at 4891 U.S. 17 Business in Murrells Inlet, is where Sheppard serves as a chef and constantly racks his brain to deliver Southern comfort cuisine with a kick.

He wants you to recognize the food but hopes to surprise you with flavors and presentations strong enough to rock your palate and make your eyes glisten with anticipation.

“I want to pay homage to where the food comes from, but I also want to make something new and different,’’ Sheppard said.

While other folks are counting sheep, Sheppard is in bed thinking about what radical things he can do to rustic food.

It is not unusual for him to wake up and say, “I’m going to do something crazy today.”

He keeps his word, and his unhinged culinary thoughts turn into astonishingly delicious food that mouths remember.

“Dan is wild and crazy,’’ said Brandan Clark, a chef at the Inlet Prohibition Company. “You never really know what he’s coming up with next. I have seen him do a different special every day for eight months – that’s truly amazing.”

Never Boxed In

Sheppard is obsessed with showcasing menu specials with an edge. People who know him well realize ordinary has to be extraordinary for him. The fact is that revisioning food is his bailiwick.

“When I make a special, I have a vision in my head about how we are going to get height in the dish,’’ he said. “I hate flat presentations. I build height so that you can see every bit of the dish peeking out from one way or another.”

If he serves anything, you will see every component of that entrée.

Rewind. Still, before getting to that intersection, ample time is given to ponder how the food transformation will occur.

The tale of the chicken pot pies is a prime example. It was an idea for a special during summer.

Who would want to eat chicken pot pie in the heart of heat?

Answer: Plenty of people. What was a featured entrée is now a menu staple and star at the Inlet Prohibition Company. Chicken pot pie is something everybody wants.

What did Sheppard do to make it distinctive and create such fanfare? He made a humble and delectable biscuit and introduced it to his version of chicken pot pie. Biscuits made from scratch are rolled thin and placed over the pies’ tops.

There is no proof, but Sheppard has a sneaky suspicion his prep employees are not fond of him because of those biscuits needed for the chicken pot pies.

“My prep cooks hate me because they’re rolling out biscuit dough every day,’’ said Sheppard of his infamous take on a classic, featuring the usual suspects of chicken, potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, and peas. “We sell so many of them – so many.”

A treasured feature fans of the eatery flock to is Sheppard’s grits. You won’t ever see this member of Southern cuisine royalty sashaying with just butter at the Inlet Prohibition Company. When grits show up around here, he tops it with the fish of his choice after he has dressed the grits in a gown of cream corn succotash, lima beans, diced tomatoes, and okra. Those down-home dandies are poured over his grand grits before the fish reigns on the mound.

“People love it,’’ he said.

They also enjoyed his pork belly bruschetta, with the pork belly fried as a cracker with crabmeat topped with tomato in the middle.

He can be a fanatic about flipping a beloved dish on its head and then showcasing it from a kooky and cool angle.

“One of my chefs told me, ‘Dan some of the specials do look amazing but it looks like you are trying too hard,’’’ he said. “I replied, ‘Yes, I’ve noticed myself doing that.’’’

He knows sometimes it’s too crazy for his culinary whims, and he has to edit himself. There is camaraderie among his staff, and they help him along the way in any way they can.

Clark said his uniqueness comes from his attention to detail and skill to create dishes “out of nowhere.”

Shepard is a kung fu culinary king.

“His best dish personally for me has to be his beer short ribs,’’ Clark said. “the time and love he put into that dish are amazing. The flavors were to die for, and it went perfectly with the mashed potatoes and sauce.”

Sheppard is also known for reinventing leftovers. Take the time when a few braised short ribs were at his disposal. He shredded the ribs and used collard greens and house-made pimento cheese to produce mouthwatering egg rolls with spicy ranch dressing served on the side.

“Dan can take ingredients, some you’ve never heard of, and pair them with others to make a signature dish,’’ said Philip Bates, owner of Inlet Prohibition Company. “It’s fun to watch customers’ faces when they see what a customer at the next table ordered and wish they could change their choice.”

A Teacher’s Choice

The best chefs know how to instruct others in whatever culinary lessons are necessary – that’s how Sheppard sees it.

Much of his knowledge came from expert chefs who shared what they learned and what they knew with him. In turn, he attempts to do the same no matter where he is or who is working alongside him.

“I have knowledge to pass on to people willing to learn it,’’ he said. “A great cook has ideas. A chef is willing and able to teach and pass their knowledge on.”

Since he knows he doesn’t have all the gastronomical grasp of everything orbiting this epicurean universe, he looks to learn from others.

“When you get to the point when you are done learning, you are done,’’ he said. “Go ahead and go home. I hire people from different walks of life who know more than I know because they’re going to learn from me, and I’m going to learn from them.”

While attending culinary school at Columbus State Community College, his internship at Ohio Wesleyan University caused him to learn recipes from grandmothers globally.

“It was an awesome experience because students would bring recipes from their home countries,’’ Sheppard said. “So, I got to learn a lot of different foods.”

Students who weren’t studying culinary arts weren’t allowed to use the kitchen facilities on campus. However, they would seek out those who did hoping they would cook the food they missed from their birthplaces.

“I made one recipe for a South African student,’’ Sheppard said. “It was his grandmother’s recipe for bread and made with coconut milk. The bread tastes like Hawaiian rolls, but it’s a dense roll of bread.”

In addition to South African bread, he also learned how to make a variety of Indian curries because of the eagerness of students desiring tastes from their respective homes. His diverse encounters with students and in-depth lessons from instructors gave him the footing required to be the chef he is.

His chef walk has blessed him with meaningful interactions around food he would never have if he hadn’t gotten laid off from his job in the early 2000s as a programmer who wrote medical billing software. The abrupt ending of his career put him on his couch while he watched copious shows on the Food Network. Soon, he was off his behind and in his kitchen preparing what he saw on television.

“People who like to cook like to eat,’’ Sheppard said. “Ultimately, that’s how I got into the business. I like to eat. I figured if I wanted to eat good food, I had to learn how to cook the food.”

Although certainly not a narcissist, he does ego trip a little about how he is one teacher and chef who is hard to please when it comes to food.

“It is a treat to come out and eat and let someone else cook for me,’’ he said. “But on the same hand, I am so critical of everything I order. I say, ‘Why did I order this?’ I could have done this better at home – and people are afraid to cook for me in my own family.”

By Johanna Wilson Jones

“People who like to cook like to eat. Ultimately, that’s how I got into the business. I like to eat. I figured if I wanted to eat good food, I had to learn how to cook the food.”

Dan Sheppard
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